Just the other day, I was thinking about cigarettes in Europe.
Namely, that they’re just not a “big deal” out here. Sure, you see the warnings on the packages, and people generally know that smoking is “bad”, but it’s not the deal it’s made out to be in the States. There isn’t constant propaganda to steer you away from them.
And, the prices for them are still reasonable, so you know they’re not REALLY trying to stop people from smoking.
For example, they’re a buck, maybe two, here in Ukraine, last I checked.
People aren’t really concerned about dying an early death from lung cancer.
Naturally, I would assume that some of the reason for this (I’d say it’s far more likely someone here does from vodka than cigs), is because of the lifestyle.
The “Med Lifestyle” gets a lot of praise for its relative laziness, but simply put, everywhere in Europe is much more laid back (exception is possibly London) in terms of its work ethic in comparison to the States.
Reader “Didact” chimes in with another excellent email reading that is very relevant...
[Kyle's note: I love this dude's writing and his blog. Seriously, check him out.]
This issue with the very different ways in which people perceive time in Eastern Europe, versus in North America or Southeast Asia, drive me around the bend too. I come from an Asian family where punctuality and time discipline are expected and respected, and I lived for several years in Singapore, where they have a very specific word, kiasu, which refers to the mindset of Singaporeans where they always want to get ahead and get going somewhere.
In America, especially in the big cities, everyone who wants to get anything done is always on the go. Everyone wants to go somewhere and get something done. Everyone wants to move on to the next thing. There is a real sense of hustle and flow in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Those who do not want to take part in the rat race, simply check out entirely.
Urban America has divided itself into two very distinct places - either people live to work, or simply check out entirely of society and retreat into the Omega lifestyle of living in their parents' basements, smoking weed, playing video games, and watching porn.
It takes a lot of time spent traveling to other parts of America, and the world, to realise that this is a very unusual and not very healthy state of things.
One of the things that drives me around the bend with my lady is the fact that it takes her at least an hour to get ready to go anywhere or do anything - whereas I'm ready to go in under 10 minutes. Part of this is because she's a woman, and that's what women are like. But most of it has to do with the fact that, in Russia and Eastern Europe, people operate on a much more elastic definition of time than they do anywhere else. If you happen to arrive 10-15 minutes late for anything, hey, no big deal - and if you end up not going to the gym that specific day, oh well, there's always tomorrow.
This attitude is absolutely infuriating to anyone who is used to doing things according to a schedule and a regimen of activity. But the key here is that people outside of the big American and Southeast Asian cities work to live - not the other way around. They take their time to appreciate the good and simple things in life. The price that they pay is a serious lack of the killer instinct and the need to close the deal that those of us who grew up in more time-bound conditions retain.
I am not entirely sure which approach is better, if I am honest. The American/Asian mindset gets things done, to be sure - but people in those situations seem quite miserable in their daily lives. The more laid-back European (and rural American) approach allows people to enjoy their time on this Earth much more - but it's only sustainable because a relatively small percentage of people in those societies build and maintain and run everything that gives them their high standard of living.
What I can say is that more Americans would benefit from seeing the world through European eyes. And more Eastern Europeans would benefit from seeing how miserable life really is in America, where even though people have much more material wealth, they are DEEPLY unhappy as a result.
I’m in the same boat.
Sure, I wish things were a little bit more efficient than they are (for example, I’ve been waiting for nearly two weeks while the Ukrainian post sorts my parcels), but overall I certainly wouldn’t want to press the "import everything" button on general American consumerism.
That’s not to say it doesn’t creep in a bit every day…
In any case, if you want more cultural observations like this, you 'oughta check out the Dating Abroad Archives.
I get asked, often, if Eastern Europe is on the way to becoming Westernized like the rest of the world. The answer, as always, is a bit of yes and a bit of no. Yes, it's coming. It's not that bad. What is probably the most concerning though is just the younger generations (not that older ones are all that great).
But, that's true anywhere.
Think about it.
Yours Troubly, born in 1991, spent most of his life without a cell phone. Got a flip phone at 14. Didn't have my first Blackberry until I was 19 or so. First iPhone I believe was 21. I grew up in a world without smart phones.
Someone fifteen years my junior (meaning they're currently 12), will have grown up completely in the era of phones. Who knows what that means for the dating scene in a few years, but I can't imagine it's good.
What do you think about the European way of life in comparison to the States?