Thursday, October 7, 2010

For Everything there is a Season

This week marked the start of the relatively short period of cooler weather here. There are really only two seasons here; the wet (hot) and dry (cold). The temperature starts to rise around April and stays hot until October. There's generally very little warning that it's about to get cooler, and after such a long period of warmth it comes as a bit of a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. People who haven't been here before are generally surprised to hear that we do have a winter here. We were surprised ourselves when our first winter here turned out to be the coldest in 50 years, with massive snowstorms north of the border taking the temperature below 10 degrees (50F) for most of January.

One of the things I miss about living in Australia is the very definite change in the seasons. Autumn was always my favourite time of year and I love being in places that do all four seasons in style. I was fortunate enough to be in New York this time two years ago, and the "fall" was simply spectacular. Walking through Central Park on a crisp morning surrounded by trees in gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow, was my idea of heaven. We don't have anything like that in Hong Kong, everything just dies and turns brown. It can be quite depressing. However, I do have to admit that the start of summer is pretty amazing here. After just a few days of rain the jungle that the city was built around comes to life and the islands, especially Lantau, are suddenly green again.

Regardless of the lack of a proper autumn, the weather is still cooler at the moment (by cooler I mean 27 (80F) deg instead of 34 (93F). I was in town on Monday and there were actually people walking around with jackets and scarves on, which I thought was a bit extreme but we are talking about a city where people wear jeans year-round. It's one of those things about this city that still baffles me. In fact there are a lot of things that still baffle me, and there are a number of adjustments to life here that I have yet to make after three years of living here.  These little things remind me on a daily basis that I'm a very long way from home.

Despite the fact that it rains for a fair part of the year here, I still haven't gotten into the habit of carrying an umbrella with me all the time. Last week I went into Central with a couple of girlfriends for a night out. As we were all meeting up, very early in the evening, it started to pour, and not one of us had an umbrella. It had looked like it was going to rain during the day so it shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, but it didn't even occur to me to pack a brolly. I guess I was just so excited to be wearing make-up and heels! The same goes for carrying a cardigan or scarf. The air-conditioning in shops and on public transport is set to about 15 degrees (59F) all year round and it can be freezing. Most of the locals are prepared and have something to throw over their shoulders with them all the time, but I always forget. When I'm sitting on the ferry shivering away it's a mistake I always regret making. At this time of year when the temperature is dropping slowly it's always so much colder inside than you expect it to be. I'm sure it's a deliberate move on the part of the retailers to encourage shoppers to buy the ridiculously oversized, and completely unnecessary in this climate, cardigans, sweaters and coats that are on sale from July - the hottest month of the year.

Another aspect of daily life here that I haven't gotten used to is the hours people keep. Every day of the week shops open at 10 or 11am. We are often out and about earlier than that and I always plan to pop in to a few places and get things done nice and early, but it's simply not possible. Yesterday morning we went in to Central to take J to the osteopath and I planned to do some shopping as well. It wasn't until we were wandering around a deserted IFC mall that I remembered nothing would be open for at least another hour. A few weeks ago we caught up with friends for breakfast at one of our favourite cafes in Central, and learned that they don't actually start serving breakfast until 11am. A place with that kind of policy wouldn't stay open a week in Sydney! The upside to it all is that places stay open late and if you happen to be out and about at 10pm and need a new cardigan there'll be plenty of options for you.

There are many other cultural differences and annoyances (like the bank being closed on a Wednesday!?!) but this blog was never meant to be a forum for my gripes and grievances so I'll save them for another day. For now I'm going to enjoy the fact that the cooler weather makes it much more pleasant to leave the house, and get ready to take my little man to playgroup. And I'll be sure to pack a sweater for both of us and an umbrella, just in case.


  1. you are making me homesick for New England in the fall....Autumn is my favorite season. You should head back to NY one fall when J is older and take a drive up to NH (only a couple hours) during cranberry harvest not only the awesome fall colors, but seas of red in the bogs...hit up a corn maze, pumpkin patch and apple picking while you are at it...

  2. That sounds amazing! I definitely need to spend more time in the states with my little family one day soon. Your comment reminded me of one thing I have enjoyed here in HK. After years of watching old American Christmas movies I loved having an excuse to drink mulled wine and cook a roast turkey with all the trimmings and hot puddings, and mince pies my first Christmas here (i.e. things it's too hot to do in Australia). I've also rapidly adopted Halloween and am looking forward to putting a pumpkin out again this year!

  3. Perhaps you also need to be introduced to another favorite North American fall holiday--Thanksgiving! (Oct for the Great White North, late Nov for the US)
    Give me your post Halloween pumpkin and if it is still in good shape I'll make you pie!