"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Travel
April 14, 2010

Under The Weather

It has been an unseasonably cool and wet winter here in Hong Kong. It’s also been one of the most enjoyable seasons of my three and three-quarter years here. Are the two connected? Of course they are. On the whole, I prefer winter to summer, I am not always at my best on really hot […]

It has been an unseasonably cool and wet winter here in Hong Kong. It’s also been one of the most enjoyable seasons of my three and three-quarter years here. Are the two connected? Of course they are. On the whole, I prefer winter to summer, I am not always at my best on really hot or humid days. But the real truth is that I like to experience all the seasons.

I love the cool mornings that open up into warm afternoons in spring. I love the way autumn days close in as the sun recedes into an amber bloom. I love the carefree looseness of a summer’s day, especially by a good beach with fresh seafood for lunch. I love the briskness and clarity of a sunny winter dawn. And, truth be told, I also love being braced against a cold, grey winter’s evening – if no other reason than such days have yielded me some of my best writing.

Of course, the question does sometimes come up, why live in place like Hong Kong if I don’t love the climate? Why not just leave? Being as polite as I can be, I think that is an asinine question really.

I can still remember the first time I was hit with the “if you don’t like why don’t you just leave?” question as a teenager. The answer was, quite simply, contained in my young age. It really wasn’t within my power to “just leave.” Now as an adult it still bemuses me when people ask that question as if everyone has the freedom to just pack up and move simply because they don’t love the climate. Commitments, be they family, or work often tie us to less than ideal locations – sometimes for a season, sometimes for longer.

That said, climate is far from the most important issue when deciding a place to live. When I moved from Sydney to London in 1999, the climate wasn’t even a consideration. London’s summers can be fickle and her winters can be bleak, but that never really entered my mind when thinking about the move. There were other far more important considerations. The same held true when moving to Delhi and again to Hong Kong.

And each city has it’s good and bad days. Many non-Australians seem to envy Sydney’s climate, with good reason. But, I can remember many unpleasantly humid summers and the winters, especially when they are wet can also be rough, particularly since a lot of homes are not well suited to cold nights. By contrast, London’s weather is the butt of many jokes, but I recall some glorious spring and summer afternoons, with the long twilights illuminating what have to be some of the most beautiful city parks in the world. Most people focus on the gruesomely hot summer in Delhi. While the winter months are their own kind of cold, still horror. Yet there are beautiful spells of dry, warm weather in Spring and Autumn that would surprise many.

On the subject of surprises, I’d like to clear something up on the Sydney versus London comparison. Both cities, have roughly the same statistical average, in terms of rainy days a month in summer – eleven. Moreover, Sydney has, on average nearly twice as much rainfall in the months of January and February as London has in the equivalent months of July and August.

As for Hong Kong; the city can be glorious on a clear sunny day. However, in my years here, those glorious days are rare. Every winter has shown a lot of grey days, the rain is frequent and can close in days on end, even during the summer and when the clouds don’t darken the skies, the pollution often does.

Not that any of that really matters too much. When I think about the cities I’d like to live in after Hong Kong, be it Copenhagen, Tokyo, or Barcelona the climate really doesn’t top the list of what I find attractive. The culture, the food, the people, the infrastructure, the sport, the history and the freedom, these are the things that capture my imagination.

jisampedro 14 years ago

True the weather in Hong Kong is not perfect, as it happens the same in more cities around the world but the climate can make people decide whether or not to live in a city, everything depends on personal preferences. For me, coming from a warm weather and not too humid, of course I miss it, but my choice for staying in HK also is linked to the people, environment and possibilities around.

If I had to think which city would be next, I wouldn´t know what to say.. or maybe some place in Japan or Australia. You never know when is your next destination and the weather to be around 🙂

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Hey Javier, like you what I enjoy in Hong Kong has much more to do with people and culture. I do like the cooler days largely because I like walking and I end exploring more of the city in winter than summer. Actually, that’s more or less true of everywhere I’ve lived.

Mike Mahoney 14 years ago

If you like winters, you could always move to Chicago. OOfa.

I know that climate (among other things, but mainly that) has kept me out of Florida. I like my seasons. There is absolutely nothing as beautiful as a clear, crisp New England autumn day, except maybe the delicious turning of winter into spring. I put up with winters for that. (you can keep the summer humidity, though)

But I agree, picking up and moving is not easy. I’m actually quite envious of your cosmopolitanism. I couldn’t imagine living in the corners of the world as you have. Although, I find it interesting, and somewhat telling, that your past and your potential future choices exclude North America. (They exclude Africa as well, but them fight their own battles.)

So what have you got against us ‘norteamericanos?’ 🙂

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Mike, I haven’t actively excluded the US. If I ever got to the “pack it all in an move to the country” stage, then Vermont would be top of the list. There was almost an opportunity, some years back, to move to Boston and I’m sure that would have been great.

I guess it all depends on where the opportunity comes from. I like cities that are walkable and have good public transport. I didn’t like being car-dependent in Delhi and you can’t really navigate Sydney without a car either. So, whilst I enjoyed Charlestown and Providence, for example, I left both wondering how car-centric my life might become if I lived there.

As for Africa, well I really loved visiting Harare in both ’93 and ’95, but, of course, things have changed now. My feeling is that the reasons that might inspire me to move to Africa aoulw now be more likely to inspire me to go back to India.

Mike Mahoney 14 years ago

Boston is absolutely livable without a car. So is New York, but that’s a whole different animal. Providence, not so much. (But you’d only be two hours away from l’il ol’ me. That’s gotta be worth something!)

CESAR FRAGOZO 14 years ago

Hey Fernando,

I am from Mexico and been living most of my productive life abroad. Mainly Europe and then HK and now Taipei. I love your thoughs and I think you are forgetting one very important aspect to consider when moving and that is as well your age. I can almost perfectly recall the day that I got the chance to go to London leaving the north of Mexico (Baja California) a place with excellent weather actually. At that time I was 24 and the last thing I could ever think was the weather. Then I moved to Germany that to me has a horrible weather and I lived amazingly happy there for a very long time. I am coming recently from my first trip to Sydney and I found the weather so amazing that I cant stop thinking about being under the sun and blue skies of Australia. I think after enjoying the other things that you mentioned like the history, the people,etc I am willing now to give up some of those things for a better weather. I wouldnt like to go back to Germany at all right now. I would prefer to go back to Mexico and enjoying the weather there because I think after 40 your perspective of life start changing.

MEXHK your buddy from Twitter

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Mike, I’m not totally averse to having one car in the household. It’s more when you can’t live and work without a car.

Sociability is a big factor I didn’t write about. In Hong Kong I’ve found it very hard to make friends. That always comes up every few months as a reason to consider leaving and to not invest in staying here longer.

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Hey Cesar, thanks for your comment. You are right; age plays a factor. But, it can work out differently for different people.

I’ll turn 42 in November and without doubt, weather mattered more to me when I was younger. I very much the beach-going, sporting, outdoor type as a younger guy, but that isn’t me know. I would like to go back to playing golf and whilst the rain can make that game a drag, I don’t mind playing it on a cool afternoon. A lot of my favourite rounds in Delhi were played in the winter months.

As I get older I am finding myself more impatient about some things and seeking more comfort. Increasingly for me that isn’t about the weather, but about the kind of place I live with – the architecture, the neighbourhood, the people and so on.

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