Friday, June 28, 2013

21: Cigarettes and Beer

One of the things you might notice rather quickly upon coming to Moldova is the sheer amount of smokers. Everyone smokes. I can probably count on my hand the amount of men that I have met that are non-smokers. And I say men because there is a very large gender gap. It is still not very culturally accepted for a woman to be a smoker, especially in a village and while it is pretty common in bigger cities to see women smoking they still do so at a much lower rate than the men which isn't hard to do since nearly all the men smoke.

But aren't cigarettes super expensive? Especially for chain smokers? How can they possibly afford it?

Easy. A pack of cigarettes can cost less then a pack of chewing gum.

An average pack of cigarettes cost about 12-15 lei, or about a dollar. But if you look in the corner you can find a pack of Doina that sells for 4.50 while a pack of Orbit gum underneath sells for 5.50.

But cigarettes aren't the only thing that is dirt cheap. Beer also flows like water. Sometimes cheaper than water. 

As a reminder in case you forgot, one drink of beer is considered to be 330 ml. Which is the size of that smallest can.  The bigger can and the bottle are both 500 ml and it goes up by 500 ml for the bigger bottles. Which means yes, you can buy a 2 liter bottle of beer and usually it runs for about 3 dollars and the 500 ml usually doesn't much more then a dollar unless you are eating at a restaurant and then it might be as much as a dollar fifty. 
Chisinau of course being the capital of the country it is also the brand name of the best selling beer in Moldova. Although there is other beer available from Russia or Ukraine such as белый медведь, старый мельник, or Балтика, beers from other countries tend to be harder to find and usually cost twice as much. In general Guinness, Stella Artois, Carlsberg, Beck's, and Heineken are really all you can find in most places, though larger grocery stores have very large selections, with the beer and the alcohol taking up two separate aisles. (Also almost all East European beer are sold in 500 ml bottles while West European beers are sold in 330 ml bottles and cost more you pay more to get less beer.)

Unlike wine which is usually chugged like vodka, beer is usually sipped at a leisurely pace and even though Moldovans hardly ever drink anything cold and never put ice in their drinks, because there is fear of catching a cold or upsetting your stomach, beer is an ice cold exception.

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