In the week before the flood disaster in West Germany killed at least 170 people, I went hiking in the Alps.

Our mountain guide came from Tyrol, an experienced man of difficult age.

His face was what is often referred to as weathered, a mixture of wrinkles and color that is associated with fresh air and health, but also with a down-to-earth attitude and work.

When he heaved our rucksacks into a material cable car in the afternoon before going up to the next hut, he let us pack the water bottles in a light bag.

And the rain jacket.


His gaze then went up to the sky: Fibrous wispy clouds.

Tuffs and towers, white as egg white.

Pale soup in the valley.

In any case, he saw a reason for a possible afternoon thunderstorm.

We almost never got wet.

Julia Schaaf

Editor in the "Life" section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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I never thought about the fact that the weather has an existential dimension.

I like it when the sun is shining because the mixture of warmth and light on the tip of the nose puts you in a good mood.

When it rains, I comfort myself that it is good for nature.

There is something calming about listening to the tapping of the drops and the rustling of the threads of water.

If I'm planning a trip, I check the weather app beforehand.

And of course I get annoyed about rainy vacations or those stupid periods when it always seems cloudy and cooler at the weekend, while I would love to laze around in the garden.

Who is seriously interested in the weather?

Actually, however, I have a more pragmatic approach to these things. How do you say There is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing. Anyone who has children learns that mud pants and rubber boots are part of the basic equipment. You can also recognize a good daycare center by the fact that the little ones go outside every day. Girls and boys who train twice a week on the soccer field during the winter hardly ever get sick. When rain is announced, I pack the appropriate protective clothing for the bike ride to the office. In the meantime, there are even almost fancy outdoor clothes, I think. When the news talks about low pressure areas, cold fronts and Azores highs and moderators interpret maps on which lines and lines become eddies,as if someone had animated an impressionist painting, I usually switch it off. Who is seriously interested in the weather?

After a particularly strenuous day of hiking in the Alps, we said goodbye to bed, our mountain guide's beer glass was still half full. I wanted to know if we could leave him alone with a clear conscience. All right, he replied and grinned mischievously, which is why I would certify that he had a certain capacity for self-irony: he had to discuss the weather with his colleagues anyway.

The weather is actually the epitome of inconsequential, meaningless communication. "When small talk is carried out and performed, there is a certain probability that the weather will be discussed," says Stephan Habscheid, Professor of German Studies at the University of Siegen. After all, according to Erving Goffman, everyday knowledge of the weather is a “free good” that “everyone can dispose of and which can be assumed for everyone”. Small talk is seen as a social lubricant, useful for breaking silence, making contacts, and instilling trust. Topics that are less controversial, emphasize similarities and cover up “potentially embarrassing differences in knowledge” are ideal, according to Habscheid. The content - it doesn't matter.

In the coming-of-age novel “Big Sky Country” by Callan Wink, which was published in German this spring, the protagonist, who has just grown up, occasionally calls his father in Michigan from Montana. The talks stretch over several pages: