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Saving the earth one bottle of hand sanitizer at a time

By AMINA MAMATY

It now has been 3 weeks since school started back again, and in case you haven’t noticed, the GV population had doubled. Yes, in addition to the students, we have a new but not so unfamiliar community living on this campus: say hello to flu germs.

Of course, I do not wish anybody to get the flu but I always find it interesting the way the United States handles certain situations when it comes to health.

I call a lot of my friends “germaphobes”. First, we have to recognize that Americans like being in their own bubble of space, and no one else should invade it. I have observed this in class, and on the bus, Americans are more likely to leave one seat in between whoever is sitting next to or behind them. There are hand sanitizers everywhere and you will definitely get called out if someone thinks you need to use it. Students go all the way out of the classroom to blow their nose, and most Americans have been taught not cough in their hands or their fist, but in their arm instead.

It might sound very logical for you, but in my country this is not how it is. Here, a small little cough gets you a couple dirty looks.

In France, the students are not supposed to leave class at any moment without their instructor’s permission, so could you imagine during the Winter, 25 students asking their professor if they can go outside to blow their nose during a lecture? It would be ridiculous.

Because the French and Americans have very different cultures, taking care of your health has its own characteristic. It is fascinating how here anything going wrong with an individual must be related to some type of medicine or disorder. In my home country, if you can’t concentrate in class, well, it is your fault. “Try to focus”, the professors would say. Here, if you can’t concentrate you have ADD. In France, if you can’t sleep, well, you will most likely have to count sheep until your eyelids fall, but here, if you can’t sleep, you can take NyQuil and pass out within 20 minutes. I like to joke around a lot and laugh all the time, but sometimes I just want to chill and be quiet. Would I be considered bipolar? What if I am tired and had an exhausting day? I sometimes find this a little extreme, but so emerged in the culture, I find myself coming to the same assumptions and habits. It’s almost like you have to know and be able to tell someone if they ask you what you are “suffering” from or you will be classified as suspect.

America has me believing that hand sanitizer could almost save me during a life or death situation — I’m being a little sarcastic there, but you all see what I am trying to say. I believe that it has to do with health insurance being very hard to get. It is way to expensive to get sick, so why not curing and preventing catching germs ourselves? I also think it is in the American values to try to be the strongest and solve everything. As you already know, the French are known for losing all types of wars in the world history, so that might explain a lot. Maybe Napoléon and his troops didn’t win because he couldn’t sleep the night before and/or had ADD and had no remedy. The world may never know, so I guess us French will stick to not shaving and eating snails … bon appétit!”

Published January 27, 2013 in Global Perspectives

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