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Temps Are High In Germany — But The Country Isn't Using Air Conditioning To Endure It


We go now to Germany, enduring its first heat wave of the season. Temperatures are expected to rise to the high 90s this weekend. NPR's Rob Schmitz reports that it's particularly high for a country where air conditioning is just not a thing.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: The closest thing Berliner Andy Grub has to air conditioning is this fountain across from his apartment building.

ANDY GRUB: In my flat now it's terrible because the sun shines through the window and the wall gets hot. And it's really terrible.

SCHMITZ: He says it feels like the country's first heat wave comes earlier each year, and he suspects climate change is a culprit. And as temps climb into the 90s and beyond for several days at a time, Germans like Grub think more and more about air conditioning. The only places in Berlin that have it are grocery stores, movie theaters and a few of the most modern office buildings. But it's traditionally seen as an extravagance in this part of Europe, and Grub says he cannot afford it.

GRUB: No, it's not so easy. It's expensive, and it's a lot of power consumption.

SCHMITZ: But there are other reasons why Germans aren't fond of air conditioning. Longtime Berlin resident Julia Abdullaeva, who also came to the neighborhood fountain today to keep cool, says AC units look terrible sticking out of 18th century buildings. And more importantly, many Germans believe AC makes you and the Earth sick.

JULIA ABDULLAEVA: The air is too dry, becomes too dry, because of air conditioning. And it's - all this is very, very bad for environment.

SCHMITZ: But Berliner Carson Hoth says there's really only one reason why he doesn't buy an AC unit.

CARSON HOTH: Because you don't need it. You just go to the biergarten.

SCHMITZ: He thinks Americans could use more biergartens, too. He says whenever he visits the U.S., he's astounded by how cold it is inside during the summer.

HOTH: You freeze to death in America. You go in any office, in any restaurant, and you freeze to death. In Florida, you go out like this here - short sleeves. And you go into a restaurant. First, they serve you ice water (laughter). And then the air conditioner brings you down to 17 degrees.

SCHMITZ: And yes, he says, each time he visits America in the summer, he ends up catching a cold from all the air conditioning. He says he usually can't wait to return home, where the best remedy for the heat is open windows, a neighborhood fountain and his local biergarten.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF JURASSIC 5 SONG, "LESSON 6: THE LECTURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.