It was relatively early in the morning at the Glyfada municipal beach and seven older people were in the water chatting and doing water exercises, like many elderly people in Greece do.
Swimming close to them, I happened to overhear their conversation. Apparently they were regulars on the particular part of the beach and they were talking like friends. The subject was not unfamiliar to me. Every time I go for an early swim, there will always be some older people there, talking about their favorite subject: the weather.
I listened to them for about 5 minutes and each one of them was repeating, in variations, that it was unusually cold for the time of the year and every one of them was giving the exact degrees Celsius they heard the weatherman say that morning on TV.
“Arniakos said it’ll go up to 31 degrees today,” said a seventyish lady with a red swimming cap, referring to a popular television weather guy.
“I heard 30,” said a man of similar age.
“No, I heard 31, too” said another lady.
“It doesn’t feel like 31,” said another man with silver hair.
“Yes, right, it doesn’t feel like 31,” reiterated the first lady.
The conversation went on like that. I would bet my swimming trunks that if I went there the next day at the same hour, I would hear the same things by the same people. I have listened to this kind of talk in many restaurants, coffee shops, and bus stops. Greeks love to talk about the weather. As much as they like to argue about politics.
Even though this summer has been unusually cold for June and there have been many hard thunderstorms that caused disastrous floods, the weather in Greece is boring. Very hot in the summer, mildly cold in the winter and spring and fall has almost disappeared as every year we go from winter straight to the summer before we even have the time to rearrange our closets.
But still, Greeks like to talk about the weather. And it is not because they have nothing else to say. Usually, people talk about the weather when they have nothing else to say. But we do have plenty to say. We have eight years of deep recession, people kill themselves because they lost everything, crime is rampant, governments change every two years, we have bailouts, shootouts, price hikes, tax hikes, security contribution hikes, pension cuts, corrupt governments, corrupt football, a bad education system, an even worse health system, and the list goes on.
But people still like to talk about the weather.
Then there is another thing. Come October, with the temperature still being 28-30 degrees, and people start dressing unusually warm. And if it’s October and temperatures drop to 26: Then you see people with heavy coats, boots, scarves and everything they would wear in the winter.
Lo and behold and it rains heavily one day. Greeks have a tendency to see a hard rain as an “extreme weather phenomenon”. TV reporters often use the phrase, which has become a catchphrase for many. Maybe it is due to the poor infrastructure and blocked drains that cause floods that we tend to approach a hard rain as an extreme weather condition. Then the weather talk will go for days, with a sprinkle of “incompetent and indifferent authorities that do nothing for the people in times of crisis.”
The same applies to snow in flat areas or cities when everything is paralyzed. A snowfall is seen not as a natural phenomenon, but as a menace from above coming to disrupt our lives.
The fact that Greeks are so obsessed with the weather is also evident from the number of websites and blogs that talk about the weather: meteoclub.gr, forecastweather.gr, eviaweather.gr, Greek-weather.gr, radioxalazi.gr, northmeteo.gr and so on.
One doubts that farmers — who really need to know the weather for their crops or stocks — ever visit those sites.