Ew La La! New Poll Sullies French Reputation for Personal Hygiene

An new poll indicates nearly a quarter of all French people bathe every other day--or even once per week. Though the minority, those grubby few may suffice to reinforce Anglo-American stereotypes of an ill-scrubbed France.

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image: Woman having shower, close-up of hand and sponge on shoulder
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It isn’t news likely to upend enduring Anglo-Saxon stereotypes regarding the French. According to a new poll, nearly one fifth of all French people say they don’t wash every day, with 3.5% avoiding soap and water more than once a week. So much for obliterating the decades-old Anglais claim that “the French don’t bathe”.

The study also found about 20% of French people surveyed admitted they don’t wash their hands before dining, and more than 12% forego the trip to the sink after using les toilettes. By contrast, over 86% said they do wash their hands as a prerequisite to preparing a meal.

(MORE: François Hollande Says He’ll Ban Homework for French Students)

Findings in the BVA poll for hygiene product manufacturer Tork won’t do much to undermine the enduring — and outdated — American and English preconceptions of the French as being a tad nonchalant when it comes to the old corporal sponge-down. That malodorous reputation took root in the ancient French preference for dousing themselves with perfume or cologne rather than with soap and water when body smell began putting a hurt on the nose.

That notorious hygienic reputation was more recently reinforced by the post-war combination of cramped spaces and slowed urban reconstruction that forstalled the arrival of full-service bathrooms in private dwellings until well after they’d become an integral part of domestic life in the U.S. and U.K.  That differing evolution — and the abundant use of garlic in cooking  — produced a generation of midcentury American and British tourists who’d return home from their otherwise glorious continental visits to report that the French were particularly malodrous.

(MORE: ‘Old-Person Smell’ Really Exists, Scientists Say)

They don’t any longer — or at least no more or less than members of any other modern society. Yet that won’t prevent eyebrows abroad from arching haughtily in response to the BVA study. Though nearly 75% of its respondents say they bathe every day, what’ll be remembered are the 20% who reported hitting the tiles every other day, and the 3.5% who only do so but once every week. Despite their efforts to save national pride, the 11.5% who said they wash more than once daily will scarcely make a dent on prevailing global prejudices.

The same is true regarding manual hygiene. Though 21.4% of French respondents told pollsters they wash their hands at least 10 times per day, 20% of people admitted failing to do so before eating. Another 55% said they neglect such ablutions after taking public transport (despite 45% of people who described riding in subways and buses “the dirtiest part of daily life”). Fully 12.5% admitted they fail to wash up after using the toilet — even ickier considering that 30% of people said they scrub their toilets once per day.

(MORE: Sorry, France: Bill Clinton Can’t Be Your Next President)

But if the rest of the world may continue holding its nose at the supposedly soiled French, les Français may soon be returning the favor. Some French reports on the survey note that France still scores higher in hygiene than all other European nations — including the meticulous Germans. Similarly, a 2011 study indicated French men and women spend more time in the bathroom each morning in preparation for the day than their European neighbors. The problem is, that survey didn’t confirm that time in the bathroom was spent lathering up.

MORE: Can Your Smelly Shirt Help You Land a First Date?

58 comments
edwig
edwig

You know how to get a Frenchman out of his bath ?  ... Put water in it !

captbill98
captbill98

It is interesting how most of the people objecting to thee fact that the French are  filthy pigs are themselves French.  The idiot who wrote that he needs to preserve body oils is so ridiculous that he should be a stand up comment.  Basic hygiene dictates that you wash your coli contaminated hands after defecating, unless the French don't wipe their asses.  That would explain somewhat why they smell so badly.  I have been to France four times, but after the first time I pack my nose with Tiger Balm to kill the smells of all those unwashed bodies.  After reading these comments, I'll bring canned food with me or eat in Jewish restaurants.  The Jews are commanded by their holy book to wash their hands after going to the toilet and before preparing a meal or sitting down to eat.  That is common sense and good hygiene.  Also, science has proven that the major transmission of diseases can be prevented by thorough washing of the hands.

captbill98
captbill98

The people of France stink.  If you ever got on an elevator with one of them you would know that.  Why do you think they invented perfume?  And the reason they spend so much time in the toilet is because they are so full of crap, and they think that their crap doesn't stink, so why should they wash after defecating.  Add all the muslims in France and you have a pot of smelly, stinky, coli ridden fanatics who have deluded themselves into believing that they are cultured.  They are cultured like buttermilk and sour cream.  A pathetic lot of fools living on their past reputation.

jgrietveld
jgrietveld

@Olivier_lacroix It does explain something... ;)

Olivier_lacroix
Olivier_lacroix like.author.displayName 1 Like

@jgrietveld It doesn't at all ! French people are clean, smart, clean (again) and pretty coool :p #QuiEstAvecMoi? :P

Shimmana
Shimmana

Americans can sometimes have a hangup about personal hygiene. Not always necessary to have a shower every day. Washing hands is another matter. If one eats a clean diet without a lot of meat and fried foods body odor isn't as obnoxious. Sometimes I think one can be too clean, which does not allow the body to retain any of it's natural oils, that help us stay warm in winter.

detroitmommy
detroitmommy

I was on the metro once in Paris, the last ride of the night. I honestly thought I would faint, the smell was that bad. I just kept thinking "yep, it's definitely true!".  But one thing about the French. There are not many overweight people. I've smelled just as many overweight American's.. just not all in once place. 

SKB1957
SKB1957

I lived in sub-Saharan Africa for two years. Hygiene...ha!

Astrogal
Astrogal

Oh, please, how about doing this same study on Brits or Americans? I bet the numbers would be very similar. I am American and - gasp - I shower every other day. And while I do wash my hands often, there are also many, many people that don't do so after using the bathroom. There are many polls done here to confirm it. This is totally biased.

chicago_babs29
chicago_babs29

I've been around PLENTY of Americans who have bad hygiene also!!!

The French don't have the market cornered on smelling bad!!!

chicago_babs29
chicago_babs29

I've been around plenty of Americans who smell also!!!

Lexe
Lexe

The French think that having some BO is sensual. I do not agree. As the old commercial says "clean is sexy"

Mara Tam
Mara Tam

There is an American obsession with showering.. Do you really get that dirty in a day?  Washing hair every day?  No wonder there are so many creams out there for dry skin.   How about some sponge baths, and relaxing a bit.  You're just supporting the bath/cosmetic/shampoo industry.

Kevin Simmons
Kevin Simmons

Yecch you sound nasty.

Shimmana
Shimmana

 There is nothing wrong with what Mara Tam says.

 Americans tend to be over clean.

tessaprn
tessaprn

 I'm a nurse and you can bet I bathe daily.  As soon as I hit my front door straight to the shower.  One does not need a shower just because they sweat.  Sometimes you just need to get rid of nastiness you collect from others.  Take a bath.

Gary Murchake
Gary Murchake

And in Japan Anglo's are concidered dirty for not taking off their shoes in a house, not showering before bathing and many other things, what exactly is really your point?  Defferent cultures? What about the Spanish? Albanian's?  How about the people of Angola?  Please, Time/CNN if you have nothing educated to write about put up an advertisment or leave a blank page...

BjammindD
BjammindD

So, you're point is that different people's from different places have differing views on the value and nature of cleanliness.

Odd, I thought that was what the article was about....

howlsmovingrascal
howlsmovingrascal

"By contrast, over 86% said they do wash their hands as a prerequisite to preparing a meal."  

....So 14% DON'T wash their hands before preparing a meal.  How was this in "contrast" to the 2 facts posted prior to this sentence? 

yahoo-HCJYDYZF7B2Q2XB4SCSZKIUZ6I
yahoo-HCJYDYZF7B2Q2XB4SCSZKIUZ6I

American have a horrid obsession with bathing.  If you do not do heavy physical labor for a living there is no need for most people to immurse themselves in gallons of water everyday or twice a day!  It is a terrible waste of resources to think that every person on the earth needs a bath or a shower in order to be considered clean!

AaronSE1
AaronSE1

If people start holding their nose around you or just avoiding you after one good whiff, you'll know it's better to be wasteful and take to the soap and water.

Jeremiah Hampton
Jeremiah Hampton

If you live in a place like Phoenix, AZ.... where it reaches 110+ in the summer and has 100+ temps for a6 months a year,... showering daily is important

retphxfire
retphxfire

As a resident of Phoenix...you are sooooo right.  Consider, too, the fact that so many wear sandals and other open shoes for months in the summer (here we wear them year round), the germs and filth on our feet by the end of the day could drop a horse.  Then go to bed...ewwwwww.  Another 'for instance': I have horrible allergies, my allergist said I should shower every night in order to rinse off the pollen and dust before going to bed. 

BjammindD
BjammindD

And yet its hard to argue that those that do prefer to bathe daily are less clean than those that don't.

Is it required? No. Does it improve your natural smell? Yes, if only because the perfumes in most bathing products wear off after 4-8 hours and they are largely masking most people's natural scent (which in most cases is actually not terribly pleasant)

Randall "texrat" Arnold
Randall "texrat" Arnold

Too broad a comment.  Some have issues with excessive skin oil or other problems that DO require frequent washing.

revdrdark
revdrdark

Like a lot of neckbeards here in the USA aren't worse. CNN loves to reinforce negative stereotypes almost as much as Faux News.

Manyote69
Manyote69

For a reason they created Pepe Le Pew as a French skunk.

Kevin Simmons
Kevin Simmons

The French are disgusting. Both in hygiene and morals. 

Mara Tam
Mara Tam

Kevin, look in the mirror

Kevin Simmons
Kevin Simmons

Whatever, smelly. Go wash your greasy hair dirtball

Briffault1977
Briffault1977

Yeah, and Americans are sooooo much better.

tessaprn
tessaprn

 Well we do bath!  At least the majority!

Robert Harvey-Kinsey
Robert Harvey-Kinsey

I can easily handle being around those bathing once ever other day. I can tolerate being near those who bathe once a week. Not washing after using the restroom or before preparing the food is downright dangerous. These are to very different things. The first has to do with the tolerance I have for the natural odors of  another human being, it is my personal preference. The second is an essential public health strategy that prevents the spread of illness.

Randall "texrat" Arnold
Randall "texrat" Arnold

Freaks me out how many men I see enter a restroom, wash their hands, defecate, and then just leave.  Really???

Mary Peterson
Mary Peterson

Aside from that, multiple studies actually claim that washing your hands in a public bathroom is far worse than going without washing.  Assuming of course you aren't rubbing your hands all over yourself...

Jeremiah Hampton
Jeremiah Hampton

how does washing your hands make it dirtier?  I tend to use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door before i throw it in the trash

evilguppy
evilguppy

The writer of this imbecilic piece of drivel must have been dumped by too many French women.  

Mary Peterson
Mary Peterson

 Actually the French are onto something anyway if this is true more so

than any other country.  Using soap from the store is actually DETERGENT

not soap and using it more than a few times a week can damage skin, age

it early and can help clog pores.  Granted, I don't necessarily not

bathe at all (I'm allergic to "soap" anyway, the solidifying agent) and

no one tells me I stink but I use deodorant too. In fact, a lot of

American soaps off the shelves at least have multiple things soap

doesn't even need. Find a good handmade soap maker, using lye to create

a reaction is the safest soap you can get without all the other crap,

fillers and stuff that can actually hurt your skin.

BjammindD
BjammindD

Not true, lye based soaps can be very hard on your skin. A decent natural, fruit and vegetable based non-soap cleanser is the best way to go. Pure lye based soaps are very safe and contain no harsh chemicals but can dry out your skin badly.

For Shampoo you have to be careful, most contain harsh chemicals even if they are derived from a natural/organic source. Washing your hair every other day is a very good idea and condition at least once a week but not more than 3 times.

Raevyn
Raevyn

Most modern handmade soap makers superfat their soaps with things like shea butter or sweet almond oil so they are not hard on your skin and are, in fact, very moisturizing.  If it isn't made with lye, it's not soap.

tessaprn
tessaprn

 Just because someone does not say you stink does not mean you don't.

Simps0n
Simps0n

In other words, the French are more honest when being surveyed.

mpouxesas
mpouxesas

You're on to something too here :). But I can't help but notice...(i still remember from the college years) that many of us here in the US, we...run around all day long, sweating and all, then go to bed 'as is' to wake up the next morning, shower, and start our day, to only go on running around, sweating, etc, to again, go back to our bed, sleep on 'clean sheets' and ...oh brother...

BjammindD
BjammindD

You are absolutely right, showering before bed and in the morning is the way to go.

Is it hugely wasteful in a global sense? Absolutely.

Is it extremely pleasant? Yes.

MN_15
MN_15

This has to be one of the dumbest "news" stories I've ever read.  What percentage of American men wash their hands after going to the bathroom?  According to my husband, not very many.