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Stinky or not Stinky

I recently read an article online written by a Japanese girl who claimed that Japanese and Koreans don’t need deodorant because they have a special gene that stops them from stinking.  When I thought about it, I realized the first year I was in Korea, initially, I found deodorant in the stores, but when winter came, there was no more deodorant in the stores.  I was pretty frustrated when my deodorant ran out and I couldn’t buy any more.  However, after time, the deodorant showed up in the stores again. It was only one brand, and it was spray. I had stopped using spray a long time ago to try to save earth’s atmosphere, but at least it was deodorant. I bought it and used it, but I felt guilty because I wasn’t used to using spray because I wanted to help save the planet.

After being without deodorant that winter, I stocked up in case they had no deodorant again.  When winter came, again, there was no deodorant in the stores again, so I decided that the Korean store owners had decided it was cold in the winter so no one needed deodorant, so they didn’t stock it. Eventually, they began carrying it year round, and after that, they got more than spray, but also roll on and stick.  They have more than one brand now too.

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In the beginning, this is the only brand of deodorant they had, and it was spray and only there part of the year. However, this is roll on, and you can find it year round now.
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This is a brand of stick deodorant that has recently shown up. I bought it because I was itching and wondered if I had developed an allergy to my deodorant, but I eventually realized it was allergies.  I went back to using the other kind because it works better. I found allergy pills to take care of my itchy problem.

I am relieved, but when I read the article by the Japanese girl, I wondered if there was any truth to it because it had been so hard to get deodorant. I went to my resident expert, my Korean son in law.  I asked him if he thought Koreans and Japanese had a special gene that caused them not to stink.  He said they didn’t have a special gene. He said that if he didn’t use deodorant, he smelled bad.  He has a masters degree, but he works in a job that requires labor, and he added that if the guys where he works don’t wear deodorant, they smell bad too.  He added, “It is especially so since we all eat what they eat in the west now.”  Then, he shut his door because he was wanting to go to sleep.

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That last statement got my attention.  When I was a student in Japan studying Cross-Cultural Communications, I had read in a book about some Japanese thinking the people from the west smelled bad because they ate beef and the Japanese didn’t.  I actually could tell no difference in the way anyone smelled.

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The Japanese are the cleanest people in the world. When I was in Japan, that was one of the reasons I fell in love with Japan. I have always been a cleaner person than most, and the some of the Japanese could almost outdo me.  When I was very small, my mother said I used to cry when I got my hands dirty.  I was one of those girls in high school who drove everyone crazy because I spent too much time in the shower.  It is just part of my makeup from the time I was born.  The Koreans and the Japanese are very much a like.  They both take their shoes off at the door. They eat similar food except for the Korean love for chili spice.  They both have public baths, and they are very adamant about clean water. They love to sit in hot tubs and soak. The water is so hot in Japan if a Japanese draws the bath that you can hardly get into the tub and can’t move around once you get in because it is so hot.  It leaves you very hot and very red, but all the germs are killed.

Koreans are like Japanese in that they get that nice hot bath or shower everyday like many of us Americans.  I have known people in other countries who don’t do that. My neighbor in Romania told me electricity was too expensive, so she just plugged her hot water heater in once a week and got a bath once a week. If the Romanians have a cold, they refuse to wash their hair saying  it will make their cold worse. When I lived in Nigeria, they rationed the water during the dry season.  I used to have to fill up the bathtub first thing in the morning to have water to use all day because I knew they would turn the water off.  If the Nigerian boys from the high school wanted to take a bath, they had to go to ponds that were down behind my house and wash in brown water. Since my family was in Morocco when I was growing up, we developed a saying for when we smelled bad. We would say, “You smell like an Arab.” Yes, we felt the Arabs smelled bad.  When the Japanese get out of the bath, there is never soap residue on them because they wash outside of the tub and let the water run down the drain in the middle of the floor.  They are actually clean before they ever get into that bath tub.   I was amazed at how clean the Japanese are when I was there, and I learned a lot about staying clean from them.  Their push for cleanliness is what makes me think that perhaps they just don’t smell bad because they are always washing themselves.

I thought about what the Japanese girl said in her article, and I think she is wrong. The Japanese and Koreans don’t have a special gene. The Japanese and Koreans don’t smell bad just because they are personally cleaner than people in other countries. I don’t know if what we eat can play a part in how we smell, but I guess it makes sense.  I am just happy that they sell a choice of deodorants year round in Korea now.

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