Task for students:
- What is the temperature your family keeps at home in winter? What about summer?
- What would you do if your partner’s home was too warm to your taste?
- Would you have PE classes outdoors if the weather was bad – e.g. minus degrees, snow, rain?
- What is “healthy” temperature? How do you know?
Read the stories below and reflect on the answers to the above questions.
Incident three: How Cold is Warm Enough?
A Swedish boy keeps opening the window at night. In the morning, his Bulgarian partner puzzles over whether he has forgotten to close the window before they went to bed. The next morning the air-conditioning has been turned off too. It is winter and the temperatures are below zero. Read the incident here.
An Italian teacher, who is staying in a B&B in Sweden, complains to the owner that his room was not warm enough when he arrived. The temperature is 21 degrees C. It is March, with zero degrees outside.
Sweden is about to host all the students for the last Erasmus+ exchange, when the Bulgarian coordinator receives an email from the Swedish coordinator about practical details regarding the trip. One thing that the email contains is that most Swedish families keep room temperatures at 20-21 degrees C.
What is going on here: Interpretation
(This can be used by the teacher to give input or the students can be assigned to research this online or with friends from the respective culture. Then they can compare what they have found with what they do in their culture and have a discussion about the value that is behind such behaviour).
- What caused the discomfort experienced in the critical incidents above? Simply said, what is “healthy” temperatures for some is “unhealthy” for others.
- The Swedes prefer sleeping in cooler rooms. When we visited Dalby, Lund and Malmo, we did notice how bad weather had absolutely no impact on what the local people had planned to do – е.g. we were able to see a teacher taking little kids to a museum in rainy weather; we saw students from the school we visited playing sport outdoors despite the rain; we ourselves experienced a three-hour outdoor orientation exercise in the forest with teambuilding activities in temperatures around zero. (By contrast, in Bulgaria, we would think twice before we went ahead with such activities for fear of exposing students to “unfavorable” conditions that parents would later complain about. )
- The episode with the teacher email shows one way to minimise the potential negative experience – she has informed us about something she perceived might be problematic for the visiting Bulgarian students(and their parents) – once we know what to expect, we are mentally and also psychologically prepared to deal with the ambiguities that lie ahead.
- You must have heard of The ICEHOTEL in Sweden? This unique hotel goes so far as to offer cold rooms for their guests at temperature from -5 to -8 degrees Celsius. This accounts to a large extent for the culture clashes described above – the Swedes do have “a relationship” with the cold. As one Swedish remarked once, there is nothing like good or bad weather; it is all about the appropriate clothing you are wearing. While this makes sense, our cultures have different “relationships” with the weather – and it is very much dependent on the climates we have been socialised in.
- A curious fact, noticed by not one foreigner residing in Bulgaria, is that it is a “sin” to leave home with “wet hair”. This is considered as a sure sign of catching a cold. So it can be said that a lot of people in Bulgaria prioritize “being warm enough”, which some foreigners would call “an obsession” – warm feet , dried hair, something warm on your back, not sitting in the draught, etc.
- Bulgaria has a temperate climate and although winters have become increasingly colder over the last decade, temperatures in winter are not necessarily lower than those in Sweden ; still many Bulgarians are used to keeping their rooms much warmer than the Swedes. Despite the high costs of electricity in Bulgaria, in winter it is a priority for many families to make sure kids “don’t get a cold” and this explains why “warm premises”, homes, schools or offices are “a must”.
- However, we realised that “warm enough” may be a cultural concept and likely to cause discomfort and inconvenience. In other words, “my healthy t” is not always “their healthy t” .