Friday, January 12, 2007

The Other Tribe's Smell

Have you heard people saying that another tribe stinks? Nowadays , in the politically correct environment, such statements would immediately invite a strong rebuke, and an accusation of “racism”. But, in fact, it is often the case that we get used to the smells of people who are like us, and people from other areas, because of diet and different rules of hygiene end up having a strong smell that we find offensive. It’s just a fact.

Even Western people who are meticulously clean and who do not smell bad to each other, may smell bad when they are among people who are either vegetarian or do not eat dairy products. In Japan they have a term “bata-kusai” or “gaijin-no-nioy” meaning “reeking of butter” or “foreigner’s smell”. Korean soldiers, too, because of having a diet different from that of Americans, could smell GIs from a distance- they called it “the Yankee smell”. However, Americans could not smell each other. The Korean diet that includes a great deal of marinated cabbage- kimchi, that is, often creates a certain scent that Westerners can pick up on. However, Koreans themselves cannot. Yup, just like how Americans cannot smell each other. That is if they shower and brush their teeth daily.

In many cases, when you move to Japan and/or Korea and start eating their food, after a month or two, you stop being smelly to them and, usually, you will not smell them, either. Other people may still be prejudiced against you until they stand close to you and find out that you, in fact, do not exude any unpleasant aromas.

People of the Indian Subcontinent who eat lots and lots of food spiced up with curry, also seem to have a strong smell to those who do not eat curries. If you happen to live there for a long time, start eating curry and you will not notice the smell after a while.

There are also countries where people do not bathe every day. There are others whose people do not brush their teeth every day. There are countries where deodorants are not yet part of the culture. Their residents are so used to each others’ smell since their very childhood, that they simply do not notice it, whereas you may be able to suffer significantly if your nose has never smelt such an array of strong body and dental odors.

Sometimes, smelly stereotypes can prove to be false. Usually, people in many tropical countries bathe every day and use deodorants and smell very clean. Gulf Arabs are very clean and smell fresh for the most part. So are Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Some countries are poor, but the people smell good, and in some, richer countries people smell bad. In which ones? You will find out as you travel.

In going to countries where hygiene standards are different from yours, it may be a good idea to see if you can tolerate them and/or they can tolerate yours when choosing a dating or a marriage partner. They may have habits that you can find disgusting and vice versa and they /or you can emanate some odors that can ruin the relationship faster than anything else would.

The whole smell thing is an important part of your discovery of the world. Go and see if the human smell factor where you are going agrees with you. Some places may be OK and some, not so good. You will, after a while, either get used to it or leave the place in disgust to find some other culture where you don’t smell bad to the locals and they don’t smell bad to you.

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