⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

July 1, 2009

Another notation on heat (and cold) in Paris.

Temperature is a funny subject in France. This is an all-year round conversation of course. In the winter, there is a heater battle between me and Xavier. You see, I don't want to wear a scarf in my own house. Xavier thinks house-scarf-wearing is semi-normal. Xavier's mom, along with many other French people, has concluded that 19°C is the ideal indoor temperature in winter time. 19°C is 66.2°F. Freezing in winter conditions. They claim that my resistance to this temperature is because I am American. Could be. However, the heater battle didn't start with Xavier, it started long before, with my dad. He and Xavier have a lot in common (hmm...) and monitoring the thermostat is one of them.

Now for summer issues. First, air conditioning does not exist in France. I am not amplifying things. No one has air conditioning in their apartment. (Well, maybe in Neuilly). This does have its advantages. For example, when walking down the street in New York in summer, you have the continual impression that someone (fat and perspiring) is sweating on you because of the incessant dripping from the air conditioners which hang from every apartment window. This sensation does not exist in Paris. (Nor does the fear that one of these boxes will fall on your head and kill you, right Stephen?)

The French also have specific ideas about the potential harms of air conditioning. Many are convinced that circulated air like that causes all sorts of diseases. Additionally, constantly shifting from cold air inside to hot air outside makes for all sorts of other diseases. So, even if air conditioning did exist, it would only be in the form of very mild air conditioning. I guess when you go in a department store that is what you get here. I walked into Printemps yesterday and expected a blast of cold air, which never arrived. So perhaps these theories on health and air conditioning have some credence. I am open to believing. I just don't yet. (I will add this annotation: Americans clearly have issues with energy consumption. Europeans have us hands-down on that front. My air conditioning ideas are clearly culturally situated.)

So, no air conditioning means a lot of open windows, right? Right. One last catch. Apartments in France do not have screens. I have a strange sensitivity to flies. I abhor them. Screens seem like a good solution to all sorts of creatures that make my home theirs when my open windows invite them. I fretted a little to Xavier the other day and asked if we could find some screens for our windows. The answer was downright. No. They don't exist here.

16 comments:

Cindy said...

Emilie, you seem to be so thoughtful and so understanding of the cultural differences you are experiencing...I hope you are being afforded some of the same!

Isabelle said...

To kill the flies that get in through your open windows, you can buy these stickers that are shaped like flowers (you can find them at hardware stores and supermarkets). You stick them to your windows and they have some kind of insecticide (completely odorless) that kills flies. I have a friend who uses them in her house and she said it works great.

I agree that air conditioning is totally cultural. Whenever I travel to the US in the summer (my husband is American btw), I get a sore throat due to air conditioning (and my kids do to). Our bodies aren't used to dealing with such differences in temperature. I like getting in a cool store to escape from the heat, but don't you think that sometimes the AC is too strong and it can be really cold?

Gina said...

First, I LOVE your blog! Second, I am American too-moved here in January. And I am HOT! No, not complimenting myself, just roasting in my tiny yet adorable 7th floor apartment with a balcony but no awning. After waiting so long for the weather to turn warm, I hesitate to complain about the heat, but my body is so used to AC! (although, I do agree that in some US buildings the AC is entirely TOO cold.) My doors and window are open, and I go to sleep nightly with little green bugs attached to the ceiling. I am not a fan of little green bugs. Most are dead by morning, so I have little green carcasses everywhere. But I digress...just letting you know that I'm with you here in the heat...still loving Paris though!

Emilie said...

cindy...oh yes, it goes both ways. i insist.

isabelle - absolutely. the blast of cold in department stores and other public indoor spaces in the usa is totally extreme. (like so much of the us culture...)

gina - sweet! so glad you found my blog. we should get coffee. i'd love to hear your take on paris.

Davide said...

Emy, i agree 100% with you!

The perfect temperature is 26°C during the winter and 26° C during the summer. This is COMFORT!

French people like to suffer....

Davide

Xavier said...

Emy,

Your dad and I both share financial concerns regarding heating too much ;-)

Stephen, just for the sake of this conversation, I would walk closer to the building walls rather to the curb...

Dave, you italians...

Emilie said...

i knew i could count on you, davide.

Jill said...

I know it hogs energy, but I love my air conditioning in a way that only a spoiled American can understand. Last night the power went out and triggered the breaker switch to my air conditioning. When it got to 85 degrees in my house I thought I'd go nuts. Yep, spoiled! Good luck with the heat and flys Em. In a few weeks you can sleep at my house with air conditioning. Yeah!

Malanie said...

Em, that must be so hard, and like you said it sounds like Xavier and dad share the same concept about heating. I am so excited to see you all soon! So what can you do so that you are not so hot? I love you all
I agree Jill and Em, that it is nice to have ac when it is hot so you can stay cool and be comfortable, love you all

Gaby Munoz said...

I seem to be having air conditioning issues here in Spain as well. I definitely understand the energy issue, especially when the temperature outside doesn't require AC.

However, my interpretation of an acceptable AC-free temperature (85 and below) and the Spaniards' (100-115) differ greatly.

My host family finally caved and got AC for all of the bedrooms. BUT, we can only have it on for a few hours a day since it's not central AC. As my room is on the tippy top floor of the house, I get all the rising heat.

Before I ramble anymore, have you considered a ceiling fan? Or do those not exist in France as well? (They don't seem to exist here, and I've had to settle for a tiny desk fan that I'm pretty sure I'll end up breaking from excessive usage.)

It also never rains.

Emilie said...

hallelujah for no rain gaby. yes!

ceiling fans...i get the feeling the answer will be similar to the one i got for screens...but a good idea nonetheless...

merci ma belle!

Brad said...

There are many things I love about the Xman. His approach to the thermostat is one more thing he has on my lovely daughter. Good luck with this one Xman.

Rosie said...

Wow, we are really sweating this one!

mimi said...

Emilie, I'm laughing and crying over here! I would be so happy to go to Home Depot, just by your old work, and get you a screen and send it to you! Only I doubt that it would fit in your 17th-century windows. But seriously, I would be happy to. You can tape it in place or something. You can also get a cheesecloth and hang it romantically over the window. Or get like a hundred mosquito nets and skip from one to the other to the other all day long. I love you my darling. What a book all these anecdotes will make!!! Can't wait to get my hands on it. xx M

D1Warbler said...

Emilie,

Finally back from the "lands down under," and had to leave a comment because New Zealand and Austrail are so European in this department. It was winter there (temperatures lower than 59 degrees farenheight during the day and in the South Island at 32 degrees farenheight). We were in a two story flat with three bedrooms upstairs and a living room, a dining room and a kitchen downstairs which had no central heat and the only device to heat the whole place was one 750 watt space heater! Jim's office in Auckland was also freezing. His hands were so cold by ten a.m. in the morning he could no longer hold a pen. (Your Dad and Xavier would love it there!)

The Kiwi's and the Auzzies layer and drink lots of hot tea and coffee. Jim nearly drowned himself in hot chocolate the whole six weeks were were there!

Love, Chrys

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