I am sure you have heard this one. Everyone has heard this one. Everyone even seems to believe this one, but this is one of the times that everyone is wrong.
A bit of background: I love rain. I remember as a kid, my cousin and brother and I would do rain dances on the driveway and celebrate when the skies opened. So, the promise of continuous rain was a major bonus for me moving to England. Now that I have lived here for more than a year and have worked my way through the months, I kept waiting for the season that brought all the rain. I waited and waited and was disappointed when in month 12, I had witnessed all the seasons and they all let me down. Where was the rain that everyone warned me about?
Before I further explore this myth, I should mention that this is a unique one because its not just people who are unfamiliar with England who believe it "always" rains, but the majority of British people seem to believe it as well and are deeply affected by the weather. My experience has been that when the clouds and eventual rain roll in, an unmistakable melancholia seems to set over the majority of the population. When I have asked my work colleagues for the reason behind their moods, they have not blamed that particular day's rain for their gloominess, but the fact that it rains so frequently.
In contrast, give the Brits a sunny day and they are practically skipping in the streets. They cheer up at the mere sight of sunshine as if they've all just won a part in a small lottery.
My desk at work is parallel to a window and in the late morning/early afternoon, the sun shines directly in my eyes painfully blinding me leaving me incapable of doing any work as I cannot see my computer screen (or anything else for that matter). When I close the blinds to save my already fragile eye sight, the Brits in the office groan collectively and ask every 15 mintues following the closure if the sun has moved enough for me to open the blinds. "Can't you just turn your body a bit so we can get some sunlight?" one asked. I look at her in disbelief through those white dots that mare your vision when bright lights have seared your retina and cannot believe that someone cares so much about sunshine.
So just how often does it rain?
A very dedicated man named Andrew Leaper has been tracking rainfall totals for many many years and the chart below can be found on his website. You will see this chart shows with the exception of 1992, all year's since 1984 have only managed under 35 inches of rain annually.
My good friend Wikipedia also offers some interesting charts and stats. I imagine it will surprise many people that there are only an average of 131 days per year with >1cm of rainfall. That's only 1/3 of the year. Do I have any math majors out there? Is 1/3 of the time really enough to be "always" and to be such a pervasive myth? What about the psychological impact? Is 131 days of rain really enough to cause a legitimate mood swing? I say no. I think the idea that is "always" rains is so just widely accepted that everyone believes it and acts on their belief rather than the truth. Maybe there's even a form of camaraderie that goes along with complaining about something which affects everyone.
For all of you feeling blue due to the last few rainy days, lets put things in perspective... The rainiest places in the world include Tutunendo, Colombia where they get 463.4 inches of rain per year and Mount Wai-'ale'ale on the island of Kauai, Hawaii where it rains an average of 350 days a year. That's right - rain 96% of the time compared to England's measly 36% rainy days. Now that's "always"!
Did you know England isn't even the rainiest place in Europe? Crkvica, a small town near Sarajevo, Bosnia averages an impressive 180 inches per year; that's five time more than the rainiest year in England since 1984. Need I say more?