Here’s How It’s Like Living Through Europe’s Heat Wave Now


Qistina Bumidin •  Jul 22, 2022

If there’s one thing burning up our news feeds, it’s the intense heatwave Europe is currently facing. While heatwaves are nothing new, this year saw temperatures hit unexpectedly high levels ? According to CNN, ​​temperatures in the UK exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time on Tuesday (19th July), making it the country's hottest day on record. Other countries such as Belgium and Netherlands have issued warnings, and power shortages, blackouts, and more have also been rising ? We spoke to three Muslims from different countries across Europe, and they shared with us what’s it like to live through the hottest summer ever ?

Afra Farveen, a 22-year-old Singaporean student who has been living in Manchester, England, for 2 years

Credit: Courtesy of Afra 

1. What's the weather like right now?

Right now, it’s around 22-25C, which is much better than what we had on Tuesday! However, it’s still 1-2C higher than last summer ?

2. How did the heatwave impact you?

We had the hottest day on record on Tuesday, when it climbed to 38C. It was unbearable to even be at home while working as I’m doing an internship now. The hot air kept circulating, and I had to close all the windows to prevent that. Based on what I’ve heard from colleagues and friends, it was even tougher for those working on site. It was very difficult to sleep at night as the heatwave continued. Most homes have no aircon or fans, so it was equally tough on everyone ?

Fridges at a supermarket were emptied as the refrigeration could not work. Credit: Courtesy of Afra 

Public transport was largely affected cause of the heat wave. Services were suspended, and customers with tickets were asked to claim refunds. Some schools even closed down due to the heat. Trams ran slower than normal as high temperatures can cause the rails to buckle. Some roads plus traffic lights melted. Bridges and houses caught on fire. Water supply was impacted for certain households. Supermarket sections of frozen food were unavailable as the refrigeration wasn’t working due to heat ?

3. What did you do to cope with the heat?

The temperature on Tuesday! Credit: Courtesy of Afra 

People were warned to stay in to protect themselves from the extreme heat, so I didn’t even think of going out on Tuesday. I pulled down the screens, closed the windows, drank a lot of water, and ate fruits and vegetables with high water content, like watermelon, which is my favourite ?

I used to take only 1 to 2 showers because you don’t sweat a lot in the UK weather, but that day I took 3 cold showers! ? I don much more breathable and light clothes this week to beat the heat. 

4. Should people still travel despite the heat wave? What are your tips for those who have to do so?

The temperature has decreased now, so it’s fine to travel. However, if you travel during heatwaves, always carry water with you. Keeping hydrated is the most important thing! ? Avoid physical exertion on the hottest days. Apply sunscreen before going out, wear a hat, and walk in the shade. Check the timing of transport services before going out as it can be delayed. Find cool places to stay if you have to be in one place for longer! ❄️

Atira Ariffin, a Malaysian architect and computational designer, who has been living in Amsterdam for 6 years

Credit: Courtesy of Atira 

1. What's the weather like right now?

Fortunately, it rained a lot yesterday, and the temperature had dropped significantly. The temperature is back to normal, but there is no telling when the next wave will hit. It could come again in a couple of weeks, a month, who knows. Sometimes it only lasts for a day or two, but sometimes it could also last for weeks ?

2. How did the heatwave impact you?

Sometimes when the heatwave is bad, it gets uncomfortable to sleep at night as the air is so warm (having a fan helps a little), so, I would keep waking up, which results in poor sleep, and insufficient rest, which then leads to low energy, fatigue and compromised productivity at work ? On warm summer nights, every home would just sleep with all of our windows and balcony doors completely open throughout the night, so sometimes it can also be noisier as you can hear everything from other households ?

3. What did you do to cope with the heat?

To be honest, I didn’t make any drastic changes except that I became more mentally prepared for it every year. I’ve lived in Europe for over a decade now (5 years in London, 6 years and counting in Amsterdam), and the summer months were not this hot before. If I’m not mistaken, it was around 4-5 years ago when we started experiencing heatwaves in Europe, and it has gotten worse every year (yes, climate change is real! ?). 

I invested in a couple of good sturdy fans, and that’s about it. Many people have also started to buy portable AC, but I’m not keen to do that for now as they can be very bulky and I don’t enough space to store them after the summer months.

At work, our office only installed the AC about 3 years ago when it became apparent that the heatwaves were becoming more common. In the years before, we only relied on small desk fans circulating hot air, opening up all windows, the office buying us ice creams or changing our work hours from 7 am-2 pm when the indoor temperature was more manageable. The office must send people home if the indoor temperature exceeds 38°C as people could be susceptible to heat stroke or other health complications. Hence, it was also quite often that we were asked to go home when the temperature soared. Yes, we still practice WFH post-pandemic, and people have a choice to work at home or the office, but for me, the office provides more comfort than WFH as I don’t have any AC at home ?

4. What’s the reason why many buildings in Europe lack air conditioning? 

Credit: Courtesy of Atira 

The buildings and cities in Europe were not designed and built to cope with extremely high temperatures. Most buildings were designed to retain heat for the cold winter months, so it is very uncomfortable (even hazardous for your health ?) to be indoors during heatwaves. It feels like you’re stuck in a sauna with no ventilation ? Typically, even a small fan or opening up your windows is sufficient during summer months to cool the indoor space, so owning an AC (even a ceiling fan!) is uncommon here. 

5. Should people still travel despite the heat wave? What are your tips for those who have to do so?

Avoid it if you can, but I understand that it is not always easy as heat waves can be a bit unpredictable. The forecast usually only comes about a week before the heatwave, so if it’s too late to change your travel plans, it is okay to proceed, but just be prepared with appropriate clothing. 

The heat feels very different from the heat we are accustomed to in Malaysia as the air here is very dry, so the heat feels even more unbearable. I recommend going to indoor places with AC, such as museums and galleries, until the outdoor temperature drops ❄️

Wherever you go, bring a bottle with you everywhere and just hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. That’s very important to avoid heatstroke or getting sick. On top of that, appropriate clothing helps. Usually, during heatwaves, you will see people mostly in just tank tops, shorts and sandals (yes, even at the workplace). I usually stick to light, airy clothes with a hat and sunglasses, and of course, don’t forget your sunscreen

What’s nice about Amsterdam is the city is surrounded by water, so on hot summer days, the big canals, rivers, beaches and lakes are filled with people swimming and chilling close to the water to cool down. It’s nice to see. Outdoor swimming is a big thing in the summer, and I highly recommend it! You can check out this site which shows a map of designated swimming spots in Amsterdam (which area is safe to swim, water quality, etc) ?‍♀️

Karima, a 27-year-old Dutch healthcare consultant, currently lives in Amsterdam

Credit: Courtesy of Karima

1. What's the weather like right now?

May countries in Europe have hit their highest ever temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. The high humidity levels >60% make the heat unbearable. This resulted in thousands of people, especially the elderly, dying from heatstrokes and thousands of people who had to evacuate their houses due to wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain and Greece ?

2. How did the heatwave impact you?

The lack of air conditioning in our homes (less than 5% of European households have air conditioning) makes it unbearable at night, with humidity levels persisting well into the early hours ?

Credit: Courtesy of Karima

The whole country was in distress during the peak days of the heatwave. Restaurants, shops, cafés, everything was closed. Due to the hot temperatures, power lines and signalling equipment for public transportation were damaged. I couldn’t go to work and had to work from home while I didn’t have air conditioning in my house. This was unbearable, and it was impossible to focus on my work. I took some days off from work and went to the beach to cool down ?

3. Should people still travel despite the heat wave? What are your tips for those who have to do so?

Summer is the peak season for travel to Europe, but given the current extreme weather that is expected to continue, I would advise travellers to adjust their plans to minimise risks. 

Being a tourist amid a heat wave is like a “two-edged sword,”. In addition to gaining heat from the environment, any kind of physical activity while you’re on the go will also add heat to the body, leading to health issues. If you have to travel to Europe, I would advise people to plan their trip to reduce the burden they would experience from outdoor exposure and physical exertion.

P.S. Here are more articles we think you should check to beat the heatwave while travelling!