A/C: The little day-to-day differences between France and the USA

Do you understand how Europeans can live without A/C

Do you really understand how Europeans can live without A/C?

Since the 1950s, air conditioning has been hugely popular in the United States, but not in Europe. Today, 87% of American homes are equipped with A/C compared to only 4% in France and 1% in Germany. Half of German offices are air-conditioned, only a quarter of French ones are. So why are the Europeans lagging behind the Americans?

Sure, Europe has less air conditioning than the United States. But one thing you must understand is that it is cooler there, a lot less humid, and the houses are better insulated. The temperatures climb in the summer, of course, but a lot of factories and offices in many countries close in August when the temperature is at its peak.

How do you, Americans, feel when traveling in Europe?

Let’s say it loud and clear: you suffer from the heat when you come in the middle of the summer! And do you really understand how and why Europeans can live without A/C?

7 reasons why Europe doesn’t need air conditioning

– It’s not as warm in Europe as it is in the United States. Geographically, Europe is more northern than the United States. Two large cities on the East Coast are at the same latitude as cities in the southernmost parts of Europe.

New York is in line with Madrid, the Spanish capital.
Washington is at the same level as Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.
Paris is on the same latitude as Toronto.

Overlay of Europeans Cities onto North America and of American Cities onto Eurasia & Africa

– The mercury climbs only in the summer. Generally, it only gets very hot in Northern Europe for two months (July and August). Add June and September for Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.)

Europe’s climate is less humid. Greece, Italy and Spain have a more bearable dry heat, especially for those people who grew up without A/C.

– Stone or brick buildings provide better insulation than American houses. The heat penetrates more slowly, and the stone retains the coolness of the evening.

– All houses are equipped with outside shutters. People let the air circulate during the cooler hours in the night or early morning, and the shutters are partially closed during the day. The sun therefore does not hit the windows, which is a huge benefit to prevent reverberation and keeps the thermometer from climbing.

– Electricity to run air conditioning costs more in Europe than it does in the United States

Household Electricity Cost in $ per Kilowatt Hours

 Household electricity cost
Source: Eurostat
Exchange rate per 05/20/2016: 1EUR = 1,12$


– Europeans are more focused on environmental protection. Conserving resources is even more prevalent in Sweden, Norway and Germany.

How to survive a business trip to Europe without air conditioning

There is good news, as more and more offices are being equipped with air conditioning. If you’re lucky, only a taxi ride with the windows open will cause excessive perspiration. A quarter of French offices and half of the ones in Germany are air-conditioned. Many of the hotels, large stores, theaters, supermarkets and museums are as well.

Otherwise, besides avoiding travel during the hot months, you should well know that you will sweat more in Europe than you will in the United States. Here are some tips to help you have a successful trip!

– If possible, don’t travel between June and September, and avoid July and August in particular! Since people take their paid vacation during the summer, there’s a strong likelihood that your partners will be absent for two to three weeks in August. Paris, Madrid, Rome are empty in August and the place is left to tourists.

– You know that Europeans are very formal during business meetings. However, it is normal to remove your jacket when it is hot. Feel free to ask your counterpart if removing it would bother them. There’s a good chance that they were thinking the same thing and will follow “suit”!

– Ensure that your hotel is air-conditioned. American chains will be for sure, especially in the capital cities.

– Request a room facing north or east. They are always cooler in the evening than those exposed to the afternoon sun.

– Here’s another tip for your stay. Do as the locals do: leave your window open at night, and close the shutters during the day.

– Plan your business lunches for the evening and on a terrace when the weather permits. In addition to feeling refreshed near a fountain or a river, it’s also a good opportunity to experience the local life.

The advantages of A/C in the United States

Americans put a lot of ice in their glasses and they don’t know how to control their air conditioning. This is what Europeans frequently say when they talk about A/C in the United States. It’s very likely that they will ask you about this, but it’s also very likely that your partners will be unaware of these differences:

Air conditioning has made some areas of the United States more livable. Take Florida, for example! Miami’s population has increased tenfold since 1940, growing from 250,000 to 5 million people. Same in Arizona and Texas.

Properly controlled air-conditioning increases productivity.
But here’s my small personal crusade: American offices set their A/C to 70°F, which is the ideal temperature according to studies done in the 1960s. But this research was based on the metabolism of a 40-year old man. Gentlemen, you can wear your suits in the summer as well as the winter. But what about we, women, who have since invaded the business world? We freeze in the offices during the summer! New studies have shown that 76°F is more appropriate.

– The heat waves are known to cause significant levels of mortality. The United States has been aware of this for a very long time as the first studies date back to the 1880s. The first publications about a heat wave’s impact on the mortality rates date back to the 1920s. Since the widespread use of A/C in the United States, the number of deaths during heat waves has dropped dramatically.

The final word

Air conditioning is a luxury that I appreciate most when the humidity in Washington, DC becomes unbearable. I lived for 20 years in France and in Germany, respectively, and other than the heat wave in 2003, my homes always stayed cool even without A/C.

Few of my clients had air conditioning, but I worked mostly for SMEs. There, yes, it’s hell in the summertime when the buildings are covered in windows from top to bottom and are not air-conditioned. Your partners will certainly agree with you: Having A/C in the summertime would be very practical!

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Photo credit by Guian Bolisay

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