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How to keep your cool during Switzerland’s heatwave

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 14 Jul, 2022 Updated Thu 14 Jul 2022 12:03 CEST
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A cold shower feels nice in a heatwave. Photo: Pixabay

More extremely hot weather is forecast for the coming days, with temperatures in many parts of Switzerland reaching new highs. Is there a way to keep cool indoors in this kind of weather?

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As The Local reported on Monday, air conditioners are rare in private homes in Switzerland, as installation of these devices is subject to strict rules and conditions, which — at least in some parts of the country — include presenting a medical certificate to justify the need for cool indoor air.

READ MORE: Why getting permission for air conditioners is so hard in Switzerland

So the burning question is: what can you do to find at least some relief in your home as the temperatures outside are pushing 40C?

These are some ways to keep your rooms and yourself (slightly) cooler.

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The three 'golden rules' for heatwaves in Switzerland

Switzerland being Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) put out its three 'golden rules' for how to make it through heatwaves unscathed. 

Each are relatively self-explanatory and aren't exactly unique to Switzerland, but they are worth keeping in mind. 

The first is to avoid exercise during the hottest part of the day. The second is to keep the heat out of your house however you can. 

The final golden rule is to drink and eat smart. According to the FOPH, salads, fruits, vegetables and dairy products (we'll come back to that below) are best, while drinking plenty of water is a must. 

Ventilate

Opening windows can help, but there are rules as to how and when to do it (these rules should be followed not because this is Switzerland, but because the timing and type of air flow are important).

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In summer, open the windows in early morning and late evening, when the air is relatively cool. Keeping them open throughout the day, especially during the hottest times between noon and 3 pm, when the sun is highest in the sky, is counterproductive.

Also, the best way to air is to create the co-called “cross-breeze”, meaning to open windows on opposite sides of the room(s) to create a natural ventilation.

Of course, depending on where windows are located in your home, this may not always be possible.

Swim

The best things in life Switzerland are free - and that includes during peak summer heatwaves.

Switzerland's lakes and rivers are clean, clear and cool, even on warm summer days, where the temperature rarely climbs above 20C. 

Even if you live in the middle of the city, you won't be far from a beautiful waterway where you can cool off. 

READ MORE: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Keep windows (and shutters) closed in the afternoon

Once the coolest time of the day is over, close the windows and shutters / blinds / curtains so that hot air and strong sun don’t penetrate your living space.

You can open them up again when the sun goes down (see above).

Visit Switzerland's caves

Switzerland's unique geography means there are a number of caves and caverns across the country. Not only do these offer spectacular scenery, they are much cooler than the outside world. 

Oh, and they are also free. 

Some highlights include the St Beatus Caves, the cave network in Kaltbrunnental - both in Bern - or la Glaciere de Monlési, in Neuchâtel. 

Take cool showers

Cold water will not only help you save on electricity (which is a major worry right now), but also refresh you.

In fact, taking more than one cool shower per day could bring you even more lasting relief.

Avoid ovens

Hot weather is not the best time to bake or use your oven in any capacity.

The heat will fill your kitchen (especially if it’s small and poorly ventilated), and spread throughout the house if the kitchen is open to other rooms.

By the same token, and depending on the type of stove you have, cooking in general is best avoided during the hottest times of the day.

Get high(er)

Take advantage of Switzerland's mountainous landscape by getting a little higher up and enjoying the cool temperatures. 

The higher you go in Switzerland, the cooler things are. According to SRF meteorologist Daniela Schmuki "The rule of thumb is: it gets about one degree cooler for every 100 meters.

"At 2000 meters above sea level, there are pleasant 22 degree temperatures this weekend," the meteorologist said in on Thursday, July 14th, where weekend temperatures are predicted to climb into the mid to high 30s. 

Dress lightly

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow this advice.

Any fabric that allows air to circulate freely is good. Natural fibres like linen, for example, draw heat away from your body and cool you down in the process.

Spandex or polyester, on the other hand, will cause you to break into sweat — literally.

Fon-don't

We're not sure when exactly it happened, but Switzerland's national cuisine was created at the moment someone had the wise idea to melt cheese - either in a pot as part of fondue or in slices as raclette. 

And while the Swiss are notably proud of their cheesy creations, heated cheese dishes are very much made with wintry weather in mind - meaning they're not the greatest dish to eat during a heatwave. 

So when the mercury rises, stay away from raclette and avoid cheese (or meat) fondue. 

READ: Fondue is Swiss… the French just don’t know how to make it

Drink a lot (of water)

Keeping hydrated is good whenever, but it is all the more important during a heatwave.

Common wisdom has it that cold drinks are most refreshing. However, according to a new study carried out at the University of Ottawa, drinking a hot drink when it's warm outside can cool you down – as long as you are not already sweating.

READ MORE: Working in a heatwave: The Swiss laws employees should know about

 So whichever version you prefer is fine — as long as you keep hydrated.

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What indoor ventilators?

Opinions are divided about the effectiveness of fans.

Some people say they are useless, as they just re-circulate hot air, while others swear by them.

A lot depends on the type of ventilators — some top-of-the-line, tower-style models do cool the air somewhat, as do mobile AC units.

As is the case with window ventilation, using several strategically placed fans to create a crosswind is most effective.

The bottom line: keep some perspective on hot summer days

During the hottest times of the day, remember the old adage: “This too shall pass”.

And when winter brings with it sub-zero temperatures and arctic winds, you will remember these crazy, hazy says of summer with longing.

 

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/07/14 12:03

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