For as long as I can remember there has always been the undercurrent commentary and the crude jokes about “dirty” and “greasy” Mexicans. Not a day goes by when someone does not stereotype Mexicans as “lazy,” “dirty” or “gritty”. The City of El Paso even went so far as to pay a company to describe the Mexicans using these very words. (Glass Beach) It is a stereotype that I always questioned not because I am a Mexican citizen but from my plain observations since my childhood on through adult hood of those around me. I have had the benefit of spending time, sometimes in very close quarters, with individuals from many cultures in many different countries. When it came to hygiene, I always noticed that the stereotypes never melded with my observations.
Stereotypes are stereotypes because they have no reality as a basis but in fact are based on nothing more then fiction. Unfortunately, it is human nature to exaggerate or ignore the truth in order to make one person feel power over another. This is true from the individual on up to governments who perpetuate stereotypes for personal agendas.
That is why an article in The Atlantic caught my attention. The February 17, 2015 article, “How Often People in Various Countries Shower” by Olga Khazan discussed the hygiene habits of the people of various countries.
The article reference a Euromonitor poll from July 2014 asking how many times a person showers. The poll tabulated the results on a per country basis. According to the author’s interpretation, US citizens “are fairly average when it comes to hygiene” when compared to the other respondents. The article states that US citizens shower more than Chinese, the British and the Japanese, attesting that US citizens shower at least five days a week. The Brazilians and the Columbians take more than one shower a day, according to the author’s interpretation of the poll results.
The poll also revealed that people from Mexico shower a little over seven days a week, apparently, we shower more than once in a given day, and that we use shampoo every time we shower. This is more than US citizens, who use shampoo about four times a week.
This poll directly correlates with my own personal observations of various people from different countries and cultures. The article also reference a 2008 study by hygiene-products company SCA.
The thirty-four page report was very enlightening and further supported what my personal observations have been and proved the stereotypes to be completely wrong. The “Hygiene Matters; The SCA Hygiene Report 2008” states that people in “Russia, China and Mexico” are most worried about hygiene issues.
The report published various graphs detailing the results about hygiene from a survey of individuals in Australia, France, China, Germany, México, Russia, the UK, Sweden, and the USA. When asked about being “concerned about getting sick because of poor hygiene,” Mexicans overwhelmingly agreed showing a response rate of about 60%. The USA came in second at 30%.
Interestingly when asked if the respondents were “concerned about being infected” when in close proximity with other people, Mexicans were the least concerned showing a response rate of less than 10%. China, Germany and Sweden were the most concerned, according to the results of the survey.
The report goes on to show how Mexicans, of the countries included in the survey, clean their homes the most. The report reports that 80% of the Mexicans surveyed clean their homes at least twice a week. The US came in at sixth place of the countries in the survey.
According to the SCA report, almost 90% of the Mexican respondents shower at least once a day, higher than the 70% response rate of the US respondents. This correlates with my personal observations and those of the Euromonitor poll.
Clearly, the results of these two studies prove that the stereotypes perpetuated by the uninformed or the agenda-driven are wrong. Every time I try to have a discussion about the realities versus the stereotypes, the debate ends with the challenge to prove it. Today, I did just that.
For those interested in more details, I encourage you to Google the SCA report because it has more detailed information about the hygiene habits between gender and the different countries.