One shower a day for every Czech!

A report on the Czech hygiene situation

Every country has its own smells. Just take a train from, let’s say, Paris to Moscow and you’ll be fascinated not only to see the changing landscapes but also to experience different train cultures and new smells. You might pass through the Czech Republic on your way and find out that there is something peculiar in the air. It is the failed Czech hygiene project.

Actually, the overall hygiene situation seems satisfactory. Czechs do have all the utilities they need to keep clean. Flats and houses are equipped with modern toilets, bathrooms, running water – both hot and cold. Public toilets also exist and are equally distributed over the territory of the Czech Republic through the network of McDonald’s restaurants. Czechs have also gotten used to all these utilities and learned how to use them. Efficient campaigns have been held throughout this century to make us clean, healthy and shiny.

One example is a brochure from the communist fifties that illustratively explains the basics of practical hygiene. There you can read: "A boy, Kolya, is having a conversation with a comrade who has a bad smell coming from his mouth. Is that nice?" It is not only that the comrade is not aware of his bad breath, he is also surprised: "Why is Kolya turning his head away? What a pretentious boy." Yes, even comrades should brush their teeth. According to the same brochure, we have to change our socks and wash our feet regularly and wash our hair at least once a week.

"One shower a day for every Czech", comments Nicolas from Belgium on the situation fifty years later. The most critical and unpleasant aspect is the odours in public transport and the only cure until now was the weather conditions (we should be grateful for cold winters). A more active position was taken by the business world in the nineties trying to teach Czechs, especially men, to use deodorant. The capitalists were, of course, not interested in public welfare: they correctly saw a huge potential market. Reactions to this provocative campaign were quite harsh but revealed Czech ignorance concerning deodorant. Some interesting contributions appeared in an internet debate.

One Czech man expressed his fear of "even smellier trams" with the increasing usage of perfume that could occur after the campaign. Thus, he confused perfume with deodorant. Czech men are actually quite suspicious towards the use of deodorant because they think that using it could lead to the loss of parts of their masculinity.

Building democracy and capitalism were two great projects of the Nineties in the Czech Republic. Now it is time to do something about problems that have been neglected. For example, considerable progress could be made in making public transport areas pleasant places to be. The Czech government could serve as an example to the public. It could show that it is possible to make the step towards change and start using deodorant. We can only imagine what it smells like at their meetings, especially since all the ministers happen to be men. While they’re at it, they might as well let some women in. Deodorant and women into the government!

We may hear some Czechs and foreigners saying that Czechs are actually not such slobs and that, for example, Germans do not change their underwear too often or that the French tend to use perfume instead of showering. There may be grains of truth in these points of view but they play down the seriousness of the Czech hygiene situation and therefore have to be rejected. Let us rejoice for every Czech who takes a shower and uses deodorant.

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