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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Erlangen 91052 (2)—Rauchen kann tödlich sein

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square Series "Erlangen 91052"
Click here for the "Erlangen 91052" Resource Center—All Posts Available 
One year ago on Round and Square (5 February 2013)—China's Lunar Calendar 2013 02-05
Two years ago on Round and Square (5 February 2012)—Hurtin' Country: Sunday Morning Coming Down
[a] Verboten RF

I have been in Erlangen (91052...and related final postal digits) for three weeks now. I see a lot of smoking. I am not sure that I have thought deeply enough about smoking back in the United States to have a fair comparison, but my initial reading is that there is somewhat less smoking going on here than in China—a place I know well, and where I have (in very "unmanly" fashion) said "sorry, I don't smoke" all around the nation—east, south, center, west, and north (trust me on this order). It seems, as well, that there is somewhat more smoking going on here in Germany than in the United States, and this despite the fairly blatant warnings that are our subject for today.
[b] ...tödlich...sein RF

Rauchen kann tödlich sein
Smoking Can Be Deadly

Smoking can deadly be...

This, or an even more intense version of it, is on every pack of cigarettes sold in Germany (and, more generally, throughout the European Union). Other warnings tell of the harm smokers will cause to their children and even (see the last photo, below) that it will (for men, in this case) lower the ol' sperm count. It'll rot your lungs, harm your children, and shrink your wee-wee output (you may read that any way you wish). The labels, as you can see, are blatant. They cannot be missed. Even bus stop advertising is taken up by a solid quarter of the pack on display saying a cultural combination of something like "smoking will rot your entrails."
[c] Nada RF

And yet...and yet...there's a whole lot of smoking going on.

Let's consider social, linguistic, governmental, and cultural factors.

To begin, we can join with American conservatives and ask whether or not shocking labels really work. The early evidence would seem to say..."no." This is in spite of my desire for such "stuff" to work, but my own opinions are not central here. Standing in the checkout line at Kaufland, all I can see is rows and rows of cigarette (zigaretten) packs that say "death to you...bitte" or something like that. And yet people keep putting them on the rolling slide of purchase (politely divided by "my stuff here" markers that are ubiquitous across the world—a story for another day). When I pay my bill, bag my own groceries, and push my cart into the cart stall (retrieving my two-euro coin thereby), I see large groups of smokers recovering from their time in the supermarket, and readjusting the flow of timely vapors (時氣...or was that 死氣...death vapors?). 
[d] Puh-leeeze...RF

Something is amiss.

O.k. Big signs on the packs—smoking will kill you, dead. Check. "Rauchen verboten" signs everywhere (smoking forbidden). Check. This is not China (and, readers, I love China), where "No Smoking" means...almost always..."No Worries." Maybe I'm being harsh, but I have seen almost no enforcement...anywhere of smoking regulations. Culture is culture, so I just analyze. Here it is a little different. There are places where, clearly, no one will light up. Still, there is a great deal of smoking.

So we've considered warning labels ("smoking is deadly"). Let's wrap this up with a little journey into who smokes. 
[e] Smoke RF

For those of you who might think that I have been hard on China in this post, I would ask you to think again. I just want to analyze societies that fascinate me. The differences start to appear in both predictable and surprising ways, once we peel back a few layers. Let's just consider gender for know. The breakdown, while not "even," is close to balanced-scales here in Germany. 

The contrast caught me by surprise when, in of all places, on Miaofeng Mountain near Beijing, I was offered a cigarette by a local official who was showing a number of people around the mountain's pilgrimage museum. When I was offered the cigarette, I started to decline, but my host did it for me "...most American professors don't least the men; more of the women smoke..." This struck my government official hosts as quite funny, and I told a female graduate student in the group that she might have to take up the habit if she wanted to spend time in American academia (she knew that I was joking).

[f] Little left RF
Still, the gender issue is a fascinating one, and we won't come close to mining it today. Do those warning work differently for men and women? It seems that they do not, but this is mere anecdote. All I know is that there is a whole lotta smokin' goin' on here in central Germany, and that "smoking can be deadly" (rauchen kann tödlich sein) has had a mild impact. I'm not overreacting to this message. I still sort of like it—smoking will strike you dead (and lessen your sperm count...if you're a man). Still, the broader cultural issues will be with us for some time in these posts. I have only begun to raise them here. Gender. Age. Income. Education...and so forth. We're just getting underway. Smoking can be deadly, but there's a whole heck of a lot of culture (as we say back home, without always engaging the "culture") in between. 

That's our prey on Erlangen 91052. See you soon.

Bieber Fever
It's a popular surname in Deutschland. And, Just-in-case you were wondering, the pop-star has a big following.

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