Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drafts that kill

One of those charming cultural differences that cracks me up every time it comes up is the French's absolute fear of a draft, or courants d'air. You may not be aware of this, but the slightest draft of air in your home could mean EXCRUCIATING, HORRIBLE DEATH to you and your loved ones!

Well, I've got news for the French: it gets damned hot here in the summer in the Land That Air Conditioning Forgot, so you'd better believe there are quite a few courants d'air in my home when the weather is warm enough. In fact, I try to get as many courants d'air going as I possibly can!

The even funnier thing is that a bit of wind is just fine, but bring that wind indoors and it suddenly becomes THE HARBINGER OF DOOM.

Case in point: last week, Fry and I were having our morning walk and we stopped into the boulangerie on the way home. As usual, I took Fry out of the stroller and we went inside. It was a bit windy outside but it has warmed up considerably, so the boulangerie's door was open and they were enjoying their own breeze. Now, I love the woman that runs the shop, she's about my age and she seems quite nice, but as soon as she saw me with Fry on my hip, she raced around the counter to shut the door so he wouldn't be affected by the courants d'air and end up deathly ill.

So basically we came in from the wind for a transaction that takes 30 seconds (we were the only ones there) and it took her longer to go around and shut the door than it would have to actually buy the baguette and leave.

Silly Frenchies. Ah well, her heart's in the right place.


PutYourFlareOn said...

Oh, man. It is a constant battle with my clients at the tea house to keep the window open at all because of the draft.

It's dang hot in the tea house sometimes!

I just tell people if they don't want the draft then they have to sit elsewhere. But all the "cool" tables happen to be by the windows. I didn't do it on purpose but it just worked out that way.

Most time I lose and end up sweating bullets so they can sit in a draft free seat.


Lesley said...

This thing no longer cracks me up, it makes me grit my teeth in anger. Really.

Pat said...

Well, the Moroccans are just as bad!! I battled my husband forever about this - gave him scientific data and everything. He is over it now with me but oh boy, do I have to listen to his family too!!

Mrs C said...


The Bold Soul said...

I love my husband but we do disagree all the time about whether or not AIR CURRENTS can make you sick. He's French; guess which side of the debate he's on... and he went to a Grand Ecole so I just feel he should know better.

Denise said...

That just made me laugh.

Is it everywhere in France that has killer drafts or just in Tiny Town?

Vivi said...

Oh no, it's pretty much a French-wide phenomenon. Apparently the killer drafts stop at the border...

Michel said...

When I lived it France it drove me nut to have French guest over and have them shut all your windows and doors...especially in the summer!!!

Daisy said...

How interesting! I never knew! So you are outside in the breeze and you're fine. You come inside and that same breeze blows through the door or window and it's sure death? Just want to make sure I've got this right. VERY INTERESTING! I wonder what the history of this is? Do the French use fans in the house, or would that constitute a deadly breeze? No sleeping with the window open? (what a terrible shame if true! that is one of the great pleasures of modern life!) so many questions.....

nina said...

I have to take the other side! I was raised in Poland and we weren't too far from the "killer draft" idea, so maybe it's a continental Europe thing.

In school, we'd keep the windows closed. All the kids would sweat (and smell -- this was before deodorant made it to Poland) and so every two hours we would empty out the class and open the windows to air it out and then we would return and close the windows.

Here's why I take the other side: even though it's incredibly silly, I prefer it (and so do most all other Europeans) to the Great American Chill Out each summer as stores and restaurants crank up their ACs and I begin to freeze.

I often get sniffly from sitting too long in an over-air conditioned space. I hate it. And I HATE the drafts that pour in on a Wisconsin winter day when people open doors to go in and out of restaurants and cafes -- I always ask for a table away from the door.

Basically, I suffer as a result of these "drafts." Really, they chill me to the core and I am pretty resilliant to illness in general.

In France and Poland, I am never cold indoors - not in the summer, not in the winter. In the States, I am only perfectly comfortable at home -- minimal Ac and and a nice, steady warmth in the winter.

But I do keep the windows wide open in the summer.