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Why don’t French people wear deodorant?



(asked by David L. from Miami)

Ask a FrenchmanThis is one of the very first posts from the original Ask a Frenchman blog that I’m republishing here today.

It was from a series of very stereotypical questions that my friend David L. from Miami had asked me partly as a joke, partly as help to launch the blog.

So, why don’t French people wear deodorant?

Truth is, that to my knowledge most French people do wear deodorant.
I won’t say that everybody does, that would be a lie, but most urban people do.

I know, if you’ve been to Paris at some point in your life and you’ve taken the metro, especially during rush hour, you may have had an unpleasant encounter – especially if you’re short – with a stinky armpit.
But it’s more the exception than the norm.
However, I must admit that some French deodorants are a bit weak (especially when you compare to the hardcore ones that can be found in Florida for example – they need to be very strong over there) and at the end of a hot busy day, if you had to wear a jacket or so all day, deodorant or not, it may be a good idea to take a shower after work.

Now this question, which is a modernized version of the “French people don’t bathe” stereotype is a very interesting one in my opinion. As I’ve mentioned before, most stereotypes about France that one can find in the US (and later exported later to the rest of the English speaking world?) come from right after WWII when GIs were stationed in France. It was a time right after France had been occupied by Nazi Germany for four years, when everything was rationed and everybody was deprived of many things, and yes at that time it was more important to save the little water people had to drink and to cook rather than to bathe. Especially because most French houses didn’t have running water before the late 40’s if I’m not wrong.



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