Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The great unwashed

One thing I've learned in 12 years of living here, is that many Turks...particularly village dwellers...put personal hygiene way down on their list of priorities.

I always shower once a day, usually in the morning, but at this time of the year, twice a day is essential. 

We do get an awful lot of water cuts (and power cuts) particularly in the summer, so if we have water late at night, I take a shower,  because you can bet your life there won't be water first thing in the morning.

I needed to go into Milas early this early as possible to avoid the heat.  I woke up to no water.  I don't like going out of the house without at least washing my face and cleaning my teeth, and if necessary I'll use bottled water to do this, but this morning I had none.  So out came the wet wipes for the face...I always keep a supply handy, for using as a handwash after the toilet or before handling food.  And I had to make do with chewing-gum instead of brushing my teeth.

My neighbours of course, don't worry about such things...whether they have running water or not.  This is a farming community so their crops and animals are the priority when it comes to water.  Many of them seem to work and sleep in the same clothes.  Even on the rare occasion that they take a shower, they will more often than not, put the same clothes back on again, unwashed.

You could forgive them for being unwashed because of the shortage of water in the summer, but they have another excuse in the winter...they think that taking a shower will make them sick.

So travelling on a crowded dolmuş in this heat is not for the faint-hearted...or those of you, like me, who have a sensitive sense of smell.  This morning was one of those mornings, the heat was making me feel sick, but even worse was the smell of the passengers.  I was fortunate to find a seat next to a window...but that's another matter how stiflingly hot it is inside the bus, these bloody people won't let you have the window open more than an inch...why?  Because they think it will make them sick!

They're not all like this of course.  My husband hates being smelly..he'll shower a couple of times a day, but I did notice that when his father stayed the time before last, for a period of about 5 days, that he didn't shower while he was here...because the weather was cold.

Even though I had showered last night, I still felt uncomfortable about leaving the house unwashed this morning...I needn't have worried...I was most definitely the sweetest smelling passenger on the bus!


  1. urgghh! You've just put me off my lunch thinking about smelly people!

    I can assure you that on the tube in Lyon its pretty much the same thing in the summer except there are no water cuts here, so no excuses! I cannot understand how people stink of old perspiration at 8am in the morning... end of day would be more understable given the heat, but the morning? Yuck!

  2. You brought back memories of going to the supermarket in August...there were some men you could smell an aisle away!

  3. No water at all? That would be a bit unnerving if you never knew when it was going to happen...what an awful early morning surprise.

    The superstition of getting sick while showering in the winter time I can almost understand but an open bus window in the summer...hmm.

  4. Oh I'm not sure I would be able to cope with that!! I got on the bus the other day and there was an elderly man who had obviously not either washed himself or his clothes in a long time....the smell was just horrific!!

    Hope your water supply is back soon

    C x

  5. Growing up in the Bahamas during the 70's and 80's we always had gallons of water stored. With hurricanes, power cuts, etc. you couldn't rely on having lights or water. So I feel your pain. But I know for certain I would perish within minutes on the bus to Milas. You must be made of steel!

  6. Piglet: Stale perspiration early in the morning is certainly very unpleasant!

    Fly: Mmm...awful isn't it?

    Mr H: We very rarely get warning for power or water I'm never surprised!

    And these superstitions have been going for generations...they are a race of hypochondriacs I'm afraid.

    Carol: Multiply the smell of that one old man by about 12 and you have the smell of the dolmuş mid-summer! The water is back but no doubt it will be off tomorrow..and the next day...and on and on!

    'Cross the Pond: I'm not made of steel...I just don't breathe in through my nose if I can possibly help it..unless my nose is stuck out of the window opened an inch!

  7. It is most extraordinary to notice that the warmer the climate, the more people tend to overprotect themselves against any sort of temperature variations... The Portuguese are almost paranoid about what they perceive as "too cold" or "too hot". In the winter, the children look like they are going on an expedition to the North Pole. In the summer, they stay inside at any cost, with their air conditioning blowing ice cold air into their faces - just as cold as the air was outside in the winter, when they covered themselves and the children as if the temps were below zero...
    Being half German, and a "crazy" person too, I let my children wear whatever they are comfortable with. You should see the looks that we get... And don't even get me started on open windows & drafts! Fresh air seems to be something for "the crazy foreigners".
    When I let my children get a bit wet from the rain, or when I let them go out into the sun without a hat at any (!) hour of the day, I am sometimes scolded by perfect strangers.
    Thankfully, the Portuguese are not as water-shy as the Turkish, though. In that aspect, it's a very different culture.

  8. Astro: I can absolutely identify with most of what you're saying in relation to the covering up, and drafts,'s just the same here. I have a friend from New Zealand who lives in Selçuk who gets extremely frustrated by all the criticism from her Turkish in-laws about how she looks after her small daughter!

    Perhaps I'm being a little unfair about the Turks and don't mean to's mostly village people who seem "allergic" to washing themselves or their clothes!

  9. Ugggghhhhhh! That is terrible to have so many smelly people on a bus. They obviously don't seem to notice the smell of other people.
    I couldn't manage without a daily shower. I guess we are spoilt in this country.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  10. Maggie: I've learned since living here never to take water or electricity for granted

  11. I feel for you! It brought memories of being on a packed train through Yugoslavia for 2 days. I pray you are able to get a car soon.

  12. When I first arrived in Turkey years ago, I recall being in a similar situation- crowded bus, close proximity to B.O. and I remember turning to my friend and telling him in English, how I wasn't sure how much longer I could stand there, trying not to breathe. Graphically put, it was a cross between cheap cigarettes and green onions. My Turkish host sadly nodded his head and said the most remarkable thing that had not occurred to me.
    "That's not the worst thing."
    "Really?" I asked doubtfully. It seemed like the worst thing at that moment.
    "The worst part is that he will go home tonight and not one person will tell him how badly he smells."
    So full of implication, isn't it? and it does explain how a person can go day after day and remain in that sorry state. And anyway, I suppose after the first month, you become immune to your own scent. There's nobody to say, "Daddy, you stink" or "Sorry, dear, not tonight, your armpits smell like twin garbage pits."

    Turks, of course, have no monopoly on poor personal hygiene and the bottom line is smelly is smelly no matter where you are.
    Still, at least, from what I have seen, personal hygiene has improved more than what it once was, at least in the cities. That's my good fortune perhaps.

    Managing personal hygiene is 90% habitual behavior and it is a parent's duty to train their children while young how to wash and clean themselves. Not only for the social aspects but for the health concerns.
    As bad as unclean bodies wearing unclean clothes can be, I think it is nearly (but not quite) to have to endure being on a bus with a person who thinks a dousing of perfume can replace a bath and a full body scrub.

  13. I cant stand any sort of dirty smell, although I can understand how some people for various reasons find it difficult to keep clean. I can even stand the doggie smell u get indoors sometimes and I have two dogs so their baskets are regularly washed and cleaned along with them ..... mind u I should be used to smells cos they both love the fox poo so maybe I would be ok on your bus after all hehehehehehe xx

  14. I meant Cant even stand not can!

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  16. likeschocolate: Yes...I'm praying very hard for a car!

    Nomad: Oh yes! The strong waft of cheap Turkish perfume to cover "other"'s enough to make you throw up isn't it?
    of course kids need to be taught aüpersonal hygiene, but what chance to they stand when they see their parents going for days (or weeks) without washing themselves or their clothes?

    But you're has improved...certainly in cities and towns. As for villages...times stands still I'm afraid.

    Bomb: I have to say that my dogs smell a lot better than some of my neighbours!

  17. Indians are fanatical about bathing and if you don't brush your teeth first thing when you get up, you're the worst in the world. Having a bit of a catch-up session right now Ayak, it's been hectic lately xxxx

  18. gaelikaa: And I'm catching up with your comments!!
    I hope I haven't given a bad impression of the Turks and their standards of really is mostly village people that are like this. They really don't have a lot and water is a precious commodity...their animals and crops always come first.

  19. BO is definitely one thing I'm not looking forward to going home to- though considering I've been on a three week expedition in Mongolia, I don't smell so nice myself, either!

  20. Hi Lale: It's not pleasant is it? Hope you enjoyed your trip xx


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