Hygiene Overseas

Friends, Readers, and (perhaps) countrymen, lend me your ears!

In my time away from the United States… I have discovered something: the difference in bathroom habits and hygiene overseas is amazing… and often amusing.

At the risk of offending Brazilians, Americans, and citizens of additional countries, I have decided to share what I have learned. Prepare yourselves, because the stuff that follow is going to blow your mind.

FACT #1: Brazilians are hygienic… super hygienic

I remember when I was in Brazil back in 2008. I was working in a humanitarian aid / missions program, and I noticed the Brazilian guys were generally very conscious of their bodies… brushing their teeth between meals, taking multiple showers per day, and trimming their beards meticulously. This past year in Brazil has affirmed this initial assessment.

What’s more, I hear tell from a Portuguese friend (from Portugal, y’all) that Brazilians do take considerably better care of their teeth than the Portuguese, which is interesting, since both people groups share a language and many customs.

Portuguese Smile

Portuguese man smiling (note missing teeth, in first image to appear on a Google Search)

For those interested in research (and reading Portuguese), there was a recent study comparing various countries that found Brazil to be the most “hygienic” in the sense of Brazilian citizens’ washing their hands more than people in other countries. To see read a news article about this, click HERE.

FACT #2 Being “hygienic” doesn’t always equal being clean

Brazilians may be hygienic, but they are also famous for littering.

While Curitiba (where I am located) has a good rep compared to São Paulo and Rio, people in Curitiba still seem pretty ignorant or dismissive of the effects of littering.

For example, just today, while I was waiting in line for a bus (cause I do that a lot) I saw someone behind me throw a popsicle wrapper on the ground. WHAT?! The dude opened the popsicle, licked/ate/slurped it, and then dropped the wrapper IN FRONT OF a police station. And to top it all off, this guy could have thrown the wrapper away, into a bus trash can, had he waited for another two minutes. Come on, man, really?

FACT #3: Not all Brazilians have the same norms of cleanliness

In North America, a foreigner would be mistaken to make a generalization about all Americans based on his or her experience in a given region. For example, some people in Canada speak French, but its mostly a Quebec thing. Some people in Midwest make flan, but it’s mostly a Central American thing. Some people in the Southwest US cook Meth, but its mostly a… Missouri… thing.

The point is: Just as habits in North America differ, so do habits in Brazil.

Some Brazilians are not very conscious of cleanliness and some are extremely conscious. People here tell me that in the hotter Brazilian States people take more showers because they sweat more. Makes sense, but there is probably someone who lives there who is an exception. Also, people say that in Bahia (a Brazilian State north of Rio) everyone is lazy. Tell that to the CEO who makes hard-earned money directing his family’s business.

I say that to say this: I have known German-Brazilians (the majority of which live in Southern Brazil) to be the most neat and clean of anybody I have met in the world. As a relative of mine with German blood would readily admit, not all Germans are neat, but neatness is the rule with Germans. One piece of evidence to support this statement (based on my experience) is what I found in a Mennonite church’s bathroom. Yes, I took a picture in the bathroom.

Mennonite Urinal Accessories

Behold: Mennonite Urinal Accessories

The items in the above photo are located next to each of the urinals in an unnamed Mennonite church in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil. I wanted a close up to help you notice that there are TWO different cleaning agents offered to users of the urinal, hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Without going into too much detail… just imagine how much sense this makes! Now, I know this section is more for guys, but gals can also appreciate this. Just hear me out: You go to the urinal and unzip, you use the urinal, and what do you do next? You DON’T zip up. You DON’T hit flush. No, no, no, you SANITIZE your hands, and THEN hit flush.

But what’s the toilet paper for?

Thank you, ladies, for asking, because guys already know.

The toilet paper is for WIPING the urinal after it’s been used. That curly hair hanging out on the porcelain and those drops of freshly-squeezed orange juice can be wiped away, like a vanilla-scented memory. In terms of bathroom innovation, this is literally brilliant.

What’s the lesson? Be like me — wipe when you pee. Or wipe whenever you visit the loo, whatever number you do. It’s just uncommon courtesy.

This the end of the post for today. But before I go I want to leave you with some bathroom humor.

Seriously, if you are in the mood for a laugh about bathroom-related things, then click on the links below.

Until Next Time!

YouTube (Start at 3:49)

Vimeo (Use full screen mode to read subtitles)

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