On how to survive the « typical » Bergen weather
It’s that time of the year again! With the fall comes the rain, that will be part of our daily life for the next few months if we don’t get a dry cold winter like last year.
Bergen has the reputation of being the most rainy city of Norway, and it’s not an exaggeration. On average, Bergen gets 239 rainy days of the 365 days of the year, which doesn’t actually rain a lot all this time but that there are some records of rainfall on those days. Yes, it’s still a lot, but people here are a bit annoyed at being famous just for it. That’s why tourist guides developed a joke that goes like this: « A tourist asks a kid in Bergen when it will stop raining, to this the kid replies « I don’t know, I’m only 12 years old! ». This joke is a winner when I lead a tour in pouring rain in this lovely city. But a bad day also brought me comments from tourists such as « It’s impossible! You can’t plan a tour when the weather is like this! ». The tour leader actually replied to this person that I wasn’t in control of the weather (sigh).
But I digress. With this threat of rain on you, people get very creative and are very good at storing adapted clothes for all kinds of rainy days. You have different jackets, some super good at keeping you dry, others dry AND protected from strong wind, others light for warm weather rain, and even others to keep you warm AND dry. You have underclothes to keep you warm in case some drops get to you in some way, and you have rain pants. Those, you put on top of your clothes and take away when reaching your destination. In the restaurant where I work, I got used to seeing people getting undressed when reaching their table, packing the miracle pants in a backpack and turning suddenly into a very elegant person for the evening. Before, of course, putting back the pants on and going bravely to face the dreadful weather.
Another particularity of Bergen in the rain is the fact that umbrellas are part of the community. It’s a shared good that, once abandoned or forgotten somewhere, immediately becomes public property. As an unofficial symbol of the city, it becomes transferable from one person to another and ends up not costing much to anyone. I still don’t understand why shops sell umbrellas, as hotels and some convenience stores just give it for free. The Viking and me have accumulated around 15 umbrellas over our three years here, some we’ve lost, some we’ve found, some having disappeared after a drunk neighbor razzia on our stock. I find this habit of « sharing umbrellas » quite friendly and useful, as it helped me go home safely the many times I didn’t actually check the weather!
The Viking also told me there are as many Norwegian words as types of rain in order to describe it precisely. And there are many types! You have of course the drizzle, the pouring rain, but I also discovered the side rain and the worst one, the rain from under. It means that it’s so hard it bounces back on the floor to reach you from underneath, and you really have the feeling that it’s raining from the ground. It’s strange and horrible at the same time.
But as everything, you get used to it and it becomes part of your life, as well as your sense of humor. Nothing beats arriving at work completely soaked through, as if you had been thrown in the sea, to motivate some good laughter in your team!