Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Big Change; No Smoking

Sometimes change happens, and it happens so slowly or so subtly that you don’t really realize it has happened until something draws it to your attention.

Kuwait blogger Touche, one of my old virtual-blogging-buddies commented on a driving post, wondering about the baby steps it takes to change a mentality. The subject was driving, and I know he was right, I am writing “endlessly” about how annoyed I get by the lack of civility in driving here.

What I am not writing about, I noticed, is how annoying it is to be breathing other people’s smoke while I am eating.

Because it is not happening.

Who knew?

When we lived in Qatar before, people would sit right under the NO SMOKING signs and light up.

I saw things change in Kuwait. From the time we got there to the time we left, there were fewer and fewer times someone would light up in a restaurant.


Expectations changed. I am guessing the smokers felt pressure, not just from the community, but also from family members. I don’t know if there are fewer smokers; I am inclined to think not, because I can see them smoking in their own cars. Hey – as long as I do not have to breathe their smoke, it’s fine with me, it’s their choice.

But the significant thing is – I didn’t believe it could ever change. And it did change, and it changed faster than I would have thought possible.

So I have hope for the driving issue. I think it starts with seat belts. I think if Mothers and wives start buckling up, and buckling up their children, that will be a first step. I think if there is an emphasis on driving manners, things could change. It’s a mind-shift before a behavior shift, an awareness of safety and an awareness of our interconnectedness. One thing I have seen in the Gulf is that parents raise their children to have good manners; manners are an important consideration also when considering a mate. If you take the driving problem as a manners problem, and emphasize the need for good manners on the road, maybe there is a possibility of change . . .

There is another area where I think change can happen – throwing things out the car window. If it becomes a commonly held value that throwing trash / cigarette butts / food wrappers out the window is bad behavior, I think it will stop. Maybe hand out car trash bags to raise awareness?

Have you seen the change in smoking? What I am noticing is that my dinners are no longer ruined by someone nearby lighting up. I don’t smell smoke in the malls. I don’t smell smoke in the airports. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?

November 16, 2009 - Posted by | Blogging, Civility, Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Values


  1. I find that some people have become more considerate when they smoke in public but the majority of them still dont care.

    Comment by Mathai | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Mathai, when you are in restaurants, do you still find people smoking? I don’t. I remember how shocked I was in France, eating in smoke free restaurants, and now – it is happening here, too! I am amazed and delighted.

    Out of curiousity, do you use your seatbelt?

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Yes people still smoke in restaurants, but less than they did a few years ago, and of course I use a seatbelt! what makes you ask that? 🙂

    Comment by Mathai | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  4. You are lucky to be living in Qatar.. I guess this is the place to be.. Its just getting worse in every single way in Kuwait. Smoking, throwing garbage everywhere, driving… how sad..

    Comment by Zweiz | November 27, 2009 | Reply

  5. Zweiz, as opposed as I am to censorship, I had to omit part of your comment for the survival of my blog. I am very very careful. I hope you understand.

    I agree with you that people throwing trash on the streets in Kuwait is appalling – no respect for their own country, just throwing trash and trusting those poorly paid guys will pick it up. But Kuwait was where I first noticed the drop in invasive smoking – people seemed to CHOOSE to be more considerate of others. It wasn’t an official campaign, it wasn’t enforcement – but there is far less smoking in the restaurants and malls than there used to be – or so it was when I left.

    My point is – change comes from US. We make choices. Seat belts. Child car seats. Using a car trash bag. Not smoking where it will offend others. I think change is happening in Kuwait, and I think it is happening with the young people. Wooo HOOO on you.

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 28, 2009 | Reply

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