On Talking About the Weather

Christian Fogerty University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Date

April 4, 2018
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I’ve had the sore throat blues the past few days but staying inside and looking out really isn’t too bad with the right jazz playlist. From my bedroom I see the snow try to make its way around buildings and trees. Instead of peacefully meandering down, each group of snow particles vigorously sweeps off to the side in one direction only to stop and turn somewhere else the next second. Similar to those moments in life where… just kidding, there is no metaphor. It’s just been snowing a lot. And with that, comes innumerable conversations about the snow.

Over the past few weeks the on and off snow has made for delightful bursts of awe as my friends and I look out of the window. It’s an easy social lubricant, a way to get the ball rolling towards one’s emotional center at the time. Sometimes the ball gets stuck at “Yeah, hopefully it will warm up soon”, but sometimes the ball does keep rolling onwards in a decreasing orbit towards something really worth communicating. This elusive emotional center is something I’ve been thinking about lately, especially being surrounded by all the barriers that foreign culture introduces.

It’s obvious that different cultures communicate differently. But to really understand the ramifications of this fact, you must put yourself in another country. The little nuances of a language reflect much more than just linguistic structure. They are also a result of the interpersonal habits of a certain culture like openness or manners. Talking to somebody from France will always be slightly different than talking to somebody from Russia in small, almost imperceptible ways. It takes a long time to pick up the differences, but when you notice them a gold mine appears. These past months have been lucrative in my excavation of this mine, as I pick out the best in everybody I encounter to not only expand my own horizons, but to see the values shared across cultures.

One thing has been clear; everybody wants to talk about what they’re passionate about. It’s worth being curious, not judgmental, when approaching these subjects. I’ve learned that talking about the weather is a useful skill. It’s something we all see, the shallowest point of empathy. Starting from this point, I’ve learned to dive into more. I’ve learned about the hopes and dreams of my friend from China. I’ve learned what she sees in Scotland that she hasn’t seen her whole life growing up in China. I’ve learned that insects are perfectly normal to eat after seeing one lying on my French friend’s bookcase. I’ve learned that it’s okay to have a light, yet open, conversation about Donald Trump with somebody from Russia.

So maybe there is a metaphor with the chaotic snow falling outside of my window. But I think it would be cheesy to end the blog post this way. I’ll just let you find the meaning in something as simple as the weather outside.

Categories

Scotland Semester