Just as people have different taste palates, perfume also differs per culture – in the same way that the notion of beauty is differently perceived. In the African culture, they once treated the length of the neck as a measure of one’s beauty. During the Renaissance period, the more plump and voluptuous a woman is, the more appealing she was to a man’s eyes. Different cultures, given different historical backgrounds, geographical situations, ancestries, and other significant influences greatly contribute to their taste in perfume.
The sense of smell is one of the great wonders of the human body. But the olfactory sense is not merely a biological sensation or psychological circumstance, but more of a socio-cultural phenomenon. Suffice to say that Europeans and Americans view fragrance quite differently. For instance, Americans wear perfume as to project, “Hey, I’m clean, don’t run away from me”; whereas Europeans on the other hand, would wear perfume as if saying “I’m sexy, come here to me.” Two different things, two different cultures, on one invention, the perfume.
Though no formal research yet has come out, just based on common knowledge and from master perfumers themselves, it is widely assumed that Americans are into the more clean and fresh type of scents, compared to their European counterparts. A clean scent for them is defined as being not too strong, perhaps including a juicy tone to it, and that clean perfume helps in the perception of the person being clean as if right out of the shower and free from bodily odours.
Although most would argue that the clean and fresh scent is the average American’s favourite, this doesn’t seem to be the case nowadays with the advent of commercialisation and social media. Most of the Americans are regular consumers, which means to say that they easily get swayed by marketing and endorsements. As this is the case, they are more inclined towards what is the “in” and popular thing nowadays, and that happens to be the clean, fresh, fruity and sweet kind.
For Americans, the preferred fragrance is often the most popular one, as of the moment. Marketing also takes a toll as fragrances are often endorsed by popular personalities like models, actors and actresses, artists, musicians, fashion designers, and even athletes. But these manufacturers do not forget the fact that people are into the clean and fresh scent. So, apart from choosing the right endorsers, they start by choosing the right perfume scent.
Asians on the other hand, prefer lighter, fruitier, and cleaner fragrance notes compared to their Western counterparts. Strong, dominant and edgy notes, including wood or animal hints, are not greatly appreciated by the Asians. Though this has not been proven scientifically or through heavy research, Asian culture is already ancient and refined on its own that perhaps strong and overpowering scents do not appeal much to the Asian taste.
To continue on our theory on different preferred scents for different cultures, take the Dassanetch of Ethiopia as another example. Since their main source of living is raising cattle, the most beautiful and appealing scent for them is that of cows. Their association with this fragrance note is so strong that women tend to rub butter to their breasts, shoulders, and heads believing that this makes them attractive to the opposite sex. On the other hand, men cover themselves with cattle manure and wash their hands with cattle urine.
For the people of Mali, they find the onion scent as the most appealing. Young men and women of the Dogon of Mali rub onions onto their bodies as their perfume.
In Arab countries however, perfumes are the most complex. It is mainly because different scents are applied to different parts of the bodies. In the U.A.E., scents of rose, musk and saffron are rubbed to the whole body. The hair is applied with a mix of sesame oil or walnut, and jasmine or ambergris. For the neck, narcissus and ambergris are applied, while aloewood is for the nostrils and sandalwood for the armpits. Take note though that perfume is only applied for special occasions and private situations, because wearing one in public is a sign of being an adulteress. Not just the women, but also Arab men wear perfumes, usually putting notes of aloewood and rose behind ears, on their nostrils, at the palms of their hands, and in their beards.
Different strokes for different folks. What may smell lovely to you may come off as awful to another, and vice versa. Fragrance preferences differ per culture and is influenced by a lot of factors, including way of life, historical backgrounds, geographical situations, ancestries, and others.