Monday, July 31, 2006

Russian cleanliness

The Russians are not as obsessed with cleanliness as Americans are. We wash the bejeezuz out of our dishes. They don't. Some of them just rinse their dishes off in water, and consider that clean. Yuch. I've never seen one use really hot water to wash the dishes. And, their sinks and kitchens are small, lending themselves to a quick soap and rinse cycle. Now, I have to recognize that this is almost certainly adequate except in extreme circumstances.

On the other hand, they have more of a culture of bathing than, say, Latin Americans do. They are generally as well bathed as Americans are. The Roman heritage of bathing lives on here. Oops, I say Roman, but this may reflect historical ignorance. Today we know the sauna as an invention of the northern Germanic (Scandinavian) peoples. And, the bathes in Russia are as much a heritage of Scandinavian culture as Roman. You go do the research, and come back and tell the rest of us which is which, eh? Thanks so much. By the way, up until WW2, the Russians were probably better at bathing than Americans in general. Up until WW2, we were still using the bathtub as the primary means of personal cleanliness. Sometime after WW2 the shower became predominant. And that is only for people who had such facilities. Russians, on the other hand, have almost universal access to some way to clean themselves. The villages may be even better in this regard than the cities of the 20th century. The villagers, as far as I can tell, always have access to a banya. At the lightest heat, the banya is the equivalent of a good shower or a bit better. City folk don't have access to banyas, but do have bathrooms with baths. I couldn't say how long they've been on the scene, but the baths have shower heads with hoses, so that one can wash, and rinse, the whole body. This is better than a bath, where one merely washes the body, but soaks in the dirty water.

Their habits are so different from ours when it comes to household cleanliness, tho. They take off their shoes when entering an abode, and wear house shoes. Shoes are dirty, so they don't wear them inside. They probably sweep more often than we do, but they don't mop as much. The stuff on the outside of the house can pretty much go hang, except if you have money, you paint and mend once a year. And you may mow your hay (notice I don't say lawn) once or twice during the summer - or not. However, some folks in the rural communities take very good care of their lawns - except if they do, it is because it is not a lawn they are taking care of, it is a garden. It may be producing food, flowers, or whatever you can get out of gardens.

They keep their clothes just as clean as we do, perhaps a bit cleaner. The washing machines are, in the city, European style. Which really isn't a matter of cleanliness, at all, but rather one of cleaning frequency and style. They usually air-dry their wash. In the country, by the by, the washing machines may be European style, or they may be a single washing machine and another spin-dry machine, or maybe some other combination that I did not experience.

On occasion they smell worse than Americans. But so do Europeans in general. Americans seem to be obsessed with body odor, as much as the Japanese. This wasn't true before WW1, and perhaps not true before WW2, since the Japanese made such an issue of how much we smelled, but it is true now. Again, you go research the history, and give the rest of us the benefit of your sagacious knowledge, please and thank you.

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