Smelly French or Americans?

Why Americans visiting France always stereotyping French as smelly and unwashed?.I have been there countless times and in my view is the other way around.I agree there are more people per squqre kilometer in Europe and one has to ineract with people daily ,subway, banks etc, and streets are very crowded in summer time with tourists from all over.But I don’t think native French are the ones to blame ,you know who smells the most- those same tourists who walk all day long in the heat who smell the worst(americans) :wink:

Riiiiiiight! That would explain the fact that people in every other country in Europe think the French smell too.

Just accept the fact that France has the lowest per capita consumption of soap on the continent, hold your nose, and go on about your day. :smiley:

Well, when I was in France (and more so, specifically, Paris) everybody smoked; enough so that I honestly would not enjoy going back.

Paris - I was 21, it was springtime (well, allright, September, but a warm day).

Sitting at a cafe table, watching people, explaining to the English tourists that shouting “water” at the waiter won’t help.

She heard me speak English, (and my horrible French) and came up to me. Strawberry blonde, 5’8 or a little taller, imagine Nicole Kidman but with a much better figure - black sweater, black stockings, black mini skirt and black beret. Freckles, green eyes. Devasting smile. She said she wanted to practice her English - her American accent in particular. She smiled. She sat down. She leaned close.

She reeked.

God awful. BO. Cheap cigarettes. Too much perfume. Garlic. You could smell her dirty hair. And I am not sure, but there might have been dog shit on her stillettos - at least I hope that’s what it was.

For one instant, I had every young man’s dream. For one instant. Then, it was gone. Just like that.

That was my last time in Paris. My last time in France.

C’est la vie.

::applause:: Best short story I’ve read in a long time.

My aunt Louise once told me that we yanks are the world’s most overwashed people in the world, that we’re obsessed with smelling like anything but humans. Maybe she was right. We’re suckers for ads that make us fear dandruff, dust, body odor, skin oil, and the dreaded body odor. Those fears sell products, of course, and perhaps that means that America’s advertisers are the world’s best. However, I wonder sometimes just how real, natural, and sensible our ad-driven lifestyle is.

I think this isn’t a question with a factual answer. There does seem to be one fact that stands out. When it is desired to arouse a prejudice against a particular group, just claim that they “small bad.”

At least they can still smoke while drinking coffe or beer, unlike here in N.America paranoid people will give you dirty look or call police if you smoke in bar.

If the French really do, collectively, bathe less than anyone else in Europe, do we know WHY?

They have soap and water there. It’s not like they have to walk 5 miles to the nearest water hole and carry water in jugs back to their huts every day.

So why?

The key word in that sentence is “if”. Personal anecdotes do not a cite constitute.

France is the world’s third largest cosmetics market. Cite. French spent 12.1 billion on cosmetics in 2003 versus 45.4 billion for the US. That's about 200 per person in France and about 155$ per capita in the US.

But that’s for all cosmetics, you say, what about soap and deodorant? There’s plenty of info out there, unfortunately I don’t have 800$ to spare on a market report. From this PDF about global soap consumption.

(Emphasis mine.)

Of course, the above doesn’t prove much. However, this is GQ and we need to bring some actual data into this discussion.

Those French people who do not bathe daily believe that daily washing damages the skin and hair, drying them out and causing blemishes. They may be right.

Oh well, if you’re going to be picky. :rolleyes:

nonpolar, GQ is for factual questions. Your question belongs in IMHO.

I’ll move this to IMHO for you.

General Questions Moderator

My French teacher in high school related this. She was spending a whole year (or maybe half year) in France learning french and was living with a host family. She continued her American habit of showering every single day. She noticed that her hosts acted weird about it until they eventually came up to her and told her that water was very expensive and asked to cut down on her showering.

That would have been in the early 80s not sure if water costs have gone down since then.

Unfortunatly all I can offer is my own opinions and not any hard facts and figures, nor the opinions of my old French teacher.

I’ve been living here for 7 years now and naver knew of this smell belief until I joined this board. Since then I have yet to encounter the hoards smelly French but I’m sure they’re around the next corner!

I do know that growing up in Ireland, everyone was expected to bathe once weekly and a lot of homes in the countryside at least didn’t always have showers installed. Heating water meant getting a good fire going (not everyone in the 70’s had home heating either) so it was mostly a weekly experience as opposed to daily. Of course things have changed in Ireland and maybe likewise here in France. Any g/f I’ve had here (4) took a shower daily. If she was rushed in the morning and couldn’t then she normally took one in the evening instead.

I don’t think it is a quetion of soap either. It seems strange that anyone, from any country in Europe would wash themselves with just water as I reckon that building up a later would take some time!
So I’m going to remain unconvinced and continue to beieve what I smell before my nose unless someone can show me a little proof :slight_smile:

Oh, and a cite of some sort would be cool.

This is yet another attempt at a put-down by insular and self-professed superior Yanks against another culture that they just don’t understand and that they won’t take the time and effort to try to understand. Gawd, but it’s tedious to read comments herein about the supposed faults of a culture that has it hands over tits in sophistication compared to the Seppos.

Give it a rest.

Your way is not necessarily the best or the only way. If you could see beyond your reflecting teeth in the mirror, you could understand the shallowness and superficiality that lurks behind the up-front image that you so willingly project.

What a stuffed-up world we live in when we let smell govern our judgement. :frowning:

I’ve been to France quite a few times and I can’t honestly say I noticed a problem; they do like their garlic and onions (and indeed strong, hearty food flavours generally), so it isn’t unusual to catch a whiff of these and they do like their strong cigarettes, the odour of which does tend to linger longer and smell worse when stale.

But body odours and uncleanliness, I didn’t notice (maybe that says something about ME).

In various threads in the past (particularly, but not exclusively, recent ones about circumcision and vaginal odour), I have noticed hints that there might be a slightly elevated uptightness, in some Americans, about people smells - so maybe it’s just the contrast.

However, there is something about the French that seems to motivate them to squeeze a little more personal pleasure out of life (within the scope of eating, drinking and being merry), so maybe this would tend to downplay the mundane ablutions, just a little, but as I say, I haven’t noticed anything of that sort.

Politically correct or not to say this, but every time I’ve taken the metro this summer I’ve either had to move away from sour, sawdusty-smelling frenchman or I’ve gotten a death-ray-worthy blast as one has passed by. Sorry, the French just don’t find body odor as offensive as Americans and they just don’t worry about it as much. Call it a cultural thing, but don’t try to suggest the Americans are projecting the body-odor problem on the French to feel superior. Personally, I’d just like to be able to take the metro without my toenails curling. To further the cultural thing, I once had a nice french girlfriend who told me I was wearing too much deodorant, I didn’t need to use it EVERY day - I was supposed to smell like a man! :eek: I said, what Brut 33 isn’t what a man smells like? Apparently she preferred something else. Ahem, well, that relationship didn’t last…

I know I generalize, and I’m not anti-French having lived in Paris for more than 10 years, but facts is facts and the smelly ones on the metro ain’t wearin’ reeboks and speakin’ American. Face it. And it has nothing to do with superiority.

This sounds like an urban legend, as I’ve heard it a few times from different sources and the story is more or less the same. Nevertheless if it is actually true, I’d say that the cost of water has nothing to do with it - but the electricity or natural gas needed to heat up the water might have been the issue since it was, and still is, relatively expensive.

By the way, I’d say this has completely changed in Paris. Most people do shower every day, especially the younger generation, but I have no cite or proof. Just a sense I have.


As a non-American, I do find that many, many Americans do indeed wear too much perfume, aftershave, and deodorant. Note that this isn’t something I find to be exclusively American but it is something I need to get used to when I visit the states. On the other hand my experiences of Paris are much more along Mangetout and Ponster’s line than Powers106’s. Just goes to show how perceptions differ.