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April 24th, 2009:

Why Europe Sucks €4. Inadequate air conditioning

New Air Conditioner Unit

Today the temperature was more than 80 degrees here in Michigan. This means one thing—Americans across the upper Midwest enjoyed the first warm day of the year from the air-conditioned comfort of their homes and automobiles.

Sure, some Americans popped outside for a short walk or a brief spat of gardening. But more often than not, they were back in climate-controlled shelter before even breaking a sweat.

This is as it should be.

Despite how much Americans say the love the summer, they have an intrinsic understanding that heat—like nature—is something that is best experienced in moderation. They understand that prolonged exposure to heat and sun can result sweating, squinting, body odor and general discomfort. That is why Americans invented electric air conditioning over a hundred years ago.

But air conditioning is a concept that is seemingly foreign to Europe, as anyone who has traveled there in the summer knows all too well.

It is not that Europe lacks air-conditioning technology. You can buy an AC unit there in just the same way you could here in America.*

No. What Europe lacks is a culture of air conditioning.

In America, we understand that air conditioning was invented so that mankind would not have to sweat involuntarily ever again. As a result, we use our air conditioners accordingly. When the mercury hits 73 degrees, the air conditioner automatically kicks in. And our movie theaters, malls and other public places are often air conditioned to the point where throwing on a extra layer is necessary simply to keep warm.

Europeans, on the other hand, are deeply suspicious of air conditioning. They often have a unit in their homes or businesses, but the devices are rarely turned on. This is because Europeans don’t see air conditioners as a staple of modern life, but rather as a kind of Pandora’s Box. They know it is there and they are intrigued by its potential, but they are terrified of what they might unleash if they touch it.**

The result of all of this is that summertime in Europe is truly unbearable. Outside it is hot, but indoors it is often hotter, as most European restaurateurs and hoteliers steadfastly refuse to turn on the air conditioning—preferring instead to soak in their own sweat.

So the next time the temperature crosses 70 degrees or so, make sure to crank up your air conditioning. And while you’re doing it, remember: in Europe you’d be sweting right now.

God Bless America!

*Except for the fact that you would pay 20 percent more, would receive horrible customer service and would likely be unable to use a credit card for the transaction.

**They would be much more comfortable and pay slightly more on their electric bill.

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