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  • Writer's pictureDIe Frau

Beating the summer heat

Berlin, like much of Europe, has been seeing record high temperatures this summer, with midday temps getting as high as 38C (100.4F).

While that may seem normal for my friends back in the southern United States, it is extremely hot for northern Europe. The highs for July and August usually average around 23 to 26C (which is the mid to high 80s F). Also keep in mind that most buildings here are not air conditioned.

View  out  an apartment window through partially drawn curtains.
Open or closed? What’s your preference? Photo by Leah Kelley on

How to keep cool

On summer days, the strategy appears to be opening your apartment windows and/or closing the exterior shutters during the hottest parts of the day. In Berlin, at least, most windows open two ways (open at the top only) or open all the way. Many apartments have very tall windows that work this way.

Secondly, many people have either built-in exterior shutters or have installed awnings that can be extended or closed over the windows to block the sunlight during the sunniest and hottest times of day.

There’s been some debate over whether you should then keep the windows open or closed in the middle of the day.

We have chosen to close the shutters but keep the windows cracked (open at the top) to let air circulate. It seems to have worked to keep our apartment cool, without feeling stuffy.

Many experts, however, say that you should keep your windows open overnight and in the early morning, but shut them during the day to keep the cooler air inside.

Chris Nye, overseas property expert at Your Overseas Home argues that windows should be kept closed in very hot weather: “It might seem counterintuitive, but if the air outside is hotter than the air in your home, keeping your windows closed could help your home stay a little cooler.” Daily Mail Should You Keep Windows Open or Closed? July 17, 2022.

Get outside in the mornings and evenings

We may try that approach next week, when the mercury is predicted to climb back up into the mid 30s. So far, our first summer without AC has gone surprisingly well. The buildings here seem much better insulated, though the true test will probably come this winter!

I’ve also noticed that many people gather outside in the neighborhood ‘platz’ (small open plazas) to have a drink and socialize before the sun sets and it is cool enough to go home to sleep.

What about you? Are you new to European summers without the benefit of artificially cooled air? What are your tips for staying cool – or at least staying alive – on these hot summer days.


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