Tips to Cope with Heat, from People Who Work Very Hot Jobs

People who work in a sauna, a greenhouse, a fries truck and as a mascot tell us how they handle the heat during summer.
photo of three kids and two mascots, a white and a brown bear, standing in front of a kiosk with a sound system and DJs in park with a pond in the background.
Photo: courtesy of Rob Kleijer and his workplace, BEM Entertainment

This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.

This summer, temperatures are running above 30 degrees every day and show no sign of dropping. And it doesn’t look like summers will get cooler in the coming years, as climate change, heat waves and droughts are becoming the new normal. But how do we get through this sweaty agony with a bit of dignity? 


This Heat Is Not Normal

To find out, I spoke to people who work in extremely hot conditions to ask them how they feel about being in the heat all the time and if they have any hot tips on how to keep cool while the earth is burning.

“My tips for hot days: Wear sweatbands and bandanas.”

Rob Kleijer, 36, mascot manager: It helps that I love the heat because being a mascot on hot days feels like being in a sauna. If I’m lucky, I only have to wear a breezy suit on a hot day. But sometimes, I have to put on a costume lined and padded with warm materials to create certain shapes. 

The brown bear is one of these outfits. Yet, I have to wear it whenever it’s requested, even on a hot day. The client is king in the end, and by now I can tolerate it just fine – I’ve been walking around in suits like these for years. 

My tips for hot days: Wear sweatbands and bandanas. I always do that under my mask, otherwise my sweat drips into my eyes. I also recommend drinking a lot of water and having a cup of broth or a handful of crisps every now and then to maintain your salt supply

When it's hot, what helps me most is interacting with people. Customers especially care about me during heat waves – I get asked about it a thousand times. Too bad I can't answer, mascots can't speak!

group picture of a bunch of mascots. There's a squirrel, white and brown bears, crocodile, tiger, parrot, panda and a dog

Mascots looking happy (from the outside).

“I’m used to the heat – I’ve been hanging around 175-degree fryers since I was 12.”

Ruud Vleugels, 49, works in a fries truck: The heat inside the fries truck depends on how the sun is shining. If the sun shines in the front, it gets stinking hot inside. That's why I try to park the truck strategically. Not only for myself, but also for the food. 

After all, making sure the food doesn't get too hot is more important than keeping myself cool. Actually, the heat doesn’t affect me that much. I’m used to it – I’ve been hanging around 175-degree fryers since I was 12 because my parents were also in this business. It's in my blood. I sometimes say: Frying oil runs through my veins. 

The only thing I sometimes do to stay cool is turn on the fan. Other than that, I would say: Put on a swimsuit - even at home. I can't do that in the fries truck, unfortunately; it would look a bit weird. Eating an ice cream wouldn’t hurt either. But don't eat too many, that's not healthy. 

Because of my disorganised lifestyle and the many frikandels [a processed sausage popular in the North of France, Belgium and the Netherlands] I used to eat here and there, I had become overweight. Since I stopped eating these snacks, I’ve lost 45 kilos. It also makes a difference when it's hot, I must say.

“The heat is really one of my favourite things. It can't be hot enough for me.” 

Jareth Geluk, 31, sauna plumber: Our saunas are 85 degrees, but it feels hotter in there because of humidity. At first, I couldn't always stand it. The first time I worked in a sauna, I said, after five minutes, ‘Guys, I'm good. I'm going out.’ But I persevered, perhaps because someone had told me to just hang on. 

Today, I can work on six installations in a row. My body has adapted. I sweat quickly and easily. I don't even mind the cold anymore, but the heat is really one of my favourite things. It can't be hot enough for me. 


My tip for hot days: Stay hydrated. Also, sweating causes you to lose certain substances, such as magnesium and calcium, so it’s good to consume isotonic drinks. And try to dress to preserve your temperature. Many people think, “Shirt off!” But then your skin is in direct contact with the heat and you get hotter. That’s why we wear shirts when we are plumbing, and during contests we even wear a suit. It looks warm, but when it's really hot around you, it has a cooling effect. 

“If it's 35 degrees outside, I don't think, ‘Yay! I'm going into an even warmer greenhouse!’”

Koos de Vries, 64, cucumber farmer: If you can't stand the heat, things can get tough as a cucumber farmer. Because if you work above the plants [in a greenhouse], it can easily get to 40 degrees on hot days. I don't do anything special to stay cool; I just wear a t-shirt and shorts. 

During winter, I actually love the greenhouse. But if it's 35 degrees outside, I don't think, ‘Yay! I'm going into an even warmer greenhouse!’ 

I don't really like the heat. I don't go on holiday to hot countries either. I already spend enough time feeling hot. 

My most important tip in the business and in general: Don't feel sorry for yourself. If you start telling yourself all the time, “Why is it so hot?”, you won’t be able to stand it. So if you want to get through it decently, just get on with it.