Letters from the Southern Man
Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people.
Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.
When I am overseas I am so often asked what the climate in New Zealand is like. Especially in winter.
Some have heard it is great. Others have heard the opposite.
What is clear is your perception of our sub-climates is all based on your own climatic experiences. Many South Africans find Auckland winters cold. My British clients will swear we simply don't get winter.
I always bristle ever so slightly at this question because the different regions of New Zealand no more have the same climate as all of South Africa has the same climate, nor Italy, Japan or even the British Isles, to choose a few similar sized countries (except South Africa of course…) might be expected to have mono-climates.
There could be no better example of what I mean by this than Wednesday this week.
The temperatures of the major centres at 3 pm on 6 June were:
• Auckland 20 degrees Celcius – warm and humid
• Wellington 14 – a howling northerly and cold
• Christchurch 1 – ‘enjoying’ their first heavy snow of the year
• Dunedin 5 – just plain yuk
It was 21 degrees in Napier and Gisborne – not bad for the middle of winter (given these temperatures are taken in the shade) and none of these temperatures are unusual either.
There was snow on Brighton and Sumner Beaches in Christchurch for those that have been there.
All the major mountain passes from the east to west coasts of the South Island were closed with up to 70cm of snow.
The ski field operators down south were popping the champagne corks and doing cartwheels through the snow.
Speaking with a client in Christchurch on Wednesday he told me it was snowing quite heavily as the first winter storm blew through the South Island. He went very quiet when I told him that on Monday this week (being a public holiday) I was in my garden planting some trees in nothing but shorts and mopping the brow of the occasional drip of perspiration given it was about 25 degrees in the sun.
At this time of the year in Auckland it is early winter which generally means temperatures in the mid to high teens and our greatest range between daily minimum and maximum temperatures. Nothing too cold especially given the humidity we have here. There can be a cold 16 degrees and there can be a warm 16 degrees (maybe you need to be an Aucklander to understand that).
The ‘spread’ of temperatures here at this time of year is as much as 10 degrees which is a lot for Auckland. In summer the spread tends to be more like 5 degrees – warm nights and warmer days
And of course winter in Auckland means rain. Off and on. We have a saying about our weather up here – if you don’t like it, wait ten minutes.
Something many people from more stable and predictable climates (including our own South Island) cannot get over is that in this part of the country our weather appears a little, well schizophrenic. In particular over the Auckland isthmus where we are influenced by two warm oceans – one with a current travelling south and the other with a current travelling north coupled with sub tropical air from the north alternating with temperate and sometimes even sub Antarctic air from the south.
It makes for interesting wardrobe choices in the morning for the middle four months of the year.
When travelling within the city, you can see it is raining in one part but not on another. In fact earlier this week a client of mine who had recently arrived from Kuala Lumpur where it is either hot and raining or hot and about to rain said getting to my office from Mount Eden (a distance as the crow flies of perhaps 6 kilometres) saw him leave his house with the umbrella up. He got to the bus stop 200m away and the sun was shining. He got on the bus and about 3 minutes later he was back in pouring rain as the bus came along Dominion Road. Five minutes later when he got off in Queen Street in Downtown Auckland it was sunny again.
He is well used to rain and plenty of it but his comment was that at least where he comes from the weather knows what it wants!
My street is lined with a species of cherry trees which have now all but shed the last of their summer leaves. The gutters and drains are now blocked with a thick mat of red, orange and brown leaf litter. My back yard which only 8 weeks ago I had to water most days to prevent it turning to dust now smells of damp and decomposition of a very earthy nature.
I confess I am no fan of Auckland’s winter. At least in the South Island they do it properly – not this middling neither one nor the other routine of Auckland. Never really cold. Never really hot. Down there they have good hot and dry summers and generally cold but dry winters – at least on the east coast. They enjoy snow covered mountains with the opportunities that brings for skiing, snowboarding and the like. They can actually enjoy the outdoors more than we Aucklanders can in many respects because they don’t get the rainfall we do given we are in the sub tropics.
The older I get the less I want to be here through July and August. I would be lying if I said I didn’t find the short days a bit depressing – sunrise on the shortest day is just after 7am and the sun sets at 5.15pm. Compare that to summer when the sun is up by just after 6am and doesn’t set till 8.45pm on the longest day. Plenty of time for a round of golf after work! It’s an even longer day down south in summer.
We are now only two weeks from the shortest day and I always feel we should have some local celebration to mark its passing. The days get incrementally longer thereafter and we can rest easy that it is all one way traffic to summer (hopefully next year we will actually have one). That is reason enough to celebrate.
I am off to South Africa next week for two weeks of seminars and then my family and I are going to spend a couple of weeks of R and R exploring parts of Malaysia I have never been to and some I have. Hopefully get in some scuba diving and spot a few Orang-utans.
It promises to be very warm and just as I like it at this time of the year.
Until next week
Southern Man – Iain MacLeod