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Spring is in the air here, which means warmer temperatures and shorter sleeves. This is generally a welcome change, but has its downside.

I read yesterday in a magazine that 80% of German women and 70% of German men use a deodorant. Not bad, but what this means is that approximately one in four does not. Not good. In winter this is not so tragic. Cooler temps and heavier clothing keep things at bay. Once things warm up, however, watch out. While I have no data to back this up, I would suspect there is also a pretty strong correlation between those not using deodorant and those who only take a shower, oh, when the urge hits them every fourth or fifth day. Worse, at the gym where I work out, I’ve observed that many of the men are in this no-deo minority, and tend not to wash their workout clothes terribly often. Wow, open that window!!!

While it feels a bit peevish to complain about body odor, when three fourths of us are not stinking it’s pretty hard to overlook the one fourth spreading the olfactory love, as it were. What do they think when they pass the massive deodorant section in a German drugstore? Oh, I don’t need that, or, I think I smell great?

This was one of the first things I noticed about Germany when I first visited in 1982. Back then, I would guess that deodorant usage in Germany was, at best, 30-40%. Our sense of smell is far more refined than we typically admit, and we tend to have a better memory for smells than we do for visual and aural inputs, so those impressions are pretty much etched in my brain whether I like it or not.

Given the trend toward more deodorant usage, I wonder how people here feel towards the remaining minority stinking it up. It’s certainly not something one talks about.


Written by Dale

May 5, 2009 at 3:49 am

Posted in German, Leipzig

3 Responses

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  1. Perhaps it’s just my silly American-ness, but wearing deoderant is akin to immunization: you do it for the better good of everyone.

    I wonder – these odor offenders — they have loved ones and partners and co-workers they spend close time with? Or are they lone wolves for a reason (they smell like one!)?


    May 5, 2009 at 7:29 am

  2. Is that common in other European countries? And do those who don’t use it go heavier on the cologne to mask body odor? My nose really dislikes heavy cologne use but I’m not sure what would be worse!


    May 7, 2009 at 9:02 am

  3. Well, based on my olfactory experiences in other nations, I would say, yes, it’s fairly typical in Europe, but I’m sure there are variances between nations.

    It is fairly common to cover the odor with colognes and perfumes, which is really horrid, since the combination is sort of sweet/acrid and can really overwhelm one.


    May 8, 2009 at 4:14 am

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