Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

The birth of a film industry: Hollywood and World War I

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Accusations of terrorism are false', says Qatar's foreign minister

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Philando Castile's death poses questions that still need answering'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Costco piles products high to lure French consumers

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

When it's hot, how much skin can you show at work?

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Top South African court okays secret ballots in Zuma no-confidence vote

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Paris Air Show: Big plane builders face increasing competition

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Brexit opens door for Macron to push for greater European integration

Read more

THE DEBATE

Macron's marching orders: New French president's first EU summit

Read more

France

French are the cleanest in Europe, study finds

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2012-08-10

Despite a persistent negative stereotype about French hygiene practices - which at least one historian says has a ring of truth - a study has found that the French may actually be more fastidious than their European neighbours.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then the French – and especially French women – are among the most saintly in Europe, according to a 2010 study.

Confounding certain longstanding negative stereotypes, a survey by US consulting firm United Minds for Tena (a Swedish manufacturer of personal hygiene products) found that 97% of women in France feel ill at ease going out without having washed their hands or brushed their teeth, compared to 84% of Germans.

And 94% of them feel uncomfortable leaving the house if they have not showered, as opposed to only 74% of women in Britain.

The poll also found that the French dedicate more time to the pursuit of cleanliness, with French men spending 35 minutes a day on attending to personal hygiene and women taking an average of 46 minutes – more than all other European countries.

It was not always thus: of those surveyed in France, 42% of men and 45% of women said they are more attentive to their cleanliness now than they were a decade ago.

A historically negative image

According to historian Georges Vigarello, a specialist in hygiene, the recent improvements are down to a growing conception that people are defined by their bodies, rather than by what they do with them.

But this does not explain why the French have suffered from a somewhat negative reputation in terms of their personal hygiene practices, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries.

Vigarello conceded that historically there was a grain of truth to these assumptions, but noted that it applied only to the poorer classes and “not to the nobility or the bourgeoisie”.

“If you compare London and Paris in the 18th and 19th centuries, the hygiene situation for the poor and the working classes was equally deplorable,” he told FRANCE 24.

“But in England, the development of a decent water supply infrastructure happened much earlier than in France, so ordinary people in British cities began to wash more. A visitor to France in the mid- to late 19th century would have noticed the difference.”

For Vigarello, the good news is that standards have improved everywhere.

“Even if the French are slightly ahead, the standards of personal hygiene in the 21st century are pretty much the same in all European countries,” he said.

Date created : 2011-06-28

  • FRANCE

    Seven hospitalised in E.coli outbreak in Bordeaux

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Exam cheats send education system into turmoil

    Read more

COMMENT(S)