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Author Topic: How People of Different Races Smell
Eleanor
The First USA Noel


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I recently read the book It's the Little Things: The Everyday Interactions That Get under the Skin of Blacks and Whites by Lena Williams. In it, she said that white people with wet hair often smell like wet dogs to black people, and that black people often smell like sour milk to white people.

I have never heard this. When I lived in Memphis, almost all of my friends and coworkers were black -- we joked about interracial quirks and friction, and smell was never mentioned. I have never been reminded of sour milk by a black person's smell.

However, it seems that many people do experience this phenomenon. Why do you think someone might have a certain aroma to a person of a different race? How often does this happen? I once heard that Westerners smell bad to Asians because of all the meat in our diet, which makes sense. (Of course, I have no idea how true it is.)

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Four Kitties
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SO, who is black, says he loves how my hair smells when it's wet. And I, who am white, love how he smells. [Big Grin]

OTOH I lived with an alcoholic for 10 years -- the litter boxes smell better than he did. [Razz]

Four Kitties

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Eleanor:
Why do you think someone might have a certain aroma to a person of a different race? How often does this happen?

I think Indians smell like curry or ginger, but you can easily figure out why that is. [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by Eleanor:
I once heard that Westerners smell bad to Asians because of all the meat in our diet, which makes sense. (Of course, I have no idea how true it is.)

First half true, second half false. Westerners smelled bad to the Japanese because Westerners never bathed while the Japanese are scrupulous about bathing. ETA: The Japanese eat meat, particular fish (think sushi). And there's always Kobe beef...

Meat doesn't make you smell bad -- vegetarian farts still smell bad.

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Eleanor
The First USA Noel


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Jason: As the best friend of a vegan who has known me too long to be polite, I concur. [Razz]

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Dr. Van Thorp
Deck the Malls


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Some black women use really awful-smelling hair-care products. There might be other hygene products, cologns, etc, that are more commomly used by one race than another.

There was a guy on Howard Stern's show who claimed to be able to identify people's races by smell while blindfolded. His demonstration of his abilities was not very impressive.

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rotten little boys
The Red and the Green Stamps


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So what do people with one black and one white parent smell like? [fish]

I have been around other races, black, white, Indian and Native Americans. I only noticed food smells, personal care products and if someone had not bathed in awhile.

ETA: Parents! I meant Parents!

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Bach_girl
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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"Westerners smelled bad to the Japanese because Westerners never bathed while the Japanese are scrupulous about bathing." ~~ Says Jason...


WTF?

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tagurit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
Meat doesn't make you smell bad -- vegetarian farts still smell bad.

Hmmmm... I was at a party a few years ago. I was sitting waiting for my friend to come back and overheard two vegetarians talking about how disgusting meateaters smell. Their voices were filled with contempt, let me tell you.

So I'd say maybe not all vegetarians think omnivores smell, but I'm sure that some do.

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rotten little boys
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by IM(BOO)IKANT:
"Westerners smelled bad to the Japanese because Westerners never bathed while the Japanese are scrupulous about bathing." ~~ Says Jason...


WTF?

Compared to the Japanese, most other people in the world are filthy. They have special shoes to wear to the bathroom and only in the bathroom.
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Nolly
Fin City


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There is book titled "Why do white people smell like wet dogs when they come out of the rain?"

I first discovered it while visiting "Y? The National Forum On People's Differences"
You can see responses to this question (about halfway down the page) here.

Interesting site.

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Doc J.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Eleanor:
I recently read the book It's the Little Things: The Everyday Interactions That Get under the Skin of Blacks and Whites by Lena Williams. In it, she said that white people with wet hair often smell like wet dogs to black people, and that black people often smell like sour milk to white people.


I have to agree with this, well, partly anyway.

I have the joy of travelling on London Underground every day, and in the summer, those carriages are like saunas. The close proximity to other passengers means you really get first-hand experience of everybody's odour. Possibly my nose is just particularly sensitive to BO, but I believe that I can smell a difference between black sweat and caucasian sweat - both are equally unpleasant, but somehow, well, different.

I guess it could be down to differences in diet, or maybe genetic variation in metabolic enzymes/pathways.

Same goes for that wet dog smell - if you board the tube after a summer storm, there is definitely something canine about it !

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Johnny Slick
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Originally posted by IM(BOO)IKANT:
"Westerners smelled bad to the Japanese because Westerners never bathed while the Japanese are scrupulous about bathing." ~~ Says Jason...


WTF?

I think the OP was referring to attitudes when the US re-opened Japan to the West in the 1850s. At that time, no, Westerners did not bathe anywhere near as regularly as the Japanese.

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Blue Murder
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I found it funny in Shanghai Knights that the cowboy is taken aback by British people's teeth.

You really reckon Americans' teeth were that good in the wild west? US teeth may be better NOW, due to decent dental care, but I doubt there was that much difference between the two nations a century ago. I never notice even that much difference between the two NOW. None of my friends have bad teeth anyway.

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Horse Chestnut
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by Eleanor:
I once heard that Westerners smell bad to Asians because of all the meat in our diet, which makes sense. (Of course, I have no idea how true it is.)

I had read this same thing, (I believe it was in the book Shogun), but the "Western smell" was attributed to dairy products, which makes sense. After all, we all eat meat, but the traditional Asian diet contains no dairy products at all.
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Horse Chestnut
Happy Holly Days


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Smells like waffles.
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DemonWolf
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny Slick:
quote:
Originally posted by IM(BOO)IKANT:
"Westerners smelled bad to the Japanese because Westerners never bathed while the Japanese are scrupulous about bathing." ~~ Says Jason...


WTF?

I think the OP was referring to attitudes when the US re-opened Japan to the West in the 1850s. At that time, no, Westerners did not bathe anywhere near as regularly as the Japanese.
Not to mention that the wewsterners went over there in ships with a very limited water supply. They could drink it or they could bathe in it, but not both. The chose to drink rather than bathe.

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Rhiandmoi
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I think certain white people smell like raw chicken. SO when sweaty smells like a bag of quarters. Giving myself a sniff, I smell a bit like black tea.

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Beware the Toe Tickler
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I know not from Japanese history, but I'm a white guy with a Chinese wife. She's told me flat out that when I sweat, it stinks, and it's because I eat too much meat. Conversely, not only does she almost never sweat, but (according to her) when she does, it doesn't smell... because she is basically vegetarian. My sense of smell is non-existent, so I can't exactly verify this myself.

So if it's a myth, it didn't start with us...

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Don't Sream Me Shirley
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
I know not from Japanese history, but I'm a white guy with a Chinese wife. She's told me flat out that when I sweat, it stinks, and it's because I eat too much meat. Conversely, not only does she almost never sweat, but (according to her) when she does, it doesn't smell... because she is basically vegetarian. My sense of smell is non-existent, so I can't exactly verify this myself.
I think that your wife thinking that she does not smell is more a product of the fact that she is used to her own smell. Let's face it...most of us probably think that we have no odor (exceptions such as profuse sweating notwithstanding).
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Beware the Toe Tickler
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maybe so, and that wouldn't surprise me (she also claims she doesn't snore and Boy Howdy, I know THAT one ain't true). Merely bringing it up to support the OP's ponderance that yes, at least one white boy smells bad to at least one Asian, and that Asian is adamant that it's because said white boy is a die-hard carnivorous beast.
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sinistralson
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quote:
Originally posted by Don't Sream Me Shirley:
quote:
I know not from Japanese history, but I'm a white guy with a Chinese wife. She's told me flat out that when I sweat, it stinks, and it's because I eat too much meat. Conversely, not only does she almost never sweat, but (according to her) when she does, it doesn't smell... because she is basically vegetarian. My sense of smell is non-existent, so I can't exactly verify this myself.
I think that your wife thinking that she does not smell is more a product of the fact that she is used to her own smell. Let's face it...most of us probably think that we have no odor (exceptions such as profuse sweating notwithstanding).
Actually, you may very well smell more "loudly" to her. Blacks and Caucasians tend to have more apocrine glands than asians. My wife is Japanese and can go days without a shower(contrary to what I've seen put forward here, not all Japanese bath to the point of obessive-compulsiveness). In fact 50% of Japanese completely lack apocrine glands. In other words, musky oil released on body hair, no bacterial degradation of that oil, no scent. Then of course there are individual and dietary differences in personal scent. The whole "wet dog" thing seems a little dubious to me, however, and smacks more of racism than good science or honest observation. Blacks and whites in the US have about the same diet, both have apocrine glands(in fact blacks have more, on the chest as well) and human hair is not fundamentally different except in texture.
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DesertRat
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I am white (very, very white, and easily sunburned), and my wife is of Chinese-Vietnamese extraction. Her and her family have politely and hesitantly informed that that white people DO, in fact, smell... at least, from their perspective. I cannot speculate as to the reasons why, although all of the above reasons (diet, apocrine glands, etc) probably have some merit. I'm simply registering this as further anecdotal evidence that maybe, perhaps, different races/ethnicities do in fact have distinct smells...

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kendor
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I had always heard that skin pigments, melanin and carotene, had odors, (or supported odor causing bacteria on the skin), and their various concentrations were responsible for our different smells.

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Psylent1
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Anyone who says Vegetarian's don't smell has never walked in a cattle pasture.
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Gale
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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My friend's Japanese mother says that Caucasians tend to smell of sour milk.

I tend to think that diet has the biggest effect outside of personal hygiene on how people smell.

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KeithB
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There is no where that Cecil is not afraid to go:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/021004.html

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