Culture shapes heating choices

Denial of pain and discomfort is part of the New Zealand culture and might make us more tolerant than others of being cold indoors.

That's according to a 2007 paper which noted that New Zealanders who can't cope with the cold and require central heating in winter are often seen as being wimpy or weak.

"Put on a jacket, you wuss: cultural identities, home heating and air pollution in Christchurch, New Zealand" found that ideas of national identity and masculinity shape our home-heating choices and make us reluctant to change current practices.

Julie Cupples, Victoria Guyatt and Jamie Pearce linked these attitudes to the pioneers who endured physical hardship and made do with what they had.

Christchurch residents interviewed for the study believed New Zealand modes of heating stemmed from a "do it yourself, she'll be right attitude", saying many New Zealanders had access to cheap firewood and claimed that northern hemisphere practices such as central heating, double glazing or insulation were an unnecessary and excessive luxury.

A Latin American student felt Kiwis liked suffering from the cold, while an American resident in the city saw touches of the frontier spirit in local approaches to heating.

The paper said inadequate heating caused poor health but in Christchurch the heavy reliance on burning wood and coal also contributed to high levels of winter pollution. Bringing about behavioural change in relation to this would mean acknowledging not only that masculine bodies were vulnerable but that New Zealanders might well be as "wussy" as North Americans.

The authors also said investing to make homes more sustainable would probably not produce proportional real estate returns in the case of resale because many potential buyers would not see them as important.


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