A third of French people don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet and less than half before eating, while a fifth of Frenchmen change their underwear twice a week at best.
These are some of the unsavoury findings of a new study into personal hygiene in France, which researchers and Gallic doctors say leaves a lot to be desired. The findings stand to reinforce stereotypes that the French take a laisser-faire approach to cleanliness.
The survey by pollster Ifop found the French continued to display “ignorance of basic sanitary rules, despite public health messages and the current [coronavirus] context.”
Only 37 per cent wash their hands after using public transport and 71 per cent after going to the lavatory.
The study was commissioned by Diogène France, a group specialising in cleaning insalubrious housing from sufferers of Diogenes syndrome- a disorder characterised by extreme self-neglect, domestic squalor and compulsive hoarding.
A quarter of the country failed to take a “complete wash” every day, it found.
Women were less negligent than men, with 81 per cent washing every day compared to 71 per cent of males. Rural Frenchmen only managed such daily ablutions in 60 per cent of cases while the worst offenders were the over 65s, on 57 per cent.
Matters have improved since a landmark Ifop study in 1951 for Elle magazine that asked “Are French Women Clean?”
Back then, just over half performed a full toilette daily, but 14 per cent did so less than once a week. At the time, the French used less soap than almost any other country in the developed world – 6.38kg per year compared to 11.09kg per Briton.
A mere 17 percent claimed to change their underwear every day, and 30 percent changed it only once a week or less.
However, 80 per cent wore lipstick. “French women, in sum, knew a lot about beauty; they just did not associate it with being clean,” wrote American academic Steven Zdatny in his 2014 work, “The French Hygiene Offensive of the 1950s: A Critical Moment in the History of Manners.”
Doctor Frédéric Saldmann, a cardiologist and nutritionist said the French no longer deserved their lingering reputation as a smelly nation. “But more needs to be done,” he told Le Parisien.
He said a nationwide drive in schools to educate young French on personal hygiene in the 1960s had changed habits but that bad habits were creeping back in.
For example, the nail brush seems to have disappeared from the French bathroom, he lamented, adding: “Under the nails, it’s a jungle!”
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