The differences between Australia and Canada, part two: climate.

Canada’s token animal, the terrifying beaver. I reckon that tail could do some damage to a shark…

The most obvious difference between Australia and Canada is the climate. Australia is hot, shark infested, and full of palm trees and deserts. Canada is cold, beaver infested, and full of maples and snow.

Being on opposite ends of the Earth, seasons are at opposite times. It’s summer in Canada right now while it’s “winter” in Australia. However, on any given day you could look at the forecast in certain areas of both countries and the temperature could be the same.

In Canada there are four definite seasons with all sorts of cues to signal change:

Summer is during June, July and August. It’s hot no matter where you are, but weather is different depending on which province you’re in. For example, it’s very humid in Ontario and so dry in the Okanagan that forest fires are rampant. Wardrobe includes breezy summer dresses, sunscreen, shorts and tanks, strappy sandals, and flip flops (also know as “thongs” in Australia). In Ontario, it’s also key to always have an umbrella at your disposal because a thunderstorm could surprise you at any time.

Up next is autumn, which is my favourite season. It lasts from September to about mid-November. It’s the slow transition from summer to winter, with visual cues such as pumpkins for sale on the side of the road, leaves changing from green to orange, yellow, and red, and cute boots, scarves, and layers. It’s the perfect time to wear suede! The air feels clean and crisp and it’s not too hot or cold. It’s also the season that holds Thanksgiving, which means turkey and pumpkin pie for everyone!

Winter is on deck after autumn, lasting from mid-November to March, which to me feels like a lifetime. On the plus side I can’t get enough of hockey season, and I’ll admit that the first snowfall is exciting. After the clouds open up and snow is sprinkled over dead grass and bare

Snowmageddon hits London, Ontario! December 2010.

branches, the landscape around you completely changes. When the sun is shining everything sparkles and radiates cleanliness. I tend to enjoy this view from the comfort of my home in front of my fireplace with a hot tea and heavy sweater. Unfortunately, the beauty doesn’t last in the city: snow gets covered in gravel, salt, and mud. It piles up on the side of roads and driveways, and starts to melt and turn to slush. However, a fresh snowfall always cleans up the ugliness. In terms of dress, it’s time to bust out the heavy winter coat, wool socks and scarf, mitts, toque, and water resistant thermal boots. A word for the wise: beware of the slush! There’s nothing worse than wearing boots that are fashionable but impractical: slush will attack your feet, numb your toes, and it always leave a salt stain (a helpful reminder that the cute boots always lose — that is, lose warmth and cuteness.)

Thankfully, just as you think you can’t handle another day of winter (although this moment normally happens to me on January 2), spring swoops in to save the day! Rain starts to fall in April and melts the snow away. Tree leaves start budding and grass begins to grow. The temperature only creeps up to around +10 at first, but everyone ditches their clothes anyways. Hey, after -25, +15 feels balmy. People wear bright colors, matching the new growth surrounding them. The sun isn’t hot enough to get a tan, but it’s enough to keep you warm (and still try to tan…)

Delicious pumpkin pie.

There are definite changes in each season, with all sorts of cues to signal you: visual, temperature, and scent. Each season smells different, and I associate these smells with particular months of the year — fall smells like pumpkin, apple, and mud. Winter literally smells cold — everything is frozen. On the flip side, spring smells like the ground is defrosting. Summer smells like grass and sunscreen. I associate tastes with months as well — winter tastes like gingerbread lattes, spring tastes like strawberry shortcake and ice tea, summer tastes like crisp salads with fresh tomatoes, and autumn tastes like pie (ALL PIE. Pumpkin, apple, raisin, rhubarb…etc.)

I often forget what month I’m in because I’m used to all of the cues I mentioned before to signal me of the time of year, and it’s all opposite here. According to the fashion industry, Australia has four seasons as well. However, without the cues from the magazine aisle, I would forget that we’re entering into spring. To me, it’s just winter and summer. Officially though, summer is from December to February, autumn is March to May, winter is June to August, and spring is September to November. Temperatures range from 50 degrees Celsius to below zero, but it never gets as cold as Canada’s extreme weather, partially because Australia lacks very high mountains and is lucky enough to have warming oceans around its coastal regions. I’m living in Queensland (lovingly referred to as the “Sunshine State”). In Brisbane the average low is around +15, and the average high is around +26. I haven’t experienced an entire summer here yet, but apparently it gets very hot and humid.

It’s fascinating because when winter began here, Canadian’s were experiencing spring and temperatures were about the same in both countries. However, as I wrapped a wool scarf around me and put my sandals in storage, my friends back home were running around in shorts and summer dresses.

Feeling cold is relative: when you’re used to it being really hot, as soon as the temperature drops your body starts freaking out. Symptoms include goosebumps, chattering teeth, and freezing hands that make other people jump when you touch them. However, when you’re used to it being freezing cold, once it warms up a little bit your body is ready to party!

Great Ocean Road, VIC, July 2011. In Australia, this is appropriate winter wear. Coat, scarf, boots. My mom saw pictures and said “nice sweater”.

Even though it was only around +18 at the beginning of winter, I felt really cold. Some Canadians may look at me and say, “Grace, you’ve gone soft.” That’s where they’re wrong. To them I say, “I was born soft!” I’ve always hated the cold. People often make the mistake of assuming that since I’m from Canada I shouldn’t mind when it’s cold here. However, I came to Australia because I really dislike being cold. Also, once you’re cold, you’re cold. Because of many factors, I would argue that it’s possible for your body to feel the same as it does in +10 here and below zero in Canada. In Canada we are prepared for the cold: we put on more quality layers and our buildings have heaters and good insulation. Australia is not as prepared so even though it’s not nearly as cold, it still feels cold. Even though I have felt cold in Australia, there is still nothing like the cold in Ottawa that penetrates straight through your skin and chills your bones, shaking you to the core.

With all of that said, I have come to this conclusion: I, Grace Davis, love Australian winter. I never would’ve thought I would put “love” and “winter” in the same sentence, but to me Brisbane winter is like permanent autumn. It’s the most perfect, pleasant weather!

3 thoughts on “The differences between Australia and Canada, part two: climate.

  1. Amazing post! Well articulated my friend. I get paid out at Uni all the time for shivering. I constantly need to remind people that although I’m from Canada, no small body ever gets used to being cold.

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