Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Cleanliness in Asia

I've spent about six months each in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul, and there are some huge differences in cultural norms for personal hygiene and cleanliness between the East and the West. I picked up some good habits there, and look back now with filthy horror on certain breaches of sanitation that are considered normal here in the West. Here are three of the worst offenders:

1) Shoes in the house. Everywhere I've lived in Asia, you take your shoes off as soon as you enter the house. It makes a lot of sense - you've been walking around all day on god-knows-what, and if you then walk all over your home, you've brought all that stuff inside. Take your shoes off - your house will stay cleaner as a result.

2) Street-clothes on the bed. This one really bothers me now. I know tons of people in the States who will sit down in a disgusting city subway, lean back on a grimy seat at the movie theater, go hiking through a dusty forest, whatever, and the first thing they do when they get home is sit on the bed. I used to take naps after school/work still wearing street clothes, but would at least stay on top of the covers. Still gross. Before you get in bed, at the least, change your clothes, but preferably, you should shower.

3) Corollary to number two - suitcases on the bed. Holy crap! In the States, people will drag their suitcase through puddles on the street, stick it into the underbelly of an airplane for a trans-pacific jaunt, transfer it to the rank trunk of their car which hasn't been cleaned in months, and when they finally get to their destination, they'll unpack by putting that disgusting rolling case of biological mysteries on the bed that they're about to sleep in! Super nasty. According to a doctor friend of mine, this is also a hypothesis for how bedbugs spread from place to place.

Plenty of other examples exist, and there are certainly areas where the West does way better than the East (ahem, dental hygiene in China and Japan, especially male office workers, ahem). But if you want to make your home and bed a cleaner, more appealing place, this is a good place to start.

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