A New World Odor

My nose knows no bounds when it comes to smells. I’m like a human Bloodhound. Because of that, I am hyper-sensitive to bad odors. I have almost vomited on more than a few occasions when I pass by someone who has a foul smell. In addition to that, I tend to judge someone by their smell and use this to decide whether he or she is worthy of my friendship. How people smell is something that they can control, and it is a good indicator of how well they take care of themselves.

I understand that everyone is going to have a time or two when they have body odor. However, B.O. shouldn’t be an ongoing thing. It is something that is controllable if a person does what is necessary. Having stated that, my feelings on the subject, I have to tell you that body odor is a big problem in certain societies, namely the one in which I am living in right now. Here in Taiwan, smelling bad isn’t something that is seen as a bad thing. It just isn’t necessary to always try and smell good. I chalk this up to a low set of social skills for the Taiwanese people, as social development isn’t a part of their education on any level. Beyond daily showers, nothing is done about squelching body odor problems here.

On a daily basis, I am blasted with others’ foul body smells. Because I am a high school teacher here, in a country that doesn’t have showers for after-PE classes; I experience the terrible ordeal of being in a classroom of up to sixty students who reek from B.O. It isn’t sweat, either. Although, that makes up the vast majority of the bad smells. It is something beyond that. Without trying to be graphic, I must state that part of the offensive smell comes from other body fluids as well.

Again, this is a problem for me – not them. They are entirely used to being around the foul smells and see no problem with it. They see no reason to change what they’re doing (or not doing) to smell better. It is customary for Taiwanese to take showers at night, and then sleep in their beds, sweating until morning (because most of them don’t use air-conditioning). In that manner, they arrive at school in the morning, already beginning to stink. Also, things like deodorants, antiperspirants, and perfumes are never used.

Furthermore, when I spray an air-freshener in my classroom, they complain that it smells terrible. Quite the contrary, as they are what smells terrible. They’re just too used to their own stenches to realize that the other smells, of vanilla, roses, or jasmine, are actually pleasant.

I hope that behaviors will change here with time. I would like to see a nice-smelling citizenry here in Taiwan. Their neighbors to the north, the Japanese, are very focused on smelling good. It would serve Taiwan well to learn from Japan’s example. A little social education, if implemented correctly, would do wonders here.

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