Weather in HollandMonday, December 20th, 2004
by Dan Geddes
A friend once told me that was Amsterdam was the greatest place on earth, “except for the weather. When you find yourself on the Kalverstraat on a cold, rainy day, you might wonder what you are doing here.”
There are many great things about living in Amsterdam. So it seems petty to complain about the weather. But the weather remains inescapably an important aspect of quality of life.
Expatriates complain about the weather as if it were a bad restaurant. “Oh my God,” summarizes the consensus. People from sunnier climates are especially incredulous at the weather here, as if such weather were not possible. Some will start rolling off a list of the sunnier spots that they frequent, and everyone listening gets a faraway look in their eyes as they daydream about some beach in Morocco, or Italy, or Greece, while the rain taps outside at the windows.
Dutch weather simply defies categorization. The easy generalization is that the weather in Holland is consistently cloudy, cool and rainy. However, contrast that with the expression that in Holland you can experience “all four seasons in a day,” which is true: the weather can turn that quickly. So the weather is actually constantly changeable, or what is generously termed as a “sea climate.”
But it’s really not that bad once you get used it. You begin to make distinctions that you didn’t notice at first: differences in the sizes of rain drops; different shades of gray and white in the skies; the different shapes of approaching cloud patterns—friendly or sinister, depending on the kind of day you are having. You may notice that rain refracts light, and can create subtle prismatic effects. And when the sky is blue and cloudless, and the flowers are in bloom, it really is a miracle of nature.
So what can you do except to adapt? You begin to see the wisdom in the expression that there is not bad weather, only inappropriate dress. Living in Holland, you definitely learn to prepare for the worst, and so to carry hats, umbrellas, gloves, or rain gear, even on what start out as perfectly lovely days. And even though some weeks it may seem that it rains every single day, you can be comforted by the fact that it rains only on 50% of the days in The Netherlands.
So when you find yourself on the Kalverstraat on a cold, rainy day, you should of course find a cozy café and order hot chocolate and appelgebak and watch people through the window, and just not think too much about the weather. It will pass.
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