A heat pump in NZ homes is a common sight. It warms a home in winter and cools the same place in summer. It’s a versatile device that heats and cools with equal efficiency and does it without breaking the bank. As far as Kiwis are concerned, a heat pump is as popular as talking about the thing it is installed to combat: the weather!
On a cold day, the heat pump goes into heating mode. And on a warm day, it is switched into cooling mode. And we know whether the weather is cold or warm because we tell each other about it all the time.
“Good morning, a bit cold today isn’t it?”
“Good evening. Been stinking hot today, hasn’t it?”
Admit it, they are conversation starters you have used hundreds or thousands of times. Talking about the weather is a safe way to break the ice when beginning a conversation with another person in a social situation, particularly with people we don’t know too well. Cultural researchers say you’re on much more solid ground discussing the weather than talking about sex, politics or religion with someone you don’t know too well. And because New Zealanders are usually unfailingly polite, we’re keen not to cause offence – and as topics go, the weather is about as inoffensive as you can get.
In New Zealand, we love talking about the weather for another reason. It is important to us. We are an agricultural and horticultural nation. What we produce off the land is one of the biggest foundations of the national economy. We’re good at it. We’re champion farmers, crop growers, viticulturalists, foresters and orchardists. But no matter how good we are, we’re always at the mercy of the elements. The weather consumes us because it dictates the success or failure of something else that consumes us – making a living off the land. And because it’s top of mind for so many of us, we talk about it.
New Zealanders are not the only ones who love talking about the subject of weather. Recent research in Britain revealed that 94% of respondents admit to having talked about the weather in the past six hours. Meanwhile, 38% say they have talked about in the past 60 minutes. As the researchers saId when releasing their findings:
“This means at almost any moment in this country, at least a third of the population is either talking about the weather, has already done so or is about to do so”
The British, like New Zealanders, are known for their politeness and the weather is one of those vanilla topics that won’t upset people. Other cultures are more direct. In the Middle East, Asia, The United States, and South America, the opening gambit in a conversation might be a question relating to your age, how much money you earn, or even how much you weigh! We have a sneaking suspicion that if that sort of question was asked in New Zealand you might need the services of a good heat pump installer so you can cool down a little bit.