There's no universal standard for what constitutes a comfortable temperature - it depends on what we're used to. But as the world changes, the definition of comfort is changing with it.Siestas - those glorious, three hour midday breaks - used to be as much a part of Mexican culture as Mariachi and Cinco de Mayo. The custom had mostly died out by 2000, resulting in not just a cultural gap, but a soaring energy bill as well.Napping during the hottest part of the day and working during the evening is a classic example of adapting to the natural environment, and like most adaptations, it eventually become entrenched in Mexican culture.Once the siesta was no more, Mexicans were confronted with the stifling temperatures they'd managed to avoid for centuries. Air-conditioning use grew eightfold from 1995 to 2011, by which point eighty percent of homes were being artificially cooled.Mexico is far from the only country facing some kind of cultural upheaval related to temperature. Other cultures must now rethink what it means to be comfortable. Dealing with the cold
A 1996 Norwegian study compared energy use in Oslo with that of Fukuoka, Japan. The two cities shared many characteristics, including similar populations and average home sizes. What differed were the climates (Norway is much cooler) and the cultures.
Most homes in Fukuoka didn't have central heating. Families warmed themselves around a single heating element when the temperature dipped during the winter months. In contrast, Norwegians kept their thermostats turned up all the time - even when nobody was home, or when the family was asleep.
The culture of cosiness
Why? Norwegian culture values koselighet: the quality of cosiness. Having a cold house is a cultural no-no. In fact, even ceiling lights are considered ‘cold'. The average living room in Oslo back then had 9.6 light bulbs, mostly incandescent lamps on tables and floors. The Japanese didn't associate light with temperature; Fukuoka living rooms had mostly fluorescent ceiling lights, and just 25% as many as their Scandinavian friends.
Even two decades ago, the cultural metrics of comfort were starting to shift. The study's author noted in 1996 that space heaters were beginning to appear in Fukuoka, replacing family heating sessions with individually heated rooms - changing not just the standard of comfort, but family dynamics as well.