Smells and Cultures: Perceptions of the World
The smell is an important component in the reality construction for an individual and has an important role in a lot of areas. Smell is not just a biological and psychological experience, it is also a social and cultural phenomenon
Each of us perceive the odors differently depending on the countries and cultures from which we come and what we have lived. The perfume has been closely linked to the customs, culture and religion of the person who consumes it.
Odor is important in cross-cultural communication, for example, Arabs most often resort to smell to interact with people. When speaking, the Arabs do not feel sorry for the breath of the other person, to smell a friend is not only pleasant but desirable, hence refusing the breath is to reject it. The Arabs, per Edward Hall in his book The Hidden Dimension (1966), apparently recognize that there is a relationship between personal disposition and smell.
Intermediaries who arrange an Arab marriage often ask to smell the alleged candidate, and if it does not smell well they reject it, not so much based on an aesthetic question, but because they find in it a residual smell due to anger or discontent. Arab men may also wear perfumes: they use rose and aloe wood behind their ears, on their nostrils, in their beards and in the palms of their hands. The most complex aesthetics of scent are to be found in Arab countries, where women use a wide range of scents to perfume different parts of their bodies. In the United Arab Emirates, musk, rose and saffron are first rubbed over the entire body (which must be scrupulously clean).
Hair is perfumed with a blend of walnut or sesame oil and ambergris or jasmine. The ears are scented with Khamriya, blend of aloe wood, saffron, rose, musk and civet. Ambergris and narcissus are among the scents used on the neck, sandalwood in the armpits and aloe wood on the nostrils. Perfumes are only used, however, in private situations, when a woman is in the company of other women, or of her husband and close family. To wear perfume in public or in the company of men is to be ‘like an adulteress’.
Americans on the other hand are accustomed to not breathing in the face of the other. American people for example, are very concerned about eliminating or disguising body odors. These are eliminated to give way to some synthesized odors in laboratories and without that hormonal load that describes the state in which the human body is. In general, almost all cultures tend towards this position.
Western and European culture tend to cover their body or natural odors, using perfumes that also demonstrate the opulence and economic and social power, in cases they use perfumes made with pheromones that will make people feel attracted by the person who uses them said perfume.
Asians, on the other hand, do not use too strong perfumes or products that mask their body odor. Its smell is not usually the finest, this is due in large measure to the use of the cigarette. But not all cultures are so anti-scent.
.In India, the traditional affectionate greeting – equivalent of the Western hug or kiss – was to smell someone’s head. An ancient Indian text declares “I will smell thee on the head, that is the greatest sign of tender love”.
In Bali, when lovers greet each other, they breathe deeply into a kind of friendly sniff. Among the components of the Kanum tribes in southern New Guinea, when two good friends separate, the one who stays, sometimes touches the friend who stays in the armpit, to take in the air of the smell of him and strengthen him same.