I was fortunate to spend some time in Germany during Soccer World Cup in 2006. The largest sporting event in the world fittingly took place in a country where soccer is holy. I'm here this summer as well and lucky to enjoy the current 2008 European Championships. Germany is a country with interesting contrasts in society. People believe soccer is the most popular thing in this country but that would be incorrect. What is it? It's actually SMOKING CIGARETTES! It's impossible to walk 20 feet without seeing someone smoking. Young or old, athlete or bum, doesn't matter. It's 2008 but one could easily believe it's 1960 and no one has ever heard of smoking being dangerous (or disgusting).
I'm currently spending 6 weeks playing professional tennis down in Germany. During 6 weekends I fly down Friday night, play during the weekend and return home to Sweden on Monday. Playing tennis is no kid stuff. You better be fit or you might as well stay at home. Last Sunday I practiced an hour in the morning, played a hard 3 hour match in 85 F. degree heat. I got to rest for an hour and then played another 2 hour match. Yet, you know what most German players do as soon as they come off the court of a grueling 3 set match? The light up a cigarette. These are not some crappy recreational players. These are top notch players, some former Davis Cup competitors, who in some cases could still be making a living on the tour.
Smoking in Europe is unfortunately very popular. The largest smoking countries are the borderline third-world countries of Greece and Turkey. Smoking is out of control in these places. People smoke at airport gates, in cabs, cars, buses, homes, and restaurants. It's impossible to escape the thick clouds of cigarette smoke.
Germany is also a place where almost everyone smoke cigarettes. The contrast between smoking and other issues in Germany are interesting. Radio programs warn people of not being outside too long and catch skin cancer because of the strong sun. Never mind that the sun is as strong as being INSIDE an apartment in Florida during an overcast day. But people obey and stay inside.
Sitting inside smoking two packs of cigarettes a day is absolutely no problem and apparently not a bad idea. It's much better than being out in the cloudy weather for half hour. So is smoking around kids and pregnant women. No one thinks twice about lighting up 25 cigarettes 2 feet from an infant. Completely normal.
It think it's mind boggling that people still smoke in 2008. There are of course serious health issues that everyone knows about. But there are also other disgusting issues. Like kissing a smoker. Have you tried it? It's like licking an ash tray. I could never date a smoker, which sadly excludes 90% of European women. The smell is also repulsive, even for a non smoker. A visit to a restaurant, club, or bar means hair and clothes stink of smoke for days. But these issues don't stop smokers. I simply don't get it.
I'm a big fan of Halle Berry and will marry her when/if my wife leaves me for Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey (she has my permission). But if Halle starts smoking, it's off. So if Halle is reading this, please don't follow the Germans and start smoking. I think we would make a great couple.
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