I knew that going back to Germany would be a culture shock. It’s a bit like going to a foreign country. In a way, it’s stranger than that. Because at some point I must have accepted all this as normal.

Cigarette vending machines, for example. I don’t think other countries have these anymore. And why would you put them next to a bubblegum vending machine?

vending machines

Anyways, cigarettes: It’s as if everyone here smokes. Especially young people: 45% of all Germans between 18 and 20 are smokers (compared to just 20% in Norway). They smoke in the office, they smoke in restaurants, they smoke in their cars and on the street, and it’s not just a small minority of people who can’t give it up, it’s almost the norm. Just yesterday I was sitting at the breakfast table at the hotel, and the couple next to me lights up. At breakfast. While I’m still eating. They are sitting right next to the table with the fresh fruit and cereal. Yuck!

The number of smokers that have had at least one attempt at quitting tells a story all by itself: 43% of German smokers have tried quitting. In Scandinavia, the motivation to quit is much higher – that same number is 80% up there.