What climate-specific learned behaviors does no one think to explain?
August 18, 2016 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Can you give me examples of behaviors "everybody knows" who has grown up in a specific climate, but is never talked about so no one ever thinks to explain this to people new to this climate? I'm especially interested in examples of where this lack of forewarning has caused problems. My example below the cut.

One winter many years ago, I went sledding with some friends. After a largely snowless fall it had snowed for a few days in a row so we scrounged up a few snowsleds of different types and drove to the biggest treeless hill in the area. One of those friends was from Florida and had never gone sledding before. In fact, this was her first winter spent anywhere with snow. So we from the frigid climes gave her a fairly thorough explanation of what to do and what not to do. After observing a few downhill rides she felt confident to zoom downhill in a plastic sled that didn't go particularly fast.

There was one thing that none of us had thought to tell her: Don't hold onto the sled in such a way that your hands are under the runners. Her gloves ripped apart and so did the skin on her knuckles. We took her to the emergency room.

Having little experience of snow, and none of sledding, it just wasn't on her radar as a dangerous thing to do. Snow was a soft substance for her. And because it was such an obvious thing to us from snowy climates, it never even occurred to us to mention it.

I'm looking for other examples like this, where a person in a new and unfamiliar climate makes a mistake that would never occur to anyone to warn against, because it's knowledge that is never talked about by people living in the climate. And I'm not looking for any specific climate, hot, cold, wet, dry, windy, still etc.

I'm not looking for social errors, but mistakes involving the physical world.

I'm also not looking for the kinds of knowledge that do get talked about a lot. To give again examples from cold climates: black ice, not wearing enough clothes, how to walk on ice etc.

I'm looking for unspoken knowledge, and what happens when that knowledge doesn't get passed on to people in an unfamiliar climate.
posted by Kattullus to Society & Culture (93 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up in Michigan, and the summer I graduated from high school, visited relatives who lived in San Diego. Every morning, I would get up to discover that it was gray and misty out. In Michigan, this bodes ill for the day, so I would end up deciding not to do some outdoor thing I'd had in mind. I was there for well over a week before I figured out that it was gray and misty first thing every morning, but that it burned off and got sunny by mid-to-late morning. I was annoyed that none of my relatives told me this early in my trip, as I felt like I wasted some opportunities.
posted by not that girl at 3:56 PM on August 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you live somewhere with heat and humidity you build in special precautions about cold drinks so they don't just drip all over you because of condensation on the container. This can include cork coasters (which absorb it) putting your canned drinks in those weird coozies (which keeps the moisture down as well as insulates) or leaning forward when you drink to keep the drops elsewhere. Condensation dripping down toilet tanks can, over time, ruin floors so sometimes fancier places (my dad had this) will put lukewarm water into toilet tanks to keep this from happening.

The biggest cold weather thing is that the idea of layering is NOT just so you can wear more clothes, but so you can trap air in-between layers and wick away moisture that keeps you cold. Everyone in cold climates knows "cotton kills" but this isn't common knowledge to everyone. It was decades before I realized that even if my feet didn't FEEL damp, that changing into new socks when I got inside after being in the cold would help my feet warm up more quickly and reduce the chances of chilblains.
posted by jessamyn at 4:02 PM on August 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

In outback Australia, you never leave your vehicle if you become stranded. You risk dehydration walking in the bush and you are harder to find. Conserve what water you have and stay as shaded as possible. Walking for help is a natural instinct if you don't know about surviving in extreme heat.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:04 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

In Ontario where I grew up it was hot in the summer but the temperature didn't necessarily change when the sun went down - it could be 35+ C all day and stay 35+ C all night.

Well moving to the suburbs outside of San Jose the area is basically a desert - it might be comfortable in shorts while the sun is up but if you go for dinner in shorts and a t-shirt you'll come out to 15 C weather once the sun is down and be pretty cold. Thus everyone wears a light jacket everywhere at all times.
posted by GuyZero at 4:05 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

More like a regional thing, but fucking nettles, man.

The fact that there's a plant that just STINGS YOU like a MOTHERFUCKER, what the fuck is up with that? Sure, poison ivy in the woods will make you itchy, and blackberry bushes have thorns (you can see them with your eyes so it's pretty obvious), but it turns out that there's ALSO a plant that is just a normal plant that is in CITY PARKS and it will just stink the bejesus out of you. Fuck that plant.

Anyway, I've lived in NW Oregon all my life and took a trip to the UK this summer, and nobody warned me about nettles until we were at a HISTORIC LOCATION and I was like, did I just get stung by bees? And they were like, no, there's just a motherfucking plant that STINGS YOU, here is what it looks like, and it is EVERYWHERE.
posted by redsparkler at 4:07 PM on August 18, 2016 [27 favorites]

My parents moved to suburban Phoenix after I went to college. I stayed with them for one summer, at which point I wrote Three A.M., Naturally, a one-act play.

ETRIGAN'S MOM: "Good lord, did you just mow the lawn?"
ETRIGAN: "Well... yeah. You asked me to."
ETRIGAN'S MOM: "Not during the day. Are you nuts?"
posted by Etrigan at 4:08 PM on August 18, 2016 [24 favorites]

This might be more minor than you're looking for, but:

I'm in Wellington, New Zealand, which is a very windy city. When it's raining, you can spot the out-of-towners, because they're the ones with umbrellas - usually getting blown inside out, or useless against rain that is somehow falling horizontally.
posted by Pink Frost at 4:11 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Michigan and was always told that renting or buying a house with electric heat was a BIG NO because it would cost a fortune to heat in the winter. I've been in DC for almost a decade now and my realtor still had to politely remind me that this was perhaps not such a big deal in the milder Mid-Atlantic winter. My condo has electric heat. It does not bankrupt me in the winter.
posted by fancypants at 4:20 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Canadian here.

When camping, change your shirt before you sleep- the condensed sweat in your clothing will chill you at night. This is the same principle as the very correct "change socks when your feet are cold" comment above.

Layers don't add heat, they just add insulation- so when you come into a warm room from the cold, you'll actually warm up quicker if you remove a few layers, because the layers are insulating you against the indoor warmth.

Natural fibres are better insulators than many synthetic fibres- feather-down, wool, silk, and leather are generally much more comfortable to wear than their synthetic counterparts, as they breathe when they get damp or sweaty, which means they don't feel clammy and make you colder.

Cover your head to stay warmer.

You need sunscreen in the winter, too- the snow reflects the UV at you.

If you're freezing to death, don't eat snow. Put it in a bottle and shake it til the agitation melts it, and then drink the water. Melting the snow in your mouth will waste what little body heat you have left.

In winter, adding extra insulation to your windows via plastic sheeting and caulking or stuffing any cracks will REALLY warm up the room.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:22 PM on August 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

In Northern Queensland, despite the signs posted everywhere, every year tourists disregard warnings and go swimming only to be eaten by crocodiles or stung by irukandji jellyfish.

My wife, a city dweller is not in the habit of knocking her shoes together before putting on to get rid of errant funnel web spiders or other characters that may have taken up residence.
posted by smoke at 4:25 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

My friends in Wisconsin thought two of my reactions to the environment were amusing:

1. Up North there are no chiggers! I can roll around in the grass and wear shorts in tall grass and YAAAAAAYYYYYYY no bleeding itchy welts all over my body! It makes a huge difference. I had never done farm labor without long sleeves and long pants, regardless of the heat back home because those monsters are brutal.

2. As I was putting a supply list for some outbuilding work on a foundation's sill, I was asked why I needed this heavy sheeting. "I've heard tell it works fairly well as a termite retardant." OMG! You guys! They don't really have termites way up North!
posted by Tchad at 4:25 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

People in tornado country - and honestly even people who have lived in it for a long time, if they haven't had the specific experience - think that all tornadoes are a perfectly-outlined black triangle on a bright gray-white sky and so they will of course clearly and distinctly know when there is a tornado. Because that's what you see in videos. Because those are the ones that show up real good on video.

But when you're actually on the ground in the path, they're generally wrapped in rain and hail, it often gets so dark that the streetlights come on, and they're usually inside a front that's sending multiple bands of bad weather past so it's often already raining or the clouds are really low already. So it turns into sort of a frog-boiling situation where you don't realize you need to go inside/take cover or - especially - get off the goddamn road until it's too late and there's no visibility. And it doesn't need to even be an actual tornado to hurt you - trees don't ask for F-force identification before they fall down, debris still becomes projectiles at relatively low windspeeds. And in a car being pummeled by big fat rain or hail, you can't hear the sirens. By the time you do hear them, if you do, you already should have been off the road, in a protected spot.

It took me two years to get even remotely good at taking a sweater with me, year-round, if I'm going to be out at night in Southern California.

Also the Pacific Ocean is cold. The beach is cold and cold-windy, always, and the water is just totally unacceptable. I grew up in the Texas and Florida Gulf, and nearby lakes. I can't even get in my own pool unheated except a few weeks a year! I like being cold, and this water out here is too cold. If I was a person who ever thought I enjoyed beaches in the first place, I would be very pissed if I came out here for a beach vacation thinking Hawaii, because what you get is a little more Cornwall.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:27 PM on August 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

In northern Queensland. If you left unwashed undies/swim suit on the floor over night in summer, cockroaches would eat the crotch out. No word of a lie. My foreign born mother had no idea what was going on.

Also....I put frozen snowy hands under a hot water tap in a London winter- once. The people I was staying with hadn't thought to tell the antipodean that THIS WAS A VERY BAD IDEA.
posted by taff at 4:31 PM on August 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

In the Pacific Northwest, it is not unusual to wear a sweatshirt to the beach.
In July.

People who live here will think nothing of tossing a pair of pants and a jacket in the bag when driving out to the coast, "Just in case".

Visitors will freeze.
posted by madajb at 4:49 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I live in Southern California.

Things I know
The fog in the morning is just the marine layer and will burn off. Do not dress for the cold.

We do not have to worry about bug bites.

Midwestern cousins come to visit.
"Why is the beach so sandy?"
"You know how in paintings of mountains there's a purple shape next to the mountain? I never realized that was another, more distant mountain."
"You gotta pull over, I'm getting carsick on these curvy roads."

Some recipes change at higher elevations.

Other beach knowledge: How to tell if you're in a riptide and how to get out of one. How to swim safely in the ocean and how to dive under the wave so you don't get assaulted by the sea. How to get wet sand off (baby powder). How to keep the seagulls away. The temperature will be significantly cooler at the beach than inland.

Don't worry about earthquakes, worry about fire season. We don't have snow days, we have wildfire days.

Things I don't know
Driving around in the Midwest with family and saw flames. "We have to call 911!" "What? No." "There's a wild fire!" "No, they're just burning their crops. It's fine." "!!!!??????"

I don't know how to make a snowman. I tried and it didn't work. Plus any other snow information. And heavy rain.
posted by meemzi at 4:51 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Growing up in New England where it can get pretty cold in the winter, I thought everyone knew that the pipes can freeze and cause a lot of damage so you need to keep your heat on. A couple of winters ago I was working at an apartment complex with a lot of people from warm countries. Quite a few of them turned off their heat COMPLETELY when they went away on vacation, even though temperatures had been well below freezing. In their minds, it was just like, well, I'm not going to be here so why would I leave the heat on??

And seconding Lyn Never about the Pacific Ocean - I went to Southern California a few years ago in August and I was genuinely shocked at how cold the water was. I guess I thought that since it was generally warmer there than the Northeast the ocean would be warmer too.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're new to Texas, do NOT just sit down on the grass or walk through a park at random, because welcome to Eaten Alive By Fire Ants: Population You.
posted by MsMolly at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2016 [23 favorites]

Coming to the east coast suburbs after a long time in California, I was surprised to see people shuffle out to shovel snow in the middle of a snowstorm. Turns out it's much easier to clear a small amount of snow from your driveway four times during the storm than it is to clear a huge amount after the snowstorm stops.
posted by ejs at 5:04 PM on August 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The winter after I moved from Chicago to Charlotte, a "storm" of 2-3 inches of snow was predicted. Everybody freaked out, bought out all the groceries, etc. I smugly scoffed at the storm preparations. Turns out, since it mostly doesn't snow there, they don't have many salt trucks and snow plows. 3 inches of snow that melts in the sun and refreezes overnight results in conditions so slick you can't step out the front door without falling on your ass. Forget driving. Thereafter I joined in the collective freakout when snow was forecast.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:17 PM on August 18, 2016 [15 favorites]

If you're new to Texas, do NOT just sit down on the grass or walk through a park at random, because welcome to Eaten Alive By Fire Ants

one time i sat down to play guitar on a fat oak tree root in the city park right outside the houston summit arena. after seeing the dead. *after seeing the dead*. those bites were like little tiny concentrated fireworks. wow, man.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:17 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

My husband and I went skiing in the high mountains and he didn't wear sunglasses (which due to the extreme sun and reflected sun can cause damage to your eyes) and I didn't wear lip balm with sun screen in it and got a burn on my lips!!
posted by Toddles at 5:18 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also the summer in the Bay Area is freezing. Every tourist makes the mistake of not bringing a sweater in August.
posted by Toddles at 5:21 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I met a guy from Nevada (or somewhere dry) who never had cereal go stale before and didn't understand the concept.

Similarly, somewhere on the green someone mentioned how they automatically discharged static electricity before touching metal every though they now lived in a more humid climate.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:21 PM on August 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

I moved East from the West Coast. I knew about black ice in theory, but only found out through painful and embarrassing experience that said ice is actually clear and not black.

I was also pretty stunned by how warm the ocean was.
posted by eponym at 5:22 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh! I was also surprised to discover in Texas that summer is like winter up north-stay indoors.

You don't really get to go outside and do much when it's 100 days in a row over 100. However fall, winter, and spring are the perfect times to be outdoors and enjoying nature.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:25 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I met a guy from Nevada (or somewhere dry) who never had cereal go stale before and didn't understand the concept.

In Nevada, we keep bread in the refrigerator because otherwise it's a rock after a couple of days. "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" is an entirely useless thing to ask in 20 Questions in Nevada. ("You mean, like... a box made out of bread?")
posted by Etrigan at 5:27 PM on August 18, 2016

I know someone who was unexpectedly sunburned somewhat badly because she already had a lot of experience with being in the sun, beach tanning etc, so when the locals had expressed the importance of using lots of sunblock and sunhats at the beach, it had sounded like people giving the regular advice for beach-going. However it was an area that was sometimes near the hole in the ozone layer, so a normal sun-block routine for elsewhere wasn't safe enough.

It wasn't sufficiently obvious that the excessive-sounding advocacy of sun-protection at this beach was different from zealous advocacy of sun protection at other beaches.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:28 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yes, California coast in the summer is an exercise in who's-a-tourist: if you see people bounding out toward the ocean in skimpy bikinis or board shorts, they are going to land in that cold-ass Pacific and come bounding out in seconds. It can look and feel like summer, especially in southern California, but the sea begs to differ. [I lived in LA for a decade and now am in SF; it's fun to listen to LA types bitch and moan about how cold the ocean is in SF, because I grew up in Arkansas where both these locations seem to have the coldest water imaginable].

Also on the coastal California bit: that marine layer (if you're down south) or that fog (if you're up north) doesn't block the sun like the clouds I grew up with (in Arkansas). It might look grey, but you're still going to get a sunburn. Which is why my relatives and hometown friends look at me funny when I'm wearing flannel and a long sleeve jacket but am still putting on SPF 30 on my face and ears and neck.

The obverse: my stepsons, who grew up in LA, freaked out at how loud the country is in Arkansas. They always thought of the country as some bucolic, silent forest. They didn't know that cicadas and frogs and night birds SCREAM ALL NIGHT. They were freaked out the first summer we went back and camped for a few nights. Not only does it stay pretty loud, but it doesn't cool off at night and you're gonna sweat.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:29 PM on August 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

When I lived in LA I loved taking European visitors to the beach where "they filmed Baywatch!" and watching them leap into the frigid water. Also the waves along that coast are pretty wild for most, there aren't any sheltered bays or anything, it's full on ocean at all the beaches. Not for paddling at the edges.
posted by fshgrl at 5:35 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are a person who lives in a northern state. You own a car that does not have air conditioning. You move to a southern state, and keep your perfectly good non-air-conditioned car, because how bad could it be, really? Nope.
posted by raisingsand at 5:41 PM on August 18, 2016 [17 favorites]

Northeast things:

In summer, no matter how warm the day, bring a sweater when you go out, because night can really cool off.

A lot of people don't know about the prevalence of Lyme disease through a lot of this area, and don't know about things like doing a daily tick check when you shower, tucking pants into socks while hiking, etc.

Beach and water things: along the many barrier beaches of the East Coast, there is a high frequency of rip currents, which can carry you far out beyond the surf before you know it and which are tremendously difficult to swim against. I always go over this with people from away when they're visiting the coast, because it's easily solved, but it kills people who don't know about it and spend all their energy trying to swim directly back in.

Similarly, cold water looks great on the first hot days of the year, but proceed with caution - that cold water isn't just chilly, it can kill you. Some adventurous types, often teens, plunge into quarries and lakes and the ocean early in the year ( like May) only to find the water is still hovering in the 50s. At that temperature, within a few minutes even a very strong swimmer begins to lose strength and go numb. I was once among a very lucky group of people who managed to pull a Midwestern guy out of a bay in Maine the week before Memorial Day, before he went down.

East Coast hurricanes - a lot of people are blase about them, but they are worth taking seriously and preparing for.

Thunderstorms - have surge protectors, unplug sensitive stuff (we just lost a laptop), and avoid showering and doing dishes while electrical storms are happening. Also, a car is a safe place to be as long as you are inside it and only touching inside surfaces. Lightning's sheeting action moves around the outside of surfaces, so inside is generally OK.
posted by Miko at 5:42 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the northeast US with people from all over:
-you need to leave the heat on in your house or empty the pipes of water if you are going away (bleeding the pipes is pretty common in vacation cottages that are unused in the winter.) Otherwise, freezing water will crack the pipes as it expands into ice.
-the idea that snow has a bunch of different textures. 6 inches of light fluff that fell with temps well below freezing is much easier to clear than 6 inches of sodden slush that will freeze solid if you leave it overnight, and that's different than stuff that fell, melted a little on top in the sun, and refroze before you got home from work (in the dark, because the sun came up after you went to work and went down before you left.)
-dressing in layers.
-road salt, why it exists, and its effect on shoes and cars and pet's feet.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:55 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

We do not have to worry about bug bites.

So, I lived in San Diego for 3 years after a lifetime in Texas, and I was all "there's NO mosquitoes here, this is amazing!" and then I moved to the San Fernando Valley where for about 7 weeks a year, you get one mosquito bite every third night...and because you never get mosquito bites anymore, they swell up the size of marbles and continue to itch for three weeks. It's still a minor price to pay, because in Dallas in July I could easily get 20 bites in 5 minutes at 6am going out to turn on the sprinkler so the tomatoes would survive the day, if I didn't wear jeans and socks, but they are annoying.

Also nobody warned me about the spiders in Southern California. It never freezes, they never die, and you have to vacuum your walls and ceilings as part of your housekeeping routine. Also they get in your car.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:00 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The ability to walk on snow without falling is not universal. The one snowfall I've seen in Portland, I saw people trying to walk normally, and taking spills.
posted by Automocar at 6:02 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Palm Springs CA (which is desert with close-in mountains), locals know that you do NOT go hiking during the long period known as summer, at least not in such a way that you will still be out after about 8:30 am. Or, if you must go, take an extraordinary amount of water with you. This seems obvious to the locals. Visiting people do not know this, and relatively often they literally die within a couple of miles from the center of town.
posted by sheldman at 6:11 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't park under pine trees. They will drip sap onto your car and damage the finish. It is incredibly sticky, so it is hard to wash off.

Come pollen season, everything turns yellow from the pine pollen. You may need to wash your car or run the windshield wipers and cleaning fluid to be able to see well enough to drive.

Swimming and other water related play is very popular. It is too muggy for sweating and staying hydrated to get you cooled down. So, you go swimming or you play in the sprinkler or you go to a park and wade in the river or something.

You have to have screens on everything, both windows and doors, to keep bugs out.

I moved to Germany and there were no screens on German homes. They thought nothing of opening a window to get some air even though there were no screens. In fact, German windows typically open a couple of ways and I had trouble figuring it out: They can tilt in so the top has a few inches of opening so you can get airflow, or you can open them much like a door. I had a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around what you needed to do to switch between modes. It made no sense to me.

Food storage is also completely different. Germany is cold. They will store things in a cabinet that Georgians would refrigerate.

High Desert (Southern California):

Take your pets (dogs) in at night, even if you have a privacy fence. Otherwise, they get eaten by coyotes. Children should also not go out alone, especially after dark.

I would buy bacon or meat and store it in the freezer. I would set it outside on the patio table for a few minutes in July to thaw it -- like for five or ten minutes -- because it was 115° outside.
posted by Michele in California at 6:15 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you live in a climate that gets snow or even freezing rain, you're going to want an ice scraper to chip away at a veneer of ice and/or snow-crust on your windshield before going on your way in the morning (or after a snowy day at work). Less of an issue if you happen to garage your vehicle.
posted by dreamphone at 6:19 PM on August 18, 2016

Whenever it hits above 80 degrees F in the summer.

Everyone else: "Neat! A nice summer day!"
People in Seattle: "AAAAAAAAAAA"

Why? We don't get consistently warm enough to warrant air conditioning, so barely anyone invests in one. This includes most stores and restaurants. It can become a real concern to those who are sensitive to the heat, like me.

And this is why I'm sitting in my underwear, lights off, in my dark basement apartment, eating lukewarm soup.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:19 PM on August 18, 2016 [14 favorites]

I grew up in Chicago, and even at the peak of summer, if I was going to be out all day, I'd bring an extra layer, because after dusk, it would be just chilly enough to warrant one.

I visited Iceland in October a few years back, and the position of the sun had a subtle but profound influence. At noon, the sun would be no higher than I would expect it to be at 4:00 PM. So if my wife and I were out and about, we would automatically think "I guess it's time to head back". Then we'd check the time and realize there was still plenty of light left in the day. It's not that the days were especially short, just that the sun stayed low in the sky.

I live in Austin TX now, as we have all kinds of interesting environmental phenomena.
  • When it's really hot, the cicadas are all making this grinding noise that just sounds hot. You kind of stop noticing it, but then they'll all stop at once for a few seconds and the sound becomes conspicuous by its absence.
  • There's always a few minutes of dead calm with a weird, dim light right before a hailstorm.
  • Falling pecans can damage your car the same as hailstones.
  • You can get a sunburn in 15 minutes. No fooling.
  • Rainstorms here are really serious. Austin gets the same average annual rainfall as Seattle, but we pack it into, like, 10 days. I try to avoid going out in the rain.
  • Similar to what Daily Alice said upthread, on those rare occasions when ice sticks to the roads, you really don't want to drive. Because even if you know how to drive on ice, none of the people around you do. Also, it's kind of hilly here, which makes driving on ice much trickier. Schools now shut down if there's a risk of icy roads. Which sounds silly, but then you consider that Austin had 274 traffic accidents on January 28, 2014, due to icy roads, and maybe it's not so silly after all.
  • That said, Austinites really are a bunch of pussies when it comes to cold weather, and I've seen businesses close because of the cold ("cold" in Austin would be anything below freezing during the daytime).

posted by adamrice at 6:21 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Anyway, I've lived in NW Oregon all my life and took a trip to the UK this summer, and nobody warned me about nettles until we were at a HISTORIC LOCATION and I was like, did I just get stung by bees? And they were like, no, there's just a motherfucking plant that STINGS YOU, here is what it looks like, and it is EVERYWHERE.

Stinging nettles are native to Northwest Oregon too, though they tend to be at lower elevations west of the Cascades and often in disturbed soil. We have them in California but usually only in places with consistent moisture.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:31 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

From the SC lowcountry where I grew up: Spanish moss is beautiful. Don't touch it! Never touch it - it's full of redbugs and they will eat you alive - while living in your bites. Put nail polish on your bites and they'll die. Alligators are not slow and unwieldy, they are fast. They will probably leave you alone, but don't bet on you or, more likely, your little dog getting away if one takes an interest and you don't have a big head start. Stay inside in the summer during the day. Close all the windows and the curtains, open them at night for any cool air then close the house up tight every morning.

From Asheville, yes, western NC is the south, but it's the mountains. It gets cold here. Dont come for a spring or fall vacation with nothing but shorts and flip flops. You'll freeze. Other people have covered black ice. On curvy mountain roads it's even worse and shady spots may not thaw all day. If schools are closed or say no buses on icy roads? We're not kidding. Nor are we wimps. Your SUV that worked so well in northern snows will not help you in a southern ice storm. Also, rivers flood and steep slopes wash down.

These mountains and forests are in the East, but that does not mean they are tame. Stay on the trail. You will lose cell service up here, count on it. Waterfalls are scenic and the rocks around them are slippery as hell. Do not climb around on top of waterfalls and do not assume that you can be easily found if you get lost. Just about every year people die in these mountains because they think they're in a city park or something.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:32 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I grew up north of Boston and went to the beach frequently growing up, mostly on the North Shore and Maine, with a few visits to the outer cape. Sometime around age 19 or 20 I went to Virginia Beach (in September!) and was astonished that I could go in the water and stay there for MINUTES without getting so cold my teeth chattered.

I suppose another thing you learn if you grow up at the beaches I grew up at is currents, including rip currents. I have seen adults get out of the water super confused about where their beach blankets, etc. are after the current has pulled them a quarter mile down the beach.
posted by mskyle at 6:35 PM on August 18, 2016

A friend of ours lost a sale on their (LA) beachfront condo to someone from somewhere else because the condo did not have central air. We all had a good laugh over drinks at the would-be buyer's expense.
posted by vignettist at 6:38 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A friend from Kenya studying in Glasgow phoned me in a panic the first time she experienced May in Scotland: “Why is the sun not setting? The sun sets at 7 pm, and it's not going down!”. Living close to the equator, there's not much variation in sunrise and sunset times.

She really hated dark-at-4pm Scottish winters.
posted by scruss at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

On Texas beaches, everybody disappears just before sunset because mosquitoes going to swarm like something out of a horror movie. There's not enough bats in the world to eat them.

The Ozarks have seed ticks, barely visible, skin eating, difficult to remove, little monsters.

While sub/urban people apparently can't see snakes, I feel no embarrassment over false startles caused by vines, hoses, sticks, feathers or even shadows. It sure beats stepping on them.
posted by ridgerunner at 6:46 PM on August 18, 2016

I grew up in a subtropical part of India, fairly close to the Equator, so honestly the biggest surprise to me upon moving to the East Coast of the US was the varying times of sunrise and sunset. Back where I come from (South India), the sun rose and set at around 6am and 6pm throughout the year. And though I knew logically that there would be differences through the year at latitudes that were further from the Equator, I didn't realize the extent to which I had kind of just expected that steadiness of sunrise and sunset in my life.
posted by peacheater at 6:46 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ha, scruss, jinx.
posted by peacheater at 6:47 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just remembered that when I was an exchange student in Sweden in high school (where I was an idiot from Texas and would have absolutely died if we had not had a freakishly warm dry winter because nobody knew I didn't know how to function or dress myself in real cold), we got through that dark-ass winter and had our first really promising "spring will definitely come again" day and my host mother turned to me and said, "When the trees start turning green and the days start to feel long again, that's when people go mad and kill themselves! So...let me know if you're feeling strange."

(What she did not tell me about was Bird Psychosis, which is what happens when you can't fall asleep at night because of the sun just sort of casually fucking around the entire evening instead of setting and you don't know how to ramp down to sleep, and you just finally fall asleep when those peepy assholes start in at 3am. I can't even describe how close I came to some solutions that involved fire.)

There are so many ways I should have died when I was in Sweden, but there is an extraordinary immortality to being 16/17.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:54 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Canadian prairies - occasionally, moisture around the mucous membranes on your face will actually freeze and turn into little icicles unless you wear a thick scarf that goes up to your eyes. Or a bellaclava. If you dress for it, though, this cold is still more endurable than wetter and technically much "warmer" Ontario winters.

Texas - I was surprised to find myself in need of a cardigan in July, because every public establishment has the air con aiming towards a Canadian prairie winter
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:04 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Growing up in New Hampshire you know that if you climb Mt. Washington or any other mountain that has a summit above treeline, bring a wool sweater and waterproof outerwear. Even in July. An 85 degree sunny day at the base can be be 50 degrees in a damp wind up top.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:05 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here in central VA, if there's any precipitation forecast overnight during the winter, it's a good idea to lift your car's wiper blades up into the air and leave them there. We have several different variations of frozen water (rain that falls as liquid and freezes when the temp drops; rain that falls frozen; snow that melts and refreezes) that will make the wipers stick to the windshield. It's a pain in the ass to free them, much easier to just knock off whatever froze to them while they were upright with your scraper. (Just gotta remember to put them back down before driving off.)
posted by zebra at 7:22 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

When decorating your house in earthquake country, don't put pictures with glass over them over couches or beds.

When it's hot and you can smell the ozone in the air, don't run outside.

Don't wear shorts in the summer in San Francisco. You'll freeze.

On the East Coast, the weather doesn't vary too much by where you are. If you're in a suburb of Washington DC, the weather forecast for DC will probably be within a few degrees of what your weather will be. This is not the case in California. Livermore could be considered a suburb of San Francisco, but its weather is very different.

Here in Pittsburgh, be aware of how the ground slopes when you stop a wheeled vehicle, such as a shopping cart or a stroller.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:36 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I was studying one summer in Taiwan, most of us students were in accommodations with a small washing machine and no dryer. And apparently some students had learned the hard way: don't hang up even slightly damp clothes in your closet, because they WILL develop mold and mildew.
posted by wintersweet at 7:57 PM on August 18, 2016

I grew up in the catskills, home of microclimates that could get down to the 40s in the summer as well as incredibly steep and winding hills.

Carry huge bags of salt, cat litter, two by fours, and a come-along in your car at all times; between the deep snow and the muddy dirt roads in the summer they will come in handy.

Also, streams that are barely 2 inches deep in a ravine can turn into torrents that can move boulders the size of a car in about 10 minutes during a torrential downpour, act accordingly.
posted by Ferreous at 8:14 PM on August 18, 2016

Best answer: I moved from Chicago to North Carolina for grad school. Nobody thought to tell me that a) pine pollen season is a SEASON, not a single unfortunate occurrence and b) don't be a chump and wash your car. The trick is to wait for other people to wash their cars and those cars to stay reasonably clean; THEN you wash yours. Everyone but me knew that.

In Illinois when it rains in the summer, the rain takes some of the oppressive humidity out of the air and it feels much cooler and nicer after and usually the temperature drops a few degrees because storms ride on cold fronts. NOT SO IN NORTH CAROLINA where it's actually GROSSER after a summer storm because all the rain is somehow ADDING to the humidity and SOMETIMES IT'S HOTTER AFTER. Ruined my plans several times and made me very very grumpy in general.

When I moved my husband up to the Midwest with me after grad school (he's from the South), he didn't know that commercial buildings have tornado shelters. The first time he was out shopping in a nice sturdy shopping center and the tornado sirens went off he tried to race the tornado home in the car (and narrowly missed getting killed by a falling light pole). They may not have great tornado shelters (though sometimes they do!), but they'll have a windowless corner or a small basement storage room or something and patrons should use it. He also didn't realize the danger to your car is the hail and the falling tree branches, not being flipped over or carried away by the tornado itself; he thought it was very odd how I would move the car before a heavy storm if the tornadoes weren't projected to be near us.

What constitutes "good driving weather" is very climate-dependent, I've found. Around Christmastime, I like to try to time my drive to my relatives' for a day when it's "too cold to snow" (which means it's frigid, but the air is too dry to hold moisture so there's no snow and no clouds). My husband would always want to wait for a WARM day to drive, on the theory that you're going to be outside, you should do it when it's warm -- but warm days are wet days in the winter and that's terrible driving weather!

One of my transplanted neighbors thought that "heart attack snow" was like a "heart attack hamburger" -- a figure of speech. He didn't realize it causes actual heart attacks (from the combination of heavy labor shoveling and cold air constricting the blood vessels and airways) until another of our neighbors had a heart-attack snow heart attack. He was a little freaked out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:20 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm from Central California. I'll add:
The reason nobody parks under Cedar trees in spring is that they drop an incredible amount of lime-green pollen. If you're really lucky it'll drop sap too, and glue it to your car. You did not just get lucky with a parking spot.

People parking or milling around under certain types of pine trees and/or not moving when something comes crashing through the branches. Sugar pines (and others) drop sizeable pinecones from a great height. They will knock you out or dent your car.

We don't have snow or wildfire days: we have fog days. Tulle fog so thick they cancel school. Sometimes the cops go out and drive around super slow with their lights on so everyone dumb enough to try to drive through the pea soup can follow them back to safety. Also, the damp cold can be worse than snow - snow is frozen, fog is not and seeps right through all your clothes.

Poison oak, and the fact that you can be allergic to it by degrees. A friend of mine who grew up overseas had been hiking on the coast, and cut down the side of the hill rather than take the switchback. Then she came to visit me... I took her to my dad who had been a medic, who told her she was having an extreme reaction and to go to a doctor now. She put it off, was miserable, eventually went to the emergency room and got steroid injections and antibiotics and the like and was super sick for weeks. Now, I'd grown up there, spent lots of time in the Sierras (with other people who got poison oak), had this person and their infected clothes and stuff all over my house, etc. and I have still never had a poison oak reaction.

Burning fall leaves (on approved burn days) in areas with Poison Oak, not realising that the smoke will transmit the oils and you will inhale it and get poison oak in your lungs. (My grandparent's neighbours did this, and sent themselves and my grandmother to the hospital.)

Looking at pictures of poison oak to ID it and noting the leaf shape. Poison oak is deciduous, and gets a lot of people when the leaves have fallen off and looks like an innocent stick/root stuck in the ground. (Also, letting pets run around off-leash in regional park areas where there's poison oak, and then petting them!)

It's a fine line with advice that is frequently given but ignored. Like reminding folks visiting the desert to drink lots of water...no more. Seriously moreetc... My dad regularly had visiting execs and engineers pass out, but I can't say they weren't warned either. Or like warning people about bears, and I have so many "bears tore the door off my car!?" "Yeah, you left those food-scented markers and an empty ice chest in there..." type stories. So many.

In San Francisco, when parallel parking on a hill, turn the wheels on your car so that if your brake disengages your car rolls onto the sidewalk and not into traffic. This is what is meant by the signs that say "prevent runaways".
posted by jrobin276 at 8:32 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm from MT and live in UT. Weather is pretty similar but summers are longer and hotter here. Tinted windows are a bit more common in cars.

However I worked for a franchise that had locations all over the country. We did window clings as a free giveaway for customers that the stores could order. Half of the stores loved them. Half of the store HATED them because nearly all of the car windows were tinted where they lived. Those stores were in AZ and TX and other southern, hot, sun all year states and they absolutely were upset about the window clings because you couldn't see them through the tinted windows. Needless to say we didn't do window clings the next year.

Also being from MT and living in UT - deer. Lots of deer. People don't actually realize that deer x-ing really means that there will be packs of deer just darting into the road - even if it's the middle of town. And that they will come into your yard and eat all your bushes and trees. Not to mention times when I've heard of them accidently breaking into houses and businesses.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:39 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

In Tucson AZ, drive around and around, no matter how long it takes until you find a shaded parking space, otherwise your car's seats and steering wheel will be hot enough to actually burn you. In Austin TX, DO NOT PARK UNDER A TREE NO MATER WHAT, because if you do chances are when you return to it, your car will be COVERED in AN AVALANCHE OF GRACKLE POOP.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:48 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

1: A friend from Kenya studying in Glasgow phoned me in a panic the first time she experienced May in Scotland: “Why is the sun not setting? The sun sets at 7 pm, and it's not going down!”. Living close to the equator, there's not much variation in sunrise and sunset times.

2: I grew up in a subtropical part of India, fairly close to the Equator, so honestly the biggest surprise to me upon moving to the East Coast of the US was the varying times of sunrise and sunset. Back where I come from (South India), the sun rose and set at around 6am and 6pm throughout the year. And though I knew logically that there would be differences through the year at latitudes that were further from the Equator, I didn't realize the extent to which I had kind of just expected that steadiness of sunrise and sunset in my life.

Coming from the temperate, mid-latitude contentinental USA, I have been disoriented in both directions.

I did some work in Colombia once, which straddles the equator. I was surprised how short the dusk was. Where I come from, the sun takes a while to set, approaching the horizon diagonally, the sky gradually transitions from daylight to nighttime. Near the equator? Oh look, the sun is getting low and then BOOM hey it's dark all of a sudden! Then couple that with the warm weather that I associate with long days and dusk into the evenings and it's so confusing.

But what was literally disorienting was that, for a good 4 hours in the middle of the day, the sun is basically straight up and you can't tell what direction is what. Turns out that I really need to have a sense of north, south, etc. But in the tropics, if you are new to a town, you absolutely can NOT get your bearings. I found myself utterly reliant on taxis and friends to get around. Oooooh I hate that.

In the other direction ...

I was in Anchorage for a few days of work, in February. I arrived in the evening, after nightfall, and didn't really get to see the landscape -- the taxi just took me through the darkness to the hotel entrance. No problem, I'd have daylight the next morning.

The next morning, I open the curtains and ... still dark! At 8:30am, it was still dark and I couldn't see the landscape. I wouldn't say I was scared, but I found that I didn't want to leave the hotel room until I could see where the hell I was, goddamn it! Showed up late for work, waiting for daylight.

And that was Anchorage, not even that far north.

Mrs. Intermod and I spent 10 days in Iceland in June. 24 hour daylight, basically. THAT is pretty cool.
posted by intermod at 9:17 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

In the SF bay area, microclimate temperatures can easily vary by 20+ degrees over distances of a few miles. Before I fully grokked this I used to get dressed on the peninsula on hot evenings, get up to San Francisco and freeze my tail off.

In Yosemite & environs you really do need to heed the warnings about bears and not keep food in your tent or your car. They will come in and get it and it is not cute.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:53 PM on August 18, 2016

Just the fact that you need special windshield wiper fluid for cars if you're below zero is still weird to me.
posted by bq at 10:33 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine got her masters and took a job in Venice. She moved over there in the summer and got a super cheap deal on an apartment on the first floor of a beautiful house. She woke up one winter day in the middle of the night with all her possessions floating about her as she lay in bed with water lapping at her mattress. No one told her canal floods were a serious, serious business.
posted by vacuumsealed at 11:02 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah. The problem with hitting dear isn't just because it's bad for the deer... It totals your car too. It's dangerous. Same with Kangaroos. And cattle, for that matter.

I know several people who carry guns after coming across partially hit large animals that needed...finalised. People who never thought they would.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:16 AM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

In Phoenix, dark colored things that have been in the sun all day get hot enough to for real burn you if you lean on/touch them. The best parking spot is not the one closest to the store; it's the one in the shade. If you're going to be away from your car for any length of time, park where the shade is going to be, not where it is. Your steering wheel and the metal seat belt buckle can burn you. The sunlight physically hurts; I finally broke down and bought an umbrella to carry in the sun, parasol-style, to keep the infernal hell-light off of me. (I got the worst sunburn ever when I went home to Wisconsin one summer and spent all afternoon in the sun without even thinking about sunblock, because the sunlight didn't hurt.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:52 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is more of a lifestyle-environment change, but I didn't understand rain boots until I stopped living as a suburban child who was driven around everywhere and moved to Providence, a wonderful small city with shoddy public works for college, and walked everywhere.

Brook Street turns into a brook, and you better have protection up to your ankles, plus additional for splashing.

When I moved to Seattle, I learned that summer is mostly not-that-warm (bring pants). One trick from the northeast that still seems to hold, however, is that weather changes quickly, and if you just wait two minutes under an awning, you might not get torrentially rained on.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:28 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've seen Pacific Ocean peculiarities mentioned, but some more – I always get a kick out of people in Europe asking where I'm from, not knowing Oregon, but recognizing its rough location when I explain "it's north of California". Then they say "it must be such nice weather there! I bet you went surfing all the time!" Ahem. In Oregon, unless you're east of the Cascade mountain range, you always carry a coat, rain hat, and stash a pair of long trousers and wool socks somewhere. Always. Even in summer. This is a habit people from elsewhere think is weird, but which has served me well around the world... apart from the Riviera, where yeah, you don't need the long trousers between June and August.

Never go into the Pacific Ocean north of California without serious swimming skills. It was the first thing we learned about the ocean, and was repeated by everyone, everywhere, public school included. Rip tides, sneaker waves, and yep, hypothermia because that water is cold.

Same in the PacNW re: other places' tip not to walk around if you get lost. Not due to heat though, but due to the sheer wilderness. People don't grok that there just aren't that many humans, even in the more well-travelled wilderness areas. And it gets cold at night. One of the reasons you always keep a coat, long trousers, and wool socks on you? Is so that if you get lost and have to spend the night outdoors, you won't freeze to death or, at best, get seriously weakened by the cold. This actually happened to my brother, who got separated from our group in a month of July on a major trail in the Deschutes National Forest. He had water, wool socks and zip trouser/shorts, so was at least able to put on his long trouser legs and socks overnight. He stayed put (didn't walk) but was exhausted by the overnight cold when he was found on the trail the next day.

Rain hats and coats. No umbrellas. Wind makes the umbrellas pointless and hats give better coverage. Your trousers may get soaked, but you have wool socks! Always remember the wool socks.

Always. Carry. Water. More than you think you'll need. For at least two people in the southwest US. Does this mean carrying a gallon or two of water on your own? Yes! You have a high likelihood of saving someone's life. I lost count of the number of European tourists who didn't listen to this advice and who ran out of water with their little 500ml flasks an hour into four-hour desert hikes. We always had more than we needed, so were able to fill up their bottles and tell them to turn around. Dehydration goes fast. Sad story here.

French Riviera! En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil – In April, keep your clothes on; it rhymes in French and literally means "don't take off a single thread". It can get quite warm, but the sun is still far enough away that when clouds roll in or the sun sets, it gets cold very fast.

On the other hand, in a hot Riviera summer you will never need trousers. Unless they're flowing light ones, which can be nice.

September-February are rainy months, and Riviera rain is not like PacNW rains. In the PacNW we have all sorts; on the Riviera there is generally only one sort, which I like to call "sky god dumping his bucket." Usually happens around 5pm-6pm. Often causes flash floods. Doesn't matter what kind of gear you have, you will be soaked.
posted by fraula at 1:47 AM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

East Coast of Scotland: people from continental Europe or less windy parts of the USA who are used to really cold winters with the sort of low temperatures that you just never get in Scotland look at the thermometer temperature and go 'eh, that's fine'. Then they go outside, turn a corner and get hit full in the face by the North Sea wind. The wind chill and the force of the windled one person to claim to me that it was the coldest they'd ever been in their life.

(Going in the other direction, a friend's parents were on holiday in Florida when a hurricaine warning came through. Having never experienced this before, they went outside - not stupidly, but having prepared the inside bathroom, staying close and they were going to dash indoors as soon as it became really windy. Since the area they were in was on the edge of the hurricaine they never did. They were quite disappointed; locals were aghast, but as they said, "It never even got as windy as Aberdeen")
posted by Vortisaur at 1:50 AM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In Australia. Frost is not so common here and newcomers to Canberra will often pour hot water on frosty car windscreens. Conversely, as a kid I cracked a windscreen in summer with lukewarm tap water.
posted by quercus23 at 4:26 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Living in Boston, a few things people just don't always understand:

1. They're really professional at cleaning roads during and after snowstorms, so you don't need to run to Stop and Shop and buy ALL THE MILK AND BREAD for the Snowpocalypse. You will most likely be able to go to the store within 24 hours of the snow ending. Yet, every predicted snow storm means mass hysteria and people scrambling to get ALL THE BREAD.

2. If there's a beach chair in a shoveled street, someone has laboriously cleaned and claimed that spot and will kill you if you remove their chair and park there.

3. You need to shovel out your own fire hydrant when it snows.

4. Even if your town will eventually get around to it, you should try to shovel your own sidewalk.

5. Roads in the spring can be treacherous; for the love of all that is good and holy, you should never drive through a pothole because that sucker could be a foot deep.

6. Sledding etiquette is important. Look around to determine who's been waiting before barreling down the hill. Ask if you're not sure. Do NOT be one of those people who goes for a run, gets back to the top of the hill and immediately barrels down again. Wait your turn so sledding is safe for everyone.

7. When sledding, if you're about to run someone over, DITCH YOUR SLED. Do not keep going.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:39 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Having grown up in Atlanta, I endured the scorn of the transplants from the North and Midwest about how scared we were about snow and how a measly inch or two was *nothing*, as they climbed into their cars.

It was always terribly funny to talk to then later, when they had run off the road/gotten stuck/plowed into something because that inch of snow melted and immediately refroze in a city where salt trucks were few and far between.
posted by gone2croatan at 6:13 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Kind of a reverse one: I froze still in New Zealand when a large unknown bug landed on my husband's arm, and quietly told him not to move so I could flick it off without scaring it. My hosts nearly fell off their chairs laughing when they realised I was trying to reach for a stick with as little movement as possible. Turns out the bugs are less bitey in NZ than in Australia.
posted by harriet vane at 6:23 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I grew up in the catskills, home of microclimates that could get down to the 40s in the summer as well as incredibly steep and winding hills.

This is really true in Vermont too. Here, as in the catskills, you have the idea of "hollers" (places in the shade of a hill) where the temperature might be a bunch colder than it is just a mile away. So when you drive in the winter you not only need to pay attention to the outside temperature, but also be mindful of when it might dip to below freezing, if it's before the salt trucks came through, because those roads will be dodgy.

Another driving tip is the wildlife one. At night "don't outdrive your headlights" meaning don't go so fast on an unknown road that if there was a deer in the middle of the road, you couldn't stop by the time you saw it. On the windy roads, this is not very far. The sun can also set an hour or even two earlier in the hollers.

Don't drive right behind a salt truck because the salt eats your car. And yes that is why car washes are open year round.

Take in your bird feeders when the bears start to wake up.
posted by jessamyn at 6:50 AM on August 19, 2016

If you go out on a hot sunny day in snowy mountains (e.g. the Alps in March), make sure to put your sunscreen under your chin and your nose as well as everywhere else!
posted by emilyw at 7:25 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

As an upper-midwestern USian visiting southern New Mexico for the first time, micro-micro-climates. You can have pelting rain on your front doorstep and full sun out back.

You have to keep floors immaculate so you don't step on a goat head burr. Ow. The bike I used had thorn-resistant tubes and tires for the same reason.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:43 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is stretching a bit from climate, but jessamyn prompted this thought: when you're driving at night around here (here being the southeast), look for glowing spots on the side of the road as you're driving. Those glowing spots are the eyes of the deer/loose cow/coyote/fox/possum/etc that is getting ready to run out in front of your car and ruin your night.

(The deer. The deer, effing everywhere. There's a few roads around here that have deer crossing signs and it always makes me laugh, because the whole damn county is a deer crossing, including the interstates.)
posted by joycehealy at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Widespread Canadian Belief: It rains a lot in Vancouver.

Fact: Vancouver's climate is pleasant save in winter, when it rains a fuck of a lot. I lived there for three months the first time I was there for an extended period (January to March) and while some days were merely overcast, I saw my shadow on the ground twice in that time.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:15 AM on August 19, 2016

Some adventurous types, often teens, plunge into quarries and lakes and the ocean early in the year ( like May) only to find the water is still hovering in the 50s. At that temperature, within a few minutes even a very strong swimmer begins to lose strength and go numb.

Haha. The ocean in most of CA is basically low to mid 50s year round and also northern Europe except for July and August. It won't actually kill you, it just feels like it. If you are actively swimming and a good swimmer you are totally fine. I do enjoy swimming in the ocean when the water is in the 50s on the East Coast or other places and seeing the looks of horror on people's faces.

I've surfed in 38 degree water in CA once. The air was mid 70s.
posted by fshgrl at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2016

Also the summer in the Bay Area is freezing

This is famously true for San Francisco, but not the rest of the Bay Area, certainly not San Jose. However, the heat usually isn't the worst until September.
posted by Rash at 10:13 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Re: Deer (and deer-alternatives) on the highway. If you grew up with them around, you know not to swerve. If you didn't, you'll likely wind up in the ditch. I threaded between the fifth and sixth deer in a line that crossed #1 in front of us a couple years ago. Good times.

Would you accept urban 'climates'? It's frequently faster to get off the Tube in London and walk than make a transfer. Ditto if there's a delay or 'mechanical difficulties'. The people that suck their teeth and pick their bags up when they hear the announcement are the locals.
posted by Kreiger at 11:03 AM on August 19, 2016

In Houston, TX the task of mowing the lawn in the summer often requires a complete change of clothing right down to socks and underwear. Take a "cold" shower and realize that after you towel off you are still sweating. Visitors from more temperate areas may not be able to deal with the heat and humidity, to the point where they will overheat and get sick. Locals have several months to adjust to summer. This applies to much of the South.

Thunderstorms are new and exciting to folks from areas without them. It may be rumbling and the windows are being slashed by rain, and the locals will think little of it. Visitors, on the other hand, wonder if something bad is happening. The general rule is that an inch of rain in an hour is a downpour, and it will drain quickly. Three to four inches in a storm is something to note, and checking the road reports is a good idea. More than that and you have to evaluate your travel needs. When the roads are full of water there is nowhere that you need to be that bad. This includes going home. Just sit and wait for the rain to stop and the water to drain away. It will do so fairly quickly. Don't be like the six people who drowned in the same underpass near me, over the course of two years. Just sit and wait.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:11 AM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

On the East Coast, the weather doesn't vary too much by where you are. If you're in a suburb of Washington DC, the weather forecast for DC will probably be within a few degrees of what your weather will be. This is not the case in California. Livermore could be considered a suburb of San Francisco, but its weather is very different.

I've got an East Coast-specific variant on that.

So I grew up on the outskirts of NYC. Sometimes in the summer, we'd go to the Jersey Shore to go the beach. On the Jersey Shore, the beach is usually cooler, because there is a seabreeze. But outside of the actual beach itself, the temperature is really no different from what it is in the city or anywhere else in the region.

So when I start dating my wife, who is from Boston, she starts telling me about going to Cape Cod in the summer and somehow it comes up that the houses there don't need air conditioning. I was incredulous. New England isn't that much cooler than NYC. It can get very hot in Boston in the summer.

My wife informed me that, on Cape Cod, it is generally 10-15 degrees cooler than in Boston. Like the literal, real, air temperature, not just because of a seabreeze. I knew this sort of thing happened on the West Coast; I did not think it happened in the Northeast. Frankly, I did not believe her, until we went there and, and, lo and behold, it was consistently much cooler than Boston or NYC.

The works the other way, too: when we spent a weekend at a beach in NJ with my family, my wife was surprised at how it was 85-90 degrees one block inland from the beach.
posted by breakin' the law at 11:29 AM on August 19, 2016

I have been known to joke that they shut down the entire state of Georgia if anyone sees a single snowflake anywhere. I have lived in places that got real snow and needed plows and all that and had them. Georgia just doesn't have any of that stuff because it snows so rarely that it would be a waste of resources. It would spend almost all it's time in storage and when it got pulled out once a year or once every five years, no one would know how to operate it (assuming it was in working order and not rusted to death).

It just makes more sense to shut stuff down for the afternoon or, in really extreme cases, for a few days. In fact, I got sent home from high school once because it was simply too cold outside, even though it wasn't snowing. They couldn't keep the school warm enough. It wasn't insulated enough for that kind of weather. So all the students got sent home.

As an adult, I returned to Georgia. I got sent home due to snow at least a couple of times in the five years or so I had a corporate job. I think we were back at work as usual the following day. It all melted in short order. You didn't need to do anything to clear the streets.

There was serious snow in Georgia when I was seven or eight years old. Everything got shut down all week and roofs were collapsing from the weight of it. I made a snowman -- the only snowman of my life. I am 51 years old. I don't think it has snowed that heavy in Georgia since then in my lifetime. I have relatives there. I think I would know if there had ever been that much snow again.

So, it just isn't worth investing serious resources into snow equipment. Snow that would merit being plowed is literally once every few decades, at best. Most of the time, it melts on its own the next day, assuming it sticks at all.

Thus, everyone just closes up shop and goes home early. Schools close. Businesses close. They keep essential services open, such as hospitals, and will send a van around to pick up nurses and other employees who don't want to drive in the snow. But it just makes more sense to go home and come back when it is over, which probably means you will be back at work or school the following morning. They might open a little late to allow the snow time to melt, but they will probably open the next day. Snow just doesn't stick around in Georgia for very long.
posted by Michele in California at 12:28 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everyone!

scruss: A friend from Kenya studying in Glasgow phoned me in a panic the first time she experienced May in Scotland: “Why is the sun not setting? The sun sets at 7 pm, and it's not going down!”. Living close to the equator, there's not much variation in sunrise and sunset times.

Oh, that reminds me of a friend from Kenya who got into trouble during his first trip to Northern Europe during summer. He went on a kayak trip and almost got separated from his group the first night when he turned towards the lakeshore at seven PM because he knew that they would make camp at sunset.
posted by Kattullus at 2:06 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I grew up in the California Central Valley, where summer is hot, dry, and sunny. In the 80s and 90s, you take off clothing to stay cool. In the 100s, if you have to go outdoors, it can be better to put clothing on -- specifically, loose white cotton. You can perspire through it, and it keeps the sun off your skin. Splashing water on your clothes can also be a big help, because the dry air evaporates that water efficiently and carries away body heat. This doesn't work as well in humid places (unless it's breezy or you have a fan). Another coping strategy I used for California summer days was ice under my sun hat, though this is less of a behavior "everybody knows" and more of a weird thing aws17576 does.

On really hot days in California, there is a reliable 20-degree drop right around sunset. This lovely time of day brings out lots of people (and cats!) who were hiding from the heat all afternoon. You can shut off your A/C and open your windows. I was pretty bummed when I moved to the Midwest and found that, absent a good thunderstorm, there is little relief at nightfall. In an un-air-conditioned Midwestern apartment, I had to learn not to cook pasta from June to August.
posted by aws17576 at 4:03 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

hard lesson learned when moving from nyc to mediterranean scrub climate: there's a reason all your neighbors are incredibly fussy about clearing dead/dried plant matter in a circle about 300m away from their homes, and it's not because they care how it LOOKS; it's because it's a huge fucking fire hazard. and when the flames come rushing down the hill into your valley at 4am and you're helping your 90 year old neighbor get his sheep pen open so at least his livelihood won't be destroyed along with his house you tend to feel a little guilty about not clearing the 5 foot high scrubby weeds alongside your driveway which would otherwise have been the firebreak.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:53 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those free standing tents that everyone uses in the US. There is a reason they are not very popular in western Europe and that reason is wind. They act like tumbleweeds.
posted by fshgrl at 6:14 PM on August 19, 2016

In cold weather you may have to choose between a frostbitten nose, or being able to see when you go outside.

If you wear glasses and you put on a balaclava or a pull your scarf up over your nose, it will direct your breath upward onto your lenses where it will promptly freeze and frost over. This takes just seconds in really cold weather.

If it is cold enough that you have to pull your scarf up over your nose or risk it freezing you may be stuck taking your glasses off and putting them into a pocket, no matter how badly your see without them. Of course this can be a good idea because frames and lenses can contract in the cold at different rates and when you are trudging through the snow in minus thirty weather you don't want a lens to pop out.

If you walk fast to keep warm you may breath hard enough to frost up your glasses even without any face covering.

One solution to this is to wear an outer layer of soft knitted mitten, such as acrylic and wrap your hand over the top of your nose just below your glasses to provide a barrier for the moist air that you are exhaling. The kind of mitten that can keep your nose warm enough to avoid frostbite is often not nearly warm enough on its own, so you will want mittens that are lined with fleece, and to wear a second pair of mittens or gloves inside those.

Holding your nose under the shelter of your mitten will not prevent your glasses from getting so cold that metal frames can stick to your skin and cause minor scarring.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:29 PM on August 19, 2016

As a fair-skinned person who grew up in a warm climate with scorching summers, I am frequently amazed at fair-skinned people from colder countries who have no idea that:

- yes, you can get sunburnt when it's cloudy
- no, sunscreen will not be enough to stop you getting sunburnt if you spend hours in the sun at peak UV times. Not even SPF500,000.
- Wear a hat, long sleeves and stay in the damn shade.
- one bad sunburn (eg, peeling) can lead to skin cancer
- don't ever, ever fall asleep at the beach/pool/outside in the warm sun
posted by 8k at 7:54 AM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a lifelong resident of the upper Midwest (plus Montana) I spent one year in North Carolina. No one told me that I would have to mow my lawn approximately 3 times a day. I also did not realize that the winter there would be absolutely miserable because it was so humid that it was impossible to stay warm. I'll take a foot of snow and -40° wind chills over another winter in coastal NC.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:50 AM on August 20, 2016

As a transplant to Los Angeles I'm still learning that a parking spot that is far from where you want to go, but in the shade, is superior to a close spot in the sun.

Likewise, while watching Stranger Things with my Californian fiance there was a scene where a character tosses a cigarette butt to the ground in a wooded area. He yelped "What the hell, are they trying to start a wildfire?" Not in Indiana in winter, they're not.

When I was a simple Louisiana girl in New York City: if you leave the house with wet hair on a winter morning, you will arrive at work with haircicles.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Spent several years in the Antelope Valley in CA.
We learned very quickly that you park your car *into* the wind, or that hellish gale could rip your car door off as you exited the vehicle - and almost take your arm with it.
Good times!
posted by tillei at 6:59 PM on August 22, 2016

the fact that you need special windshield wiper fluid for cars if you're below zero

Yes, absolutely you need a good mixture lest your windshield freeze up, reducing your visibility to zero when the moisture outside turns to ice. Your car's heater won't defrost the windows from inside fast enough, and using it for that may crack the windshield (spoken from experience).
posted by Rash at 2:33 AM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a very dry climate and had several surprises when I moved somewhere more humid:

-People put rice in saltshakers to keep the salt dry! I always thought it was some sort of superstition.
-Dehumidifiers are a thing! I'd get like half a gallon of water in there overnight. I had only heard of humidifiers before.
-You can't put too many clothes in your closet in the summer or they'll get moldy.
-I actually have wavy hair, not straight. Who knew?
posted by exceptinsects at 5:32 PM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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