This is an article I wrote for the Alien Corner column of the Kulturjournal Regensburg. I have the publisher’s permission to publish it here on our blog as well.
Alternate Title: Draft Dodging
Autumn is well and truly here, and Winter won’t be far behind. Some people like watching the leaves change as the trees prepare for the coming season. I like watching the natives’ internal conflict unfold: Lüften oder Hexenschuss riskieren?
Despite living among them for nearly nine years, I am still fascinated by the cognitive dissonance from two prevailing concepts embedded deep in their culture.
The first: “Moving air is as bad for you as getting cursed by a witch.” Deutsche Bahn fires up the heaters to sauna-worthy temperatures in their compartments from now until the Schafskälte has come and gone. This leads to sweaty, stinky passengers, and you know why: the windows open, but they’d rather suffer an olfactory offense than risk a cramp from a magical crone.
Moving air is bad enough, but combined with moisture, it can render one positively immobile. If you don’t change out of those trunks/bikini immediately after splashing about at the beach/pool, you’re risking serious witch wrath. Fortunately, the dangerous months of July and August are behind us now, and we can start to prepare ourselves for next year’s outbreaks of swimsuit-itis.
The second concept: “Moving air is absolutely necessary to prevent a stagnant office/living environment and mold accumulation through moisture build-up.” Never mind how bad for you all that moving air is (see above), at several points during the day, your colleagues will proclaim the air in the office schlecht and fling open all doors and windows on site for as long as they can stand the inner turmoil. Struggling to hear everyone on a conference call? Distracted by street traffic? None of that matters. If you don’t dramatically exchange the air in the room for stuff outside, no one can work and everyone will get figurative malaria: literally “die schlechte Luft.” The mold thing might be a real concern. I’m used to forced-air heating systems which guarantee circulation (and, apparently, muscular malaise).
Watching the Germans haggle with themselves about the air movement, or lack thereof, I know it won’t be long until we can all disagree again about when it’s finally time to leave the windows permanent gekippt.