1. Panamanian Hamburger
    November 20, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

    I soooo, agree with this! I live in northern Germany but I come from a tropical country, and my tolerance to cold weather is very small. My colleagues always open the windows during cold weather… to renew the air… and I’m just freezing…
    Do you think this obsession is somehow related to their fascination with cars? Since car are huge air polluters… and Germans do love their cars!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Andrew
      November 23, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

      I don’t ever feel the air in Germany is polluted. I have heard Germans complain about it, but seriously growing up in the US the Germans have nothing to complain about. I think the interest in opening windows has more to do with having radiators and not fans/forced air in their heat.

  2. Natalie
    November 4, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

    I haven’t thought about that at all. I’m German and I don’t open my windows in Winter very often. Great to hear the opinion of an American. 🙂

  3. Fenster, Rauchen, Tür: German windows, smoking and doors | Jess in Mannheim
    August 1, 2014 @ 11:44 pm

    […] amount of air from outside, you can tell that Germans have a bit of a thing for ventilation and fresh air. In green spaces, people comment on how good the air is and how you’ll never get that in the […]

  4. Climbing the Reichstag Building - Ctrl Alt Travel
    January 19, 2014 @ 10:17 am

    […] Germans love fresh air. The top of the spike is also open allowing fresh air into the below chamber. The audio tour mentioned that a sloping drainage system keeps rain and snow from dripping onto the politicians below. Although it was gray out, we didn’t see that particular feature in operation. […]

  5. Anna
    October 19, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

    Russians are just as bad. People open windows – at home and in the office – when it’s -30C outside. Even if just for a bit! Babies are regularly ‘walked’ in strollers in such weather. Good for the health, they say. And even rents are higher in some areas bc of better air quality according to the wind rose!

    • Andrew
      November 3, 2013 @ 11:58 am

      That is crazy. The Germans often complain about air quality being bad in Freiburg city. I counter with stories from home. In North Carolina, windows don’t often open on office buildings because of all of the highway fumes or asphalt fumes or whatever.
      I guess everyone has their weird things. Maybe “leaning into it” helps deal with the cold.

  6. Justin
    February 15, 2013 @ 9:35 am

    Hi Andrew,
    Loved your explanation on why this is so in Germany. After being married to a German myself and having lived here for almost two years, I had my own theories as to why this was so, including the idea about construction methods here. But I hadn’t thought about the link to the heating systems…

    Here’s a link to a post containing my own thoughts:

    • Andrew
      February 17, 2013 @ 12:37 am

      Thanks for the comment and the link. I love your observations. 🙂
      The fresh air thing is a mixed bag for me. I am definitely more into fresh air now that before, but I still find it totally insane to open the window in the middle of winter. It is so cold in our office and it never gets warm with all the window opening and their desire to save energy by not turning on the heat either.

  7. helm
    September 27, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Found this article because I was wanting to find out how these northern europeans air their apartments – quite funny to get this take! I remember the airing rituals when I was in Germany for a few years, but couldn’t exactly remember how it went! I’m Australian and am used to a more draughty house. I do feel like the apartment (here in Denmark) needs airing, mostly because the air is dry, but also stuffy (for all the reasons you state). I also wake up in the night now when the air in my bedroom is stuffy. I think it’s probably what you grow accustomed to, or people are simply different. I think I used to cope with stuffy sleeping conditions though. And I can also relate to the scarf thing – I think once you’re used to a cosy neck, you really notice when it’s bare. I even use light ones in OZ now in Summer to protect my neck from the sun : )

    • Andrew
      October 7, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

      We always had forced air heating and cooling in the US. The air always moved and had a filter, so things didn’t get stuffy as often. I kind of wish we had something similar here, but alas no. Perhaps it takes tons more energy, what do I know.

      I would happily sleep with the windows open in the summer and late spring, but I very rarely feel it stuffy in the middle of the night.

      Thanks for dropping by and for the comment. How are you enjoying Denmark?

  8. Marion
    July 8, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

    Thank you for this wunderful analysis – I laughed so loudly that I think my neighbours asked themselves….
    Being a German with some International experience, I always thought that I knew a lot about my own culture. But I really thought that this obsession for fresh air was an individual thing of me (and of most of my friends….but of course, friends habe often similar interests…)!
    While reading your text, I remembered a lot of situations in which I drove other people crazy with my “lüften”! Some of them were Germans, too.
    Yesterday I returned from a 3-weeks-stay in Istanbul, where I attended a language school. I counld’t believe that the other students (who were not German) WANTED to stay in the BAD air with the UNHEALTHY air condition instead of opening the window!
    And I thought that I could NEVER live in a country with air condition everywhere. And of course I was taken sick for a week BECAUSE OF THE AIR CONDITION! It is so interesting how our culture even influences the needs of the body, how we get sick and so on. Now I’ve learned that it is not an individual thing at all, thanx!

    • Andrew
      July 13, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

      It really depends on the air. The air was so bad outside where I come from in the US, that it really was fresher inside. If it gets really hot and humid, the drier cooler AC is much nicer. I don’t ever think I get sick off the AC any more than being in the trams around a bunch of people.

      It is a testament to the power of the mind. I don’t think really anyone in the south would think of the AC making you sick directly. Maybe the idea of going from blasting hot to cold and back might, but not the air that the AC produces. Ideally you would just stay in the AC all day. When the air outside is 40+C and 100% humidity, you have to understand that.

  9. Drink it Down » Grounded Traveler
    April 15, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

    […] we walk outside more and ride public transport all packed together and then there is the thing with opening windows. This past winter I noticed the oddest trend at work. Lemon Ginger “tea”. At some point […]

  10. Yvonne
    March 5, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

    I really love all your pieces about German culture. It always gives me a new insight on stuff I’m so used to as a German I can’t see this is maybe weird for other people. And yes, I sleep with my window open. All year long.

    • Andrew
      March 6, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

      I’m glad you enjoy them. It is nice to see that I am able to point out the quirky things even to the natives. 🙂 It helps me to to be able to talk about such things, it helps them not be so annoying. I like the window open in the summer. I did that even in the US, but not in the winter. The issue in the South US is that in order to survive the high temperatures and humidity (40C and 95%-100% humidity for months) you need air conditioning. And AC runs better with the windows closed. So you can really only open them on some nights.

  11. Rita
    November 28, 2011 @ 5:44 am

    I am a firm believer in open windows. It keeps the condensation down, the dust mites unhappy, the germs from getting cozy. In an office building or a school where all the windows are closed I worry all the time that I’m breathing someone’s germs.

    • Andrew
      November 29, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

      I don’t ever feel that condensation is actually a problem. The air here feels so dry anyway.
      As to the schools and office buildings with closed windows, especially in the US they have forced air systems. So the air is always moving and getting filtered. And I feel I am going to get those germs anyway sitting in a room, and with all the cold air in the winter I’ll get sick from them more easily. The public transport is awful, especially with the hand holds and the gusts of air and oftenn so many people packed up against each other.
      Oh well, I like this topic as it seems so simple but is truly very bound with the culture. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Typically German, yet little known. » Grounded Traveler - Expat Adventures in Germany
    October 26, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    […] Fresh air is something that is seemingly required in all times of the year. There is an obsession to having the outside and inside mixed. I see this as another sign of the linkage to nature that is subtle but common. Due to the density of buildings, gardens are rare. Balconies are loved and adorned with flower boxes. The space alongside trains where no one would want to live is usually converted into garden plots for purchase. Weekends, especially Sunday’s when no store is open, is prime time to go up into the forest and hike or sit outside by the lake. Yes, even in the winter if it is sunny. […]

  13. Rod
    August 23, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    lol! I am not out of my mind! Been here for five years and no, I don’t think I am getting used to it.

    My least favorite word in German is: “lüften”.

    My least favorite sentence: “es stinkt hier”.

    I understand why they don’t have ACs here. This year we’ve had 3 (three) really hot days and they all came right at the end of August. But the whole lüften thing just drives me (and my colleagues, who are foreigners too) NUTS!

  14. Building Common Sense » Grounded Traveler
    April 8, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    […] Architecture is not the only thing a lot of common sense is different as an expat. Would you assume that having a cold stomach would make you go to the bathroom? Annie at Wayward Traveler talks about the Italian men believing just that. Germans believe a cold neck is the route to sickness and yet open windows in the middle of the winter. […]

  15. Jessica | Globetrottergirls
    February 24, 2011 @ 4:38 am

    Ah Andrew, you have not only pointed one of those classically Deutsch obsessions, but also opened up quite a conundrum. Maybe you can back me up on this…Ze Germans also have an equally large, if not larger, obsession with the draft. ‘Es Zieht’ they love to say, while pointing at their necks. You see, Germans are afraid, in general, of air hitting their necks…like ever. This is why you’ll see otherwise sane German people wearing scarves or sitting in a room with all windows closed, even in the heat of the summer. As a teacher in Germany, a normal school day would begin with my students walking into the room, with all the windows closed, and walking right over the windows and opening them while saying “It stinks in here”, meaning they need fresh air / the air is stale. 15 minutes later, without fail, the windows would then all be closed, because there is a draft. Now I’m dripping with sweat, practically cooking, but they are all attentive because at least there is no draft to give them a neck ache. Ah, how we love the Germans!

    • Andrew
      February 24, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

      I had completely forgotten about the “es zieht” stuff. The scarves in anything but the deepest of winter is again something I won’t do. I do often get questions about how it must be in the US to live in air conditioning for months. Most seem to think THAT is unhealthy. I dunno, if it is 100% humidity and hot enough to fry eggs outside, not being outside seems healthyish to me.
      Thanks for reminding me about the drafts.

      • William
        December 20, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

        The Austrians are the same – was working in the Canadian embassy years ago in the dead of a Viennese summer – 38C and 95% humidity – no air conditioning (we’d all have got sick instantly with *that* going!) – opened a window to extract a little air movement from the sticky summer, and immediately one of the secretaries came running in to slam it shut because “es zieht”! 🙂 Also managed to get bawled out on a train somewhere German for opening a window on the wrong side of the carriage – got pointed at a big sign said not to open left side windows, “um Zugluft zu vermeiden”! Rubbed off on me tho – now I teach in small town Germany and always have my collar up or a hoody to keep the back of my neck warm!

        • Andrew
          December 24, 2012 @ 12:08 am

          The anti AC thing makes no sense to me. Yeah it is recycled air, but so what? The same occurs on an airplane and people aren’t instantly sick. Without AC the entire south of the US wouldn’t be habitable.
          The summer window opening is fine for me. I actually would have done that more in the US if the air outside was actually clean enough to want inside. So many highways makes it not so much fun. And really having ones neck cool can’t be that bad! Just don’t tense up your shoulders in reaction to it, lean into the pleasant cool in the summer and it will be fine. 🙂

          I totally get the Zugluft thing though. If the exhaust of a diesel train was going, then that could be really dirty. If it was electric though, hmm no clue.

          What part of Germany do you teach in? What do you teach?

          • William
            December 24, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

            It would be fun to learn where the cultural anti-AC, anti-breeze thing comes from! 🙂

            The train was electric, high up in an Austrian alpine pass – the swift reaction of the outraged little old lady confirmed it was the breeze itself that was to be “vermeid”ed! 😀

            I live & teach bionics in Kleve, on the Dutch border not far from Arnhem. Great place – quiet, but everything there that’s needed – and lots of fresh air, in and out! B-)

  16. Lauren
    February 24, 2011 @ 4:06 am

    My lord, I would be freezing there. I get cold in Australian fall/winter!

    • Andrew
      February 24, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

      We have awesome summers that aren’t so blasted hot. The winters though can be a bit blustery. Meh, you get used to it and beer is a reasonable compensation.

  17. Laurel
    February 23, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

    It’s true! No matter what the temperature is outside, everyday during the break of our German class our German instructor opens the window and we’re all freezing. As soon as she’s gone, we immediately shut the window. I’ve also noticed that German have an aversion to fans, they think they make you sick.

    • Andrew
      February 23, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

      I haven’t noticed the aversion to fans. They are the only way our office is habitable in the summer. But I do notice that the Germans think a lot of things make you sick. The weirdest one is Air Conditioning. I can’t imagine that the American South would be livable at all without that invention. I don’t notice being any more sick there than here.

  18. Leslie (Downtown Traveler)
    February 21, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

    Interesting. I’ve heard the Germans are into hiking… seems they love the great outdoors (even in the dead of winter)!

  19. Jeremy B
    February 19, 2011 @ 6:33 am

    There are a lot of beautiful places in Germany to get outdoors. So that I can appreciate. However, I get cold very easily and just couldn’t deal with windows open during the winter. I totally understand this is a cultural thing and a bit of an adjustment but I am not sure I could do it. During the summer, it sounds awesome and I would love to be outdoors more. Living in Europe, you are outdoors more because you don’t spend all your time going to places in a car. I like that about being over there. But “fresh air” in the winter? No thanks!

    • Andrew
      February 20, 2011 @ 10:19 am

      Thankfully the windows just get opened for a few minutes at a time, I just wish I didn’t have to sit in the gusts. Indeed summer I go the other direction and moan if the windows ever get closed. No A/C here so breezes is what we got to cool off. I get enough fresh air on my bike. I was teasing a friend on Friday “why build nice solid buildings and then open the windows. We build buildings to keep the fresh air OUT.”. 🙂

  20. Sabina
    February 19, 2011 @ 1:07 am

    I’m half German, and now I see that perhaps my lineage is responsible for my obsession with fresh air. I’ve aways appreciated fresh air, but it is only now, as I spend great gobs of time in the Mid East and SE Asia, that I long every day for the clear, clean air of home.

    When I was living in Sharjah, UAE, the air was just simply rancid. I mean it was not only brown but it stank too! One morning, when the temperature finally dropped below 40, I opened my bedroom window to enjoy the air. It was like someone threw a bucket of shit in my face. The smell of that morning air is something I unfortunately will never forget. I’ve always, always been very into having my windows open whereever in the US (and Germany) I’ve lived. I just love having the fresh air floating around my home. In the Mid East, I have to make sure the windows aren’t even cracked.

    Right now I’m in Vietnam for a month, staying on a beach, which is of course covered in smog. I sleep with the window open just because the room is too hot without it. This morning I woke up with a little cold. I think it must be because of the smoggy air I sucked into my lungs all night long. I really cannot, cannot wait to get back in the fresh air. I’m heading back to the Mid East after Vietnam, though, so it’s going to be a while 🙁

    • Andrew
      February 20, 2011 @ 10:15 am

      Wow. I don’t ever really think of those places as having bad air. The beaches especially *should* be fresh and clean in my mind. That kid of sucks that they aren’t. I guess the heat has something to do with it, given your examples. (I assume you mean 40C not 40F?) Germany is not known for being the hottest place in Europe. Maybe the heat and lack of movement of air just lets all the shit accumulate.
      Thanks for sharing the story and all the best luck in getting back to fresh air. Deep breath (err maybe that isn’t such a good idea after all). Actually I wonder that the Germans don’t catch more colds in the winter due to the frigid air, but maybe the fresh air balances out the cool somehow. Here is a wish to get better soon.

  21. Liv
    February 18, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

    There’s nothing nicer than a burst of fresh air (salty sea air is my favourite) but I’m Not keen on arctic gales!

    • Andrew
      February 20, 2011 @ 10:02 am

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I like fresh or even cool, but only when the rest of the air is warm.

  22. charles
    February 18, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

    I remember keeping open wind’s somewhere in the house year-round in both Stuttgart and Heidelberg. We didn’t keep windows open in Virginia summers, but did in the other three seasons (unless it was very cold). I really distinctly remember we kept the window open in the WC just about always (kipped, not swung). I hadn’t realized that this may be where I get keeping a window cracked as long as possible in spring and fall.

    • Andrew
      February 20, 2011 @ 10:02 am

      Yeah, it most likely is where you get that habit. I’m ok with having A window somewhere open, especially if you can close that door and keep the direct wind out. The thing at work bugs me because the windows are fully open and let in the wind. Kipped is better, but still lets in an icy wind. Right, and I had forgotten the other season at home. All the windows are shut tight in the summer in the (southern) US to keep the A/C in and the heat out.
      I do actually remember leaving the window open in my dorm room all winter at Tech, but that is because the boiler ran at full steam and it broiled in the room if there wasn’t a balancing cold from outside.

  23. Laura
    February 18, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

    I love fresh air and open windows but NOT in the winter!!

    • Andrew
      February 20, 2011 @ 9:58 am

      This seems to be the attitude that I get from most of my American friends, and mine as well. Fresh air is all well and good, but does not mean we should freeze for it. Thanks for the comment.