Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania, and this time she writes about how it is to be a new non-smoker in Bucharest, where almost everybody smokes.
A bit over a month I became a non-smoker after having been smoking at least 20 cigarettes a day for countless years. I started thinking how annoying it was that cigarettes were to some extent controlling my life; always checking that I had them on me, always having to go out during concert breaks to have a cigarette, always smoking before and after the concert. Walking and smoking, working and smoking. It was even getting to me.
But on my holiday in Europe throughout January this year, while I was in Cannes far from cigarette shops, I ran out of cigarettes and no one could drive me to buy some, so it turned out I was sort of tricked into quitting, since obviously if somebody wanted, they could have driven me to a shop to buy my fix. But they had planned on making me a non-smoker. And, well, then I just stopped.
The first two weeks I had no problem, then I got back to Bucharest, and suddenly it was a bit more difficult, since I have realized how many people smoke in Bucharest, and almost everywhere it is possible to smoke, restaurants, clubs even some taxi drivers sit and smoke. And I could feel the nicotine monster waking up in me.
Going to a café, I found myself suddenly sitting with a cup of tea with non-smoking friends being okay but gazing over at other people drinking a beer, enjoying a cigarette and looking like they are having a mini party. Everybody was surprised that I, the serious smoker, had stopped smoking, and they were all saying: hurray! well done!. But still gazing at others would make me feel boring; the others, the smokers, looked like they are having such a good time. What to do?
For some strange reason eating carrots became my new thing. A bag of carrots that I would prepare and then carry with me.
I would meet people and half of them would have taken the New Year’s resolution not to smoke. When we’re together, we do not mention being smoke free, for fear of waking the nicotine monster. Some in this group after a while turned into social smokers. I also thought about it, but if I begin I will not be able to stop and soon it will be 20 cigarettes a day, again. But smoking is a social habit.
I picked up another strange habit: I have become a cigarette smoke sniffer. I will sniff the cigarette smoke from people who smoke on the streets. One day I found myself walking behind a Romanian, and when he threw the cigarette away I almost became a upset. “Hey you could have smoked more on that cigarette!” The other day I almost bumped into a person who was smoking in front, as I was not paying attention while sniffing the smoke. So I thought I’d better control my sniffing a little, I will end up scaring people walking behind them to catch the smoke wave.
Of the people who smoke, some will offer me a cigarette, some even post propaganda on my Facebook wall with pictures of cigarettes, some say to stop smoking is worse than stopping heroin, which I of course have no idea about. But I can see the look in the eyes of my friends who still smoke, the look like they have lost a comrade, but I am still there standing with them and sniffing, so far, no worries.
I’ve been reading in the Danish newspapers just this month about two 34 year old famous women who died of cancer, and this worried me a bit, as cigarettes can lead to cancer and she was of a similar age to me, so this helped me to stay a non smoker.
But truly Romania must be the last smoking country. Even as a non-smoker I struggle a bit to remain one, I always said I loved Romania for the freedom to smoke, and the fewer restrictions here compared to Denmark, for example, where they have even talked about enforcing a law banning smoking on your own street as the smoke would affect the neighbors. And when you smoke in Denmark people comment on it all the time.
In Romania they don’t, which I like – even though I truly will remain a non-smoker, but I will never never become one of these annoying non smokers who tell others how horrible it is that they smoke. Freedom of choice.
By Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe, columnist
Eleonore is Danish, she holds a BA in Organization and Management and specializes in Corporate Communication & Strategic Development. She is also a Market Economist and a Multimedia Designer. She is currently working in Bucharest as the Executive Director of UAPR the Romanian Advertising Association. As a Danish Viking in Romania, with a great passion for ’covrigi’, she has a burning desire to find out more about Romania especially Bucharest, and enlighten the small differences in the culture between Denmark and Romania.. Her weekly columns will give you insights into an expats life in Bucharest written with humor and a big Danish smile.
(photo source: sxc.hu)