Germans face the heat in socks and sandals. An comparative analysis to South African weather behaviour
(Editor: Alex Smit-Stachowski is speaking in her column about life as a South African now living in Germany. The South African journalist lives in Krefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia/ Germany).
Heat wave! Germans seldom experience such sweltering summers as the one currently underway – hot winds from Africa blowing across the country and ice-cream sales at an all-time high. Yet how Germans deal with the heat and South Africans do, is quite different to each other.
Balmy conditions in South Africa means barbeques (braais) outside with an ice-cold Castle beer in your hand, sausage (wors) on the grill and baseball caps to shield against the sun. Offices have desktop fans and shops have frosty air-conditioning and cooldrink sales soar.
Balmy conditions in Germany means many white bodies lying in parks trying to get some rays, ice-cream parlours making a killing and socks with sandals. The shops with air-conditioning are well frequented but at home, many of the older folk suffer as the warm temperatures are not usual here.
Germans are used to colder temperatures – the past winter here meant about seven months of cold weather. The seasons change with a switch – one day 20 degrees Celsius, the next day 6 degrees Celsius and then it stays that cold and gets colder. Apartments automatically have heaters installed – everything else has to be provided by the tenant – baths and showers are also included but light fittings, cupboards, sinks etc all have to be built-in by the new home-owners. The presence of the heaters shows that Europe is comfortable with winter. Hot summers are most welcome but locals often don’t know how to deal with them.
In South Africa, mothers automatically give their toddlers hats and suncream, baby bottles with juice and often let their kids lie just in nappies. In Germany, the times I have seen prams being pushed around without pulling the hood over the exposed child, is too often. The parents often insist that junior be fully dressed despite the heat.
The older folk suffer the most in the heat in Germany. While there have been many sizzling summers in the past centuries, the humidity was not there and the temperatures seldom reached almost 40 degrees Celsius. The old-timers often forget to drink lots of water, insist on wearing jerseys and jackets in the heat and venture outside in the peak heat. South Africans avoid major shopping visits between 12 and 2pm during heat waves – unless they have a car and the mall has air-conditioning! Germans go out into the heat and brave the Saharan heat to pick up bread and tomatoes, while dressed as if it were 15 degrees out.
The younger Germans deal with summer best – they go to the local lakes and enjoy the sun while topping up on liquids. Admittedly they do drink a lot of alcohol which is not sensible in the sun – but the youth do wear hats, put on suncream and dress accordingly.
In South Africa, cars will be parked in parking-lots and the sound systems would provide the soundtrack for the day – all have listen to the song selection. In Germany, people are more circumspect and take their designer iPhones along and let the playlist accompany the day out in the sun.
I have been in Germany for 10 years and this is the second sweltering summer I’ve experienced – it is no wonder that the locals don’t quite know how to handle it – this is like how Africans experience every year!