Germany: A Smoker’s Paradise

picture from
picture from

[This post was inspired by Sherbet and Sparkles Thoughts on Smoking!]

After living in New York for over 3 years and not visiting my home country for one full year, coming back to Germany was a surprise in many ways. And, to be frank, more negative than positive ones.

For one, vegetarianism really isn’t as pronounced as I had remembered it to be. Being a veggie from 8 years of age and on, I’ve found that, for the most part, my homeland only offers one or two meager options a la carte when eating out. If even. Once we wanted to grab lunch at a Greek place in a small Eifel town. We literally had to leave the place after 5 minutes because their entire menu contained meat. Even after inquiring if there were meatless options, the owner of the joint denied, without even offering a half-hearted attempt of accommodating his vegetarian customers.

Then, the people on the Autobahn can become really freaking annoying. I mean, being legally allowed to drive 240 km/h should make some people fell less agitated about having to slow down occasionally before they hit a traffic jam or heavily populated area. But no, just in order to do that 10km/h over the speed limit, they almost collide with every fellow driver in front of them and try to drive them off the road. Not enough that they are already honking their horns and wildly gesticulating for the driver ahead to see in his rear mirror. Nope, they have to get real close and almost cause an accident, so that he will fearfully move out of the way.

Finally, among a few more things, smoking in public has become a great nuisance. After getting used to not being surrounded by second-hand smoke for what felt like an eternity, it was almost a shock to experience smoking culture in a typical German bar. In New York, it’s been the law for a decade to take your cigarette outside (not in an outdoor food area, though). No one even complains about this anymore; perhaps only when it’s really cold outside, but that makes the people want to smoke less, which is a healthy side effect considering that smoking can kill, right?! Experiencing how American youth and culture thinks about smoking nowadays was a true eye opener in the beginning. I am pretty sure that the smoking rates here are not as high as they are in Europe, especially when it comes to countries such as France, Austria, and Germany. Not to mention Eastern Europe… Now, I know Europe can be behind in some things. Smoking might be one of these.

Germany’s indoor smoking ban came into effect in 2007 in some states and was mostly implemented by the end of 2008 in most states. What was the result of not being legally allowed to smoke indoors? Two options when it came to night life establishments: 1) Smoking outdoors on the street; 2) Having a disclosed area in a restaurant or bar, in which smokers can peacefully smoke and not bother non-smokers. Or so was the idea. And what has become of it? A complete disaster!

Lots of memories are connected to how things used to be. For example, I used to reek of smoke whenever I was a teenager and came home from a party. It wasn’t possible to go to bed until I’ve taken a shower or somehow deposited the clothes far away from me. Yes, second-hand smoke always had some unpleasant side effects.

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But nowadays, because of these so-called smoking rooms, the smoke is even more confined to a small area. Sometimes it’s not even completely isolated from the rest of the establishment, as I found out the hard way. When going out in Schwetzingen with my dear friend, we ended up at a bar with life music. It was not until we had the desire to use their restroom that we noticed the pitfall: People were standing in the corridor leading from the main bar room to the toilets and smoking their lungs out. Needless to say that just going through that thing once or twice a night was a torture by itself. Now, instead of having the smoke float through an entire room, it was restricted to a small area, making it almost unbearable to pass through. And it was not the only bar with such a “high-end” solution when it came to self-serviced smoking rooms. Why can Germans not just go outside instead of ruining an entire nightlife experience? It certainly ticked me off that night.

Berlin was slightly better in the sense of most people smoking outdoors. But Berlin is really close to Eastern Europe and a transit point when flying through the city. Just while waiting at the airport on my very last day, I was pretty annoyed by the amount of smokers surrounding me. It was one of those beautifully warm days and my flight wasn’t going until another two hours or so. All I wanted to do is sit outside and take in my last moments in the Hauptstadt. Propped on a small chair, I saw one smoker after another exiting Tegel, deliciously inhaling their cancer sticks while they were waiting for their taxi or catching a bus. I just didn’t get it. Was it not possible for these people to go without their beloved cigarettes for just one day? I couldn’t help but think about all the money spent on useless packs of cigarettes. Money that could be invested elsewhere, be it a nice dinner, clothes, or cosmetics.

For once, smoking in Germany really bothered me when being back and I’ve come to notice how little people do it elsewhere, especially in the US. If only my home country could reach a similar mentality when it comes to this subject… It made me sick to see 40-year-old women tightly gripping their cigarette while their skin in their face was making them look 10 years older. Or the smokers’ cough I occasionally heard when strolling down the streets. Really, people? They’re killing you, but you still won’t let go of your beloved cigs!