Sunday, July 8, 2012

Germans and Heat

This week for me....I had to endure 100-degree (39.5 C) temperatures here in the DC area.  Germany has a slightly different temperature range....on normal days in the summer.  Of course, from year to year....there's always that "wild card" where a German daily temperature might rise up to high 30's (C).

I came to realize over the years that I lived in Germany....that Germans had a general plan for surviving summer heat.  In a country where ninety-nine percent of the population doesn't have air conditioning....there's a different attitude about heat.  In the old days (the 1990's no less), there just wasn't any AC usage in most businesses.  Today?  Well...most all major stores will have chilled air (it won't be cool, but it won't be awful hot).  Even as you go into smaller stores and bakeries.....most will have some kind of chilled air to entice customers.

A German dresses for hot weather....even at work.  Most business operations will look the other way and allow everyone to wear shorts.  Shoe selection? won't be flip-flops, but sandals are generally acceptable.  Guys on pavement crews will be removing their shirt and soaking up the sunshine, while wearing shorts and work-boots.  Light and transparent clothing are standard.

The drink of choice?  Chilled mineral water....with a cube or two of ice (not the traditional sixteen cubes that an American would ask for).  Down the line would be ice tea or some fruit-laced drink.  And of course, chilled beer (not cold, but chilled).  Germans aren't stupid about drinking lots of beer in the afternoon....but after work....three or four chilled beers generally will cool off a German.  For an American, this avoidance of cold liquids is unusual.  Even a slushy would be turned down by a German.

The best place to sip beer in the afternoons?  Well....around most towns, there will be a pub which has an outdoor area with a cover, or a group of trees for shade.  So you sit there....with a hope of a faint wind at your back....sipping the beer and wiping what little sweat remaining on you off.  The shade tree would be a perfect spot....if it weren't for all the bees that come to visit and forcing you to toss your arms around every thirty seconds.

The introduction of AC?  Day by day.....some folks are quietly going out and buying smaller units to cool up a living room or a bedroom.  The problem is that your neighbors will notice the introduction and quietly criticize you over AC usage and power consumption.  Another eighty Euro for the month of July for eighty hours of AC usage (a small unit)?  Yeah, and enduring this criticism is really the worst part of the deal.  

Some folks will try hard to drag the unit into the house under the cover of darkness....and hook up the exhaust hose in some fashion that it won't be seen by any neighbors.  But then the neighbor notices no windows open on one side of the house and gets suspicious on how you could survive without any airflow in such drastic heat.  Eventually, your secret gets out, and you are looked down upon....because you just weren't "strong enough" to make it.  In essence, you've "Americanized" yourself, and that's not a good thing.

Finally, Germans tend to run off in the summer period for their summer vacation.  Two weeks.....sometimes three weeks....and they vacation while the heat blasts away at the house.  The locations they escape to?  Well....Spain, Crete, Greece, Turkey, and Italy.  All hot of course, but hotels all feature AC folks smile as they quietly sit in the hotel room with chilled air blasting on them. When they come back from this big trip....they will talk for hours about the buffet food area, the beach, the booze, the party atmosphere, and the various cultural things they saw.  Never a word will be uttered about the terrific AC unit that they enjoyed in the hotel.  It'd be a moment of weakness to admit you had to AC yourself.

So, an American can sit and observe this situation.  There's not a lot that you can learn....other than just accepting the heat and be strong.  It's the German way.

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