From Doha to Los Angeles. This is how people cool off in cities that are used to heat.

Cool off in India: a man bathes in water near the Ganges.


In Switzerland, many are complaining about the third heat wave this summer, but in other countries people are more used to it. This is how the population of the notoriously hot metropolis copes with extreme temperatures.


In the Thai capital, you are used to the heat, because there is no “hot season”. To cope with the high temperatures, many citizens do not undress, but cover up: they wear long sleeves, hats and umbrellas. This protects against heat and sun, but also against unwanted tan: in the country fair skin is considered the ideal of beauty.

If you live in Bangkok, it is almost inevitable that you will get up early because of the extreme heat. Soon after dawn, the markets are full and people gather in the parks to do zumba or yoga. But to cool off, there’s nothing better than shopping malls. For many, “Siam Paragon”, “Terminal 21” or “EmQuartier” is a second home at the weekend, as shopping temples offer everything from fashion to massage, fitness to restaurants and cinemas.


Singapore is not a good place for heat sufferers: Temperatures in this city-state – super modern but also super hot – are rising twice as fast as the global average. The government-sponsored Cooling Singapore project is developing strategies to lower temperatures and cool people without polluting the environment too much.

One of the flagship projects is the award-winning Gardens by the Bay park. In the giant greenhouses, which invite you to stroll and linger, the temperature is 24 degrees. It is arguably the largest underground district cooling system in the world, which also powers two dozen residential towers and other buildings nearby. The system uses chilled water, with an electricity saving of 40% compared to traditional air conditioning systems.

In addition, Singapore, also known as the ‘garden city’, depends on vegetation for cooling: countless trees and plants provide shade and provide better air.

Its reputation as a garden city is no accident: Singapore refreshes itself with the help of nature.


New Delhi

In India, when it’s hot, it’s not uncommon to see children playing in ponds or fountains in parks. House doors and windows are often covered with grass or straw mats and moistened several times a day. This gives the house a slightly cooler breeze.

Many people also use simple evaporative coolers (‘desert coolers’) in their homes. These machines contain water, and when connected to electricity, they draw in the warm air from the surrounding environment and cool it with water. The principle: when the water evaporates, heat is extracted.

In hot weather, South Asians typically wear long, thin clothes that cover their arms and legs. Sometimes they also use umbrellas. During the hottest part of the day, many of those who can afford it just stay at home. People also drink a lot: water is offered everywhere in the heat, or they drink shikanji, a lemon juice with sugar, salt and water, which helps fight dehydration.


For residents of the Gulf states and the Arab world, heat is a daily reality. The inhabitants of the region are used to 40 degrees. In Qatar, the country that will host the World Cup at the end of 2022, the trendy Muschayrib district in the capital Doha is a good example of how smart urban planning can help deal with the summer heat.

The modern buildings in a traditional style are designed so that pedestrians can walk in the shade throughout the neighborhood. In addition, the architects have designed the area so that the distance between the houses ensures a bit of a play.


How do you cool off in hot weather?

The region is known for its hospitality, which is also reflected in the city’s architecture. In the past, homeowners often built a higher story to shade their neighbors, Qataris say.

Today, those who live in the region spend the hottest part of the day indoors with air conditioning. Only when it is cooler and temperatures drop to 30 degrees do people go outside in the evening hours. In various countries of the Arab world, mobile air conditioners for outdoor use are very common, which are installed next to tables in restaurants and cafes and provide fresh air. In other words, the opposite of warming mushrooms.

Tel Aviv

In Tel Aviv, temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees are not uncommon in the summer. The positive aspect of the Israeli metropolis on the Mediterranean is that it is rich in water. Throughout the city there are drinking water dispensers at regular intervals, not only on the kilometer-long promenade, but also in many other places: you fill your bottle and that’s it. This not only protects you from sunstroke, but also saves you money in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Generally, people go outside in the evening, when the outdoor life is concentrated. After dark, the bars and restaurants fill up and the residents of Tel Aviv leave their apartments and offices, which are very cold. In order not to get too sweaty at work during the day, many people use electric bicycles.


In the capital of Greece, most of the approximately three million inhabitants go to the sea, to villages and islands, preferably to places where they have relatives, by the beginning of August at the latest. The result is that the otherwise noisy metropolis falls into a kind of summer slumber. There is virtually no car traffic, even the small kiosks that are normally open 24 hours a day remain closed.

An exception is the center of Athens, including the old city around the Acropolis. However, there are almost no locals, almost only tourists there. In the hot season, the Athenians only go out in the morning or after sunset. This is why in Greece in the summer you don’t eat until late at night, and children don’t play in parks until after midnight.


If you need to cool off in the Eternal City, you can look for one of the many gray fountains from which the drinking water flows, also called «nasoni», due to the shape of the rooster’s nose. In Italian cities, people use them to fill bottles, freshen their faces or give dogs a drink.

Many apartments and houses in Italy have a stone or tile floor to ensure coolness. Fruit is also very popular, especially watermelon, which serves as a refreshing snack during the hottest hours.

The meeting places, especially in residential areas, are also churches, e.g. Those who can afford it in Italy escape the summer heat of the city and go to their second home in the mountains or by the sea, where the climate is a little cooler.

Many popes also move year after year from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo, not far from Rome, the papal summer residence. However, the current Pope Francis has so far failed to do so.


In the Spanish capital, 40 degrees is quite normal in summer. The people of Madrid are used to the heat and know how to deal with it and even enjoy it. Unlike in Switzerland, air conditioning is present almost everywhere: in the shopping center as in the shop, in the restaurant or cafe, in the metro, in the bus, in the office and even more so at home.

Most Spaniards wear bright clothes in summer, and their eating habits are also adapted to the climate: in the hot months, people like to cool off with cold soups such as gazpacho or salmorejo. Long evenings can also be spent in bars and restaurants with a rioja or a cerveza, thanks to the ubiquitous water mist cooling systems.

When the sun is particularly hot, between 2 and 6 p.m., people retreat. The midday siesta is as much a part of Spain as paella. Offices take longer breaks and most shops have a “closed” sign on the door. During the siesta, few Spaniards rest as they once did. Instead, they go to the gym, the pool or have a long lunch with family or colleagues.

Rio de Janeiro

When temperatures rise to 50 degrees in the Brazilian summer, there is a fear of melting. Air conditioning is the most important piece of equipment for keeping cool in big cities. The days are getting longer, sports activities are being moved to early morning or evening. Even at midnight, Cariocas, as Rio residents are called, play volleyball or futevolei on Copacabana beach.

January in Brazil and other South American countries is like August in Switzerland. Many fill Rio’s famous beaches and take a dip in the sea to cool off. Others prefer to travel in the tropical hot summer months or like the author Stefan Zweigretreat to Petrópolis, in the mountainous region of Rio, where the temperature is cooler due to the altitude.

New York

When it’s very hot in New York’s urban jungle – and it does every summer – residents turn to a tried-and-true remedy: fire hydrants. Upon official request, the firefighters open a fire hydrant per block, which then spreads refreshing water.

Less pressure than firefighting, but enough to keep kids, adults, thirsty birds and pets happy and fresh for hours.

Los Angeles

In the western part of Los Angeles, the sea breeze from the Pacific Ocean brings a bit of coolness, but in many areas of the California megacity the temperature often exceeds 35 degrees.

The Cool Streets LA program aims to reduce extreme temperatures by at least a few degrees. The trick: the black asphalt is covered with clear paint. Hundreds of blocks in the warmer neighborhoods have been painted with a white coating that reflects sunlight better and absorbs less heat.

Palm Springs

When it comes to warmth, this desert town of palm trees and mid-century architecture dwarfs anywhere else in Southern California.

People stressed by the heat and who do not have air conditioning can take refuge in the “cooling centers” until the end of September. As soon as the temperature rises above 38 degrees, the city invites the population to go to three air-conditioned cooling centres. A pleasant side effect for book lovers: one of them is the local library.

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