Through Rain Or Shine

This blogpost is unashamedly inspired by this Last Week Tonight segment on the weather. And, of course, the fact that I’m living in the Netherlands; because while the weather’s a staple topic for small talk all over the world, the experience that’s the unpredictability of Dutch weather makes for something else entirely.

I’ll admit, I’m one of the people who checks their phone first thing in the morning. I automatically reach my phone to turn off the alarm, and from there it’s second nature to unlock my phone (thanks, Touch ID!) and go online. However, my first port of call isn’t any of the social media platforms; it’s my phone’s default weather app. To be honest, I’ve never checked the weather app as much as I have since moving to The Netherlands. For the first time, the changing seasons, their spectrum of temperatures, and my methods of getting around (by bike and by foot) require me to pay attention to what the weather will be like for the day ahead. Naturally, Dutch weather’s famously unpredictability makes this an interesting experience, to say the least (Malaysia has pretty unpredictable weather too, but more on that later). 

The weather’s come to dictate so many aspects of my life: what I wear, which modes of transport I take, even what time I leave for places. Preparing for a day at university means accounting for the chilly ground temperature and light shower in the morning, while making sure I don’t over-bake cycling home in the sunshine later that same evening. Choosing what to wear can also be pretty much impossible, particularly in spring and autumn; I’ll have pulled out a sweater, a raincoat, and a pair of sunglasses throughout the span of the very same hour. 

What I appreciate about weather apps is that they’re right at the tip of your fingers, and give you up-to-date, hourly forecasts. Besides the iPhone’s default Weather app, which sources its data from The Weather Channel, there are a multiplicity of weather applications on the App Store; everyone’s heard of Buienradar, Buienalarm, and Weeronline; you’re very spoiled for choice. Being able to access a weather forecast with a click lets me mentally prepare myself to face the day; there’s a sort of peace of mind in knowing that I’ve done all that I can to prepare for whatever weather’s been predicted (especially now that winter’s coming, and I’ll have to decide how many layers to bundle up in). I even follow KNMI (the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) on twitter to get my hourly dose of weather updates alongside livetweets about football. 

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The aforementioned unpredictability that is weather in the Netherlands means that even my contingency plans have contingency plans, but even that’s not enough; at the end of the day, weather apps aren’t all-knowing. There have been countless times when I’ve found myself caught in a shower while Buienradar’s telling me that there’s not a raincloud in the sky. I’ve gone out for runs prepared for it to rain cats and dogs, only to be hopelessly overdressed and overheated with the sun beating down on my back. Worse still is when your different weather apps give you conflicting information; whose set of data do you trust? 

Dutch weather’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

Speaking of data sets, it should go without saying that the amount of data a channel has greatly influences the accuracy of their measurements – and when they have less data for certain regions, the app’s effectively rendered useless. Remember how I mentioned that Malaysia’s weather is similarly unpredictable, like the Netherlands’? The two’s patterns are surprisingly similar, with sudden showers (or, as is more common in Malaysia, thunderstorms) turning the sky grey in a matter of minutes. In the case of the city that I’m from, Petaling Jaya, the Weather app always forecasts thunderstorms, which isn’t necessarily the case on the ground. The tropical climate means that you’re just as likely to get days upon days of endless sunshine and humidity as a thunderstorm, but the Weather app doesn’t reflect that; heck, it doesn’t even take the monsoon seasons into account. As such, even though I’ve come to lean on the Weather app like a crutch here, I never gave it more than a second glance in Malaysia. 

Besides during the monsoon season, I can guarantee that thunderstorms aren’t a daily occurrence in Malaysia.

I could be quite fairly accused of being over-reliant on the Weather app for my forecasts; but as someone who goes outside every day, checking the weather app before leaving the house is a must for me, if only to mentally prepare myself for the ground temperature. I’ll always readily acknowledge, though, that you have to expect the unexpected, and that not all weather forecasting systems are created equal; hoping (and to an extent, allowing) for one to predict and dictate every minute of your day definitely isn’t the best course of action. Still, I really appreciate the information provided by weather apps, how easily accessible they are, and how we’ve got our pick of the lot on the App Store, if the default weather app doesn’t suffice. Though I complain about the weather whenever the opportunity presents itself, I have to admit do appreciate the various skits and memes that come out of its unreliability make for a good laugh – even if I am laughing in the pouring rain, with the wind trying to blow me off my feet.

(Translation of the meme: “It’s so hot! I’ll die like this!“ “Heavy rain! I’ll die like this!“; a reference to how Malaysians are always complaining about the weather.)