I spent part of the summer in San Antonio, a very hot part of the country. I’ve also spent some winters in very cold places like Minneapolis. It seems that one thing that cold northern winters and hot southern summers have in common is that people don’t spend a lot of time outdoors.
I know that people can spend a lot time outdoors in either extreme climate. Construction workers and traffic cops do it in both climates.
But for the average guy or gal on a twelve month basis, where do people tend to spend less time outdoors: the really cold places or the really hot places?
That’s a pretty good question, actually. In terms of recreational time, I’d say people spend more time outdoors in hot places. You can camp or hunt or fish in pretty much any weather, but you’re not going to the beach if there’s frost on your car in the morning.
I’ve lived all over the country, and I think that people tend to stay inside more in cold climates. In the middle of winter here in New England, there are many people who never go outside except to get in and out of their car–for months on end. People think we’re crazy for actually camping out in winter (with Boy Scouts).
I also grew up in Texas–and it’s definitely miserable in the summer when the temperature exceeds 95 degrees F and the humidity is high. Still, it’s relatively easy to get used to this, IMHO. While there are people who do stay inside all the time with the air conditioning going, this is mostly a matter of comfort than actual physical necessity.
My grandparents grew up in Texas without air conditioning–you get acclimated to the heat, and get used to living with it all the time. On the other hand, nobody (except the homeless) lives in New England in winter without heat.
I am another Southerner living in New England. People spend more time outside in hot weather as noted. I have heard the bundling up argument but it doesn’t work that well in everyday life. In hot weather, you can swim or have outdoor parties for much of the year and night can be a little more pleasant during the hottest months. It doesn’t generally get super cold in eastern Massachusetts but it stays cool to coldish for half the year and that cuts down on outdoor activities unless you make a point to do them but most people just don’t ski that often. For more extreme climates, heavy exertion activities are really only a true problem in places like New Orleans or Houston during the middle of the summer but that is similar to the middle of winter in Minnesota. Humans are a tropical species and built to be outside in all but the hottest weather once acclimated to it.
This drives me insane. There’s no amount of socks and gloves I can wear to keep my hands and feet warm even when my body is dripping with sweat. And if you actually want to use your hands to pick something up it’s just ten times worse. Keeping your face warm is another problem, and of course the prep time before you go out to do anything. Cold weather clothing gets expensive, heat is much easier to deal with IMHO.
Someone I know who moves around a bit mentioned he noticed that people in areas with a cold winter tend to feel like they have to get outside in the summer because they know it’s going to end. People in warm climates tend to have the attitude they can hang out inside because they can go out whenever they want.
BTW I live in New England and have been loving our hot summer this year.
In my experience, people in many hot climates live in a much more outdoor way than people in cold climates. Houses may be built around open central courtyards where the family hangs out much of the day, schools may be a series of enclosed rooms built with covered porches allowing you to get from one to the next without getting rained on, etc.
I suppose most people prefer to be out in the heat instead of the cold. I am the opposite and like to spend my time out in the snow or inside in the AC. When I get too hot I just want to lay naked on the kitchen tile like the kitties and not move so the heat doesn’t inspire me to leave the house.
Thanks for all the interesting and insightful posts; I’ve enjoyed reading them and they got me to thinking about a follow-up question. Maybe it’s too late in the thread to throw this out there but I’ll give it a shot.
What about just going out for a walk at night, or on the weekend? It could be with no destination or you could head for the book store or ice cream shop. Does that happen more when it’s very hot or very cold? I also wonder how many people live in places where this just doesn’t apply. I’ve lived in neighborhoods where you would never go out for a walk, no matter how perfect the weather. Where I live now people are always walking around. In my sister’s house in the suburbs I’ve never seen anyone walking anywhere except to their cars.
The winner is still the heat by a mile. Like I said, Eastern Massachusetts generally doesn’t get super cold like Vermont and Minnesota do. It would take a while to die from exposure even during the middle of winter in jeans and a sweatshirt and a medium coat. However, the ground conditions get really crappy. The snow, sleet, thaw, freeze cycle leaves disgusting combinations of snowbanks, ice, mush, or damp ground that makes it nasty to walk around and it screws up the sidewalks. It varies widely by year too.
Some people still go outside a lot but late fall, winter, and early spring don’t usually look like a Thomas Kinkade print (even a third-hand one from a garage sale). I do stuff outside all year round but the perception and the reality are a huge mismatch even for people that grew up here. Fall is pretty but it lasts about a month and hoping for a good winter is about the same as praying that someone takes it easy on you when they punch you in the stomach. There is little good to be had from it and early spring is always a tragic novella of broken hopes and dreams when it comes to outdoor activities.
It isn’t just the weather itself though. It gets dark in Boston about 4 pm on the Winter Solstice and doesn’t improve for months. Coal miners probably get more sun and that affects mood and the things you can reasonably do. Those few light hours on a weekend are the things that make you press on and ignore that rifle cackling at you just begging you to give up once and for all or pack up your things and move back to the African Savannah like god himself intended. The Weather Channel and an old desk calendar from 2005 marking July birthday parties for people that have since moved to California are the only things you have left.
We are starting to enter that period of darkness, despair, loss of dreams, and hope. It never affected me much that I noticed but I would like to take a skiing lesson or something this winter provided there are a few hours hours of sun and little penetrating, blistering wind.
So…they have their driveways plowed, then? I’m resident snow shoveler, and I spend hours and hours outside ever winter to deal with the frickin’ snow that inconsiderately covers the driveway and the roof.
One of the reasons Spanish stores have a long break at lunch is to be able to stay open later without working more hours. In the last month and a half (it’s let out now), we’ve been breaking 36C every day, in Seville: anybody you saw out and about at lunchtime was either hopping from shadow to shadow on his way to eat or a tourist, it’s at night that the streets come alive. Spanish summer fiestas involve, to a large degree, moving from living by day to doing it by night; often they happen to take place during a week which is usually the hottest week in the year for that particular town (take Sanfermines: in Pamplona, July is usually dry with blue skies, while August can manage to be rainy half the time and grey-skied the other half).
Somehow that didn’t quite seem to be the case last winter in Edinburgh.