This is a little series called New House WTF that centers around all those head-scratching moments I’ve encountered after buying a house in France. It’s been fun discovering all of those “normal” French things, but they’ve left this American shaking her head! So for this installment of New House WTF, I present you with my windows. Without screens. Not a single one of the windows in my house has a screen. France has bugs, though, right? I can confirm that YES, France has bugs. So how’s that work exactly in the summer? I’m gonna find out…
No screens on windows in France
When we moved into our home, I already knew there would be no screens on our windows since I had discovered this when I first arrived. No French house has screens. It isn’t just us. All of these screenless windows struck me as odd when I first saw them but I just shrugged and figured maybe the French were onto something. You see, in the U.S and Canada (and several other countries), it’s commonplace to have screens on your windows. The metal or fiberglass mesh is stretched over the window frame or is a separate piece entirely and they do a great job at keeping the bugs, leaves and other debris out while not compromising the airflow in the home.
Window screens are a godsend in humid Florida where even the outdoor pools are inside a screened in porch in some places. Otherwise, your skin ends up looking like this. Exhibit A from last year: My collarbone and shoulder area after we had some nighttime visitors who were looking for a skin-flavored snack. Lovely, ain’t it? Those suckers itched like mad!
It’s nice to have pretty windows with unobstructed breezes and to hang out your window to look around and all, but the little insects and mosquitoes that come along for the summer breeze? That’s not so nice. Insect life is alive and well in France and the pic above is proof that screens would be a welcome investment. If I’m walking around outside and attacked by mosquitoes, that’s one thing, but in my home? No thanks!
It’s funny how you start to miss something as commonplace as window screens once you no longer have them!
So why don’t French windows have screens?
The French view screens as ugly and unnecessary — the bugs will find their way out sooner or later. But only after eating you alive, I say. And sure screens might not be the most beautiful way to dress a window, but it sure beats getting bitten in your sleep or being unable to sleep at all due to constant scratching. And don’t get me started on the marks the bites leave that seem to take forever to go away.
But before all hope is lost, I should mention that just yesterday, we got a few garden stores’ ads in the mail and they have a sticky window screen on promo. Yes, for real! Screens do exist. Maybe the French are tired of the bites and are learning that window screens are our friends. Going to check out that deal this weekend because a bug-free home is a happy home.
Bet this store will go bankrupted?
No no, I think Jardiland is doing quite well! 😉
We miss the screens, although not too much of a problem with bugs here.
Den Nation says
I have a theory that may explain why they don’t have windows – shutters. If the windows had screens attached to them, then you couldn’t close the shutters. If I think back to my parents’ house and the house I grew up in, I could open the screens covering the doors, but the not the window screens.
I know the shutters look cute, but actually I have absolutely no use for them except maybe as extra protection against burglars. In fact, they are kind of a nuisance because if it’s windy and stormy I have to go and shut them all or else they’ll bang around and make a lot of noise. As you know, most French people can’t sleep unless the shutters are closed and the room is pitch black, but to be honest, this is one thing I hate. I hate waking up and being in a dark room – daylight is a natural alarm for me. I’m not talking about keeping the windows completely uncovered as the sun shining on me at 6AM in the summer would bother me, but a curtain keeps out enough light that I don’t wake up too early and allows enough light to come in that I am not completely blinded by the light when I wake up. I try to explain about curtains to French people, but they can’t understand how I could sleep with just a curtain. I cannot for the life of me understand how so many of them could like being blinded by the light when they wake up and feeling disorientated.
To get back to the topic, I keep the windows open during the day during the summer, but two hours before sunset I close all the windows and we usually don’t have many mosquitos to kill (yes, I do chase them and kill them before I fall asleep every night).
First (and sole for windows higher than second floor) purpose of shutter is thermal insulation. If you can’t close it, you waste much more heat during the cold hours of night and early morning. This is why French usually do not close shutters in summer, when light comes earlier in the morning.
Hope this clarifies it
The thing is, if your windows are working correctly, you shouldn’t be losing that much heat (especially since it’s not -30C here in the winter). Triple pane glass is the norm for most new windows in the US, and I think French people would really find them useful too. No need to shut anything to keep the heat in. 😉 But come on Punaiz, you gotta admit screens are useful!!
Ok. I admit.
But just because your told me.
But most of the windows in France are not “new”. At all.
Besides, mosquitoes usually bite me less than I crush them. Maybe you should try being less tasty to mosquitoes?
And for sliding windows. How the hell do you clean those things?
This is making me believe the cultural gap is here one of the most impacting. Not as much as the strange noises, but one of those irreconcilable ones.
Hello… so about the sliding windows, it’s like a sliding glass door just smaller. When it’s closed, you clean the side inside the house and then go outside to clean the outside. It’s street level so no big deal. Happy Sunday
Den Nation says
Really, you don’t think that the French close their shutters in the summer? I certainly do.
I had a lot of French friends come and visit us when we spent 6 months in Denmark last year and I had a collection of masks for them to sleep with and they used them! Things are even ‘worse’ in Denmark than in Canada because a lot of people don’t have curtains, just blinds . That was the case with the place where we lived in and even with the masks there was so much light that some of our friends couldn’t sleep (because in May it starts to get light at 4 am in Denmark).
Window-wtf in general… Why are hugely wide windows made in one inward-swinging piece that takes out half the furniture/heads in the apartment when you open them?
Haha yes, very true. I don’t get it either. Would be great to be able to prop them open. Luckily we have a sliding window in our family room that works well, doesn’t mess up the curtains or swing into anything. Got lucky there!
Not to mention how most windows don’t come equipped with a way of keeping them half open! I miss sideways sliding windows!
You’re totally right. I love only opening the windy halfway. Here, it’s all or nothing! And if you open your window, it starts creaking as wind blows it back and forth!
We tried going without screens in Saumur last Summer — no go. I found a screen kit at Bricolage for under 10 euros and was able to cover some of our big windows. It keeps the majority of the mosquitos and flies out.
As for the shutters, our landlady explained how to use them in the Summer – since our house doesn’t have AC. She said to open the shutters and windows at night to let the cool air in, and then close both around 8-9 am. This keeps the heat out during the day. Of course, we don’t need our shutters for protection, because we have a 3m wall around the house.
I have to stock up on some rolls of screens or a screen kit because the bugs that we have (that are GIGANTIC CREEPY THINGS) scare me to death. And the thought of one going after my dog is even worse. And no one likes itching all the time. Ugh. Not pretty either. And yea it’s nice to keep windows open if it’s in the 70s at night and WITH screens (not without, hence the bug problem).
J L says
I had like a rollup exterior shade (more for sun) at the dorm I stayed in in Paris. As for screens I saw a few in Spain and even some stores sold em. Didn’t see any in the UK altho I have read food prep areas must be screened now. If you do a google map street view search you find screens in Israel, Australia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and The Emirates.
Usually it’s shutters in Europe.
Cool, interesting about the street search. Love that thing. Very handy for things like this. I’m pretty much used to my volets now although at the beginning it was weird.
That was my reaction too when I moved to France from North America – where the heck are the screens??!!
However, I found out that in the early 90s my SIL’s 3 year old daughter (my inlaws are French) fell out of an open window from the 10th(?) floor! This has always been my first though when seeing screenless windows in France. Now that I have a toddler, I get massive anxiety when the windows are open!
I like this European concept, and I think screens are the ugliest things ever, but they might just serve a purpose too.
Oh my gosh, the poor girl! Is she OK?? I have to say that in some cases screens are ugly but there are new types now that are barely visible. And I’d take even the ugly screens over uglier mosquito bites any day! Thank you for stopping by and happy New Year to you!
No unfortunately she died, to this day my SIL gets hysterical if it is brought up and she will not discuss it.
The no screen thing makes me think i’m in an old movie – open the window to yell-chat with your neighbors, or yell at the noisy kids on the street, or at your husband to pick up a baguette on his way back… this cannot be recreated when there are screens acting as barriers! For kicks I always open the window and yell down to my husband to bring back a baguette and cheese (small things amuse me).
Great site Diane, and happy new year to you and yours (how rude of me not to have said it in my first post!)
Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s really tragic. The screen-free windows do seem quaint and old school but yup, they do serve a purpose.
So happy you like the site! Thanks again for taking the time to comment!
Ya know I just noticed watching the old US tv show Andy Of Mayberry that when they showed the scene at the front of his house (supposedly it’s in the hot humid buggy SE like North Carolina or some place like that) there was a screen door but NO screens on the windows-that is just WEIRD and ya know what lots of other TV shows and movies it’s the same way-oh Hollywood when will you get real.
I can not deny that old world architecture is absolutely lovely. However, I can not live without screens. Living a few months in a home with many broken window glass and torn screens was a horrifying experience. By the end of my stay I looked like I had the plague from all the bug bites – I developed a severe allergy to the biting bugs – and I couldn’t get a single good night’s sleep for all the bug attacks. (Plus, light inside the home at night drew the bugs like a moth to a flame) So, no, thank you, I will not live anywhere where the wild-life can fly, slither, crawl, or hop in to chew up my delicate self. (Not to mention bats flying in during the night. This location also has three types of poisonous snakes.)
J L says
I have been to Spain and I saw a few windows with screens, I even saw a window store that sold screens. These excuses that they make a house dark, windows don’t open to accommodate etc etc-c’on really- I have a relative who lives in Orange County Ca-they had new windows installed and they would be perfect for Europe-the screen is on a track at the side and a latch to the sliding panel the screen is rolled up on the side when you slide the window open it draws the screen with it, when the window is closed you don’t see the screen, and it works for sliding glass doors too, if you don’t want the screen you just unlatch it and open the window seems like this would work for any vertical or horizontal sliding window, as for casewments c’mon Pella makes a rollscreen with the same idea. There are ways it can work, and interestlng that Asian countries and Australia-at least when you do google map street view they have screens, in fact Japans look like in the US Calif. homes from the 70’s with the Garden Kitchen window where the screen slid away just like the slider and let you pass thru food to a countertop.
If you ever find where to buy screens in France please let me know.
Has anyone considered the possibility that the main reason is stupidity? We do a lot of stupid things in the USA too, so the French aren’t alone (examples: spending a third of our tax revenue on military, 2/3rds of us are either overweight or obese). Looking out my window right now, the main part of the window, the part that opens, it is screened. A small upper part of the window frame is non-opening double-paned glass without screen. There is almost no visual difference between them. The screen part easily is taken off, just held by four little clips. A lack of window screens is why we quit going to Martinique and Guadeloupe for vacations. It’s positively insane these days with Zika virus to not have screens. I vote for stupidity as the main reason today for a lack of screens. It certainly isn’t a matter of cost..
Hi, we’re Americans living in southwest france (close to bordeaux)… Has anyone found where you can buy screens or screen kits?
Drove me crazy when we lived there! Even lost my poor cat for 2 weeks. He jumped onto the rooftop and then to the ground below.
Found this online: https://www.stores-mariton.com/fr/produits/f1-3-moustiquaires
Hope this is of help to us Americans who are extremely sensitive to mosquito bites!
Omg I’ve been totally appalled by this since I’ve arrived in France! It’s always bothered me because I get attacked by mosquitos at night and it’s so horrible! In the next few years we will be looking at buying a house here but the no-screen culture really stresses me out because I will bring my exotic parrots from the states here and not having screens is taking a big risk with birds in the house! I’m sure we’ll be able to find some company that installs screens but I fear it will be hard and very expensive. I will never understand how people don’t have screens in 2018…
I’m British and living in south west France. We have an old farmhouse with the usual inward-opening casement windows, with roller insect screens in the bedrooms. Fitting them to the ground floor windows will be our next project. The only problem is that you can’t close the shutters without rolling up the screens – and in summer it is necessary to close the shutters at least partially to keep the interior cool, so there is a bit of a faff opening and closing screens and shutters twice a day. Regarding where to find screens here, I’m fairly sure they can be bought at most bricos and online.
Peter Johnston says
I want to say that about this blog it’s a very amazing blog . It,s so useful to us. Thanks for such a great information provided to us.