Culture, I believe, is part of the main reason why global public health is so difficult; global public health is an issue that is consistently brought up because of its direct correlation with culture. As humans beings, we all need the same basic things to survive -- food, shelter, and water. The issue arises when we look at the differences between us: culture and access to these basic necessities. In many cases, culture influences others’ access to basic necessities. On my own, I can predict how a society with an individualist culture might have different ideas to contribute to global public health policy than a collectivist society. For those who it is custom to think of themselves first, they might not worry about how readily available certain resources are for the general public as those who live a more communal lifestyle. Different cultural attitudes also reflect how people may feel about paying taxes or helping the government pay for certain health policies.
Since being in Berlin, I’ve discovered that certain cultural behaviors might affect how people view and thus make decisions about Global Public Health. In Berlin, for example, smoking and drinking are two very common practices. Both -- especially drinking -- are seen as part of the culture. As a result, I would assume that people here probably aren’t as concerned about the threats caused by these behaviors. Perhaps people in countries like Germany where smoking and drinking are so common are not as worried about lung cancer, asthma, or liver disease, and, therefore, global public health policies surrounding these issues.
I have been most surprised by the extreme amount of smoking and how early the drinking starts. I see people drinking beers at 10 in the morning (More surprisingly, I’ve seen countless people drinking, but I’ve yet to see a drunk German). Alcohol is so deep embedded into the culture and daily activities here, that I can’t imagine anyone really recognizing an issue with it. Furthermore, it has been shocking to see how littered the streets are with cigarettes and bottle caps. My last “a-ha” moment is really how popular English is here. That is less surprising, as I know that most countries learn more languages than we do -- especially English. But it has made me more determined to learn more on my own.