The child of a friend of mine in Japan is going to Sydney in January for a homestay. The list of essential items says, “summer clothes like short-sleeved shirts and shorts are OK,” but my friend asked me whether they really would be OK. I immediately advised, “No, you should absolutely bring a sweatshirt or warm jacket and trousers!”
The seasons in Australia and Japan are the exact opposite, so January comes in the middle of summer, yet Australia has so much territory that even in January, the further south you go, the colder it gets.
Short sleeves and shorts might be fine in Cairns, in the north, but in Sydney, if you weren’t prepared and were lightly dressed just because it’s summer, you might end up having quite a cold time of it.
And if you go further south to Melbourne, it can be quite cold even in summer as the southerly wind can be strong, and it can be cloudy and rainy. Around the time I first arrived in Australia I went to Melbourne in January. The wind was strong at the beach, and it was quite cold that day, so I had to wear a sweatshirt and fleece jacket. True to the saying that Melbourne can have 4 seasons in 1 day, it’s in a region where the weather often changes quite a lot in 1 day. You might think the night and morning were incredibly cold, but then in the daytime it might get incredibly hot, or it might just rain and cool down again.
Where I live, the Gold Coast, it’s relatively warm even in winter, most summer days are hot, and the summer season is long, but sometimes you might still need long sleeves even in late November or early December. This year it has been particularly cold, so much so that I have been wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants at nights in December.
Like the rainy season in Japan (“Tsuyu”), there’s a time when you get a lot of rain every day before the real heat arrives. It can rain nearly every day for up to 2 to 3 weeks, and it can rain quite a lot. It’s heartbreaking to hear in the news about people who have had flood damage here and there after continuous heavy downpours over a long period.
Once the rainy season has passed, it switches to mid-summer with those pleasant, clear and bright Australian skies making the weather you have just been experiencing seem unbelievable.
I guess the weather mostly starts settling down around the end of Christmas.
School holidays in Australia are from mid-December to around January 25, so the second half is generally a time of comparatively good weather.
While Sydney and Melbourne can have some chilly times even in January and February, on the contrary, they can also get incredibly hot. It’s a different sort of heat from the heat on the Gold Coast. You can get such sizzling heat with relentless sunshine that it almost hurts.
Once when I went to Sydney by car in January, I was near Sydney when I started wondering whether the air conditioning wasn’t working properly anymore. I thought it might perhaps be super-hot outside, so I opened the car window and was startled by an incredibly hot blast of air. The heat was also making the roadway shimmer with heat haze.
In Melbourne and Sydney, it starts getting cool around March, but in Cairns and the Gold Coast, it’s still the middle of summer. It probably starts feeling cooler around early May. It’s comparatively hot in Cairns until about mid-May.
Summer in Australia is drier than in Japan and you get plenty of wind, so even in mid-summer, if you’re in a windy spot, you’re wearing short sleeves, and you’re in the shade, you might actually feel cold.
The years differ. Some years it’s intensely hot, and sometimes it’s a cool summer. Incidentally, they’re saying that this year will be a cool summer across Australia.
While I’m at it, the weather forecasts in Australia are never right (LOL).
And even on TV they don’t give forecasts for finer time periods, like the weather forecasts in Japan, it’s less specific. The weekly forecasts keep on changing all the time. It might be different for people who live in the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but people on the Gold Coast aren’t in the habit of using or carrying an umbrella. If it’s drizzling, people walk around as usual, as though it isn’t even raining, and if it’s pouring down, they either run or take shelter. You often see people completely saturated by heavy rain. It’s as though they think “It’s fine, it’s just water, so I’ll dry off before long.”
The Aussie spirit is to believe things will work out straight away, and not to pay too much attention to the weather. And Aussies are not sensitive to the cold. They even swim in the sea in the middle of winter, they set the air conditioning on buses to cooling, not heating, even though it’s winter, and when you see girls going out wearing figure-hugging dresses with a lot of skin exposed and no jacket even in mid-winter, it makes you feel cold.
If you are going to southerly destinations like Sydney and Melbourne, I would advise you to take a long-sleeved shirt, jacket (something windproof would be handy because the wind can be strong), trousers, and so on just to be sure, even if you think it will be hot and you won’t need them. It’s also handy to have clothes that are easy to put on and take off because the temperature changes can be dramatic.
And the sunshine is about 6 times stronger than in Japan, so please make sure you take precautions to avoid getting sunburnt, OK!