7 ultimate personal hygiene tips for au pairs in Germany
How often we shower, which deodorant we use, whether we use body lotion or not… all of these things are strongly influenced by our cultural background and upbringing. When you move in with a host family, the rituals around personal hygiene might be very different from what you are used to. This article focuses on giving you the 7 ultimate personal hygiene tips for au pairs in Germany.
Smell is incredibly important to humans and animals alike. Humans do not, by far, have the strong sense of smell most animals have. However, we are strongly influenced by smell. Memories can be triggered by smell. Ever had a stranger walk by wearing the perfume your mom wears? Or someone cooked food which smelled just like what your grandmother used to cook? Smell can trigger strong emotions when they are tied to memories like that.
I like the way you smell 🙂
In Germany we have a saying: “Ich kann Dich gut riechen”. It literally means, that you like the way someone smells. The actual meaning of this is, that you like the person.
Being a host family and taking in an au pair is always a little bit like unwrapping a present: you never know what you might get. Video calls and pictures are a great way of getting to know your au pair a little bit, but up to now we can’t smell the person we are communicating with electronically.
From my own experience I know that different nationalities smell differently. There is scientific proof that the food you eat affects the way you smell, which is why some au pairs “loose” their smell after a certain amount of time.
Furthermore, the make up of the bacteria on your skin also affects the way you smell. As you might have realized yourself, some deodorant works better with your own, personal bacteria make up than others. As a matter of fact, you might notice that your skin and the way you smell might change when you come to Germany.
Host families usually don’t mind the different smells, though they of course do notice them. Since people in Germany and most of the European Union generally try to minimize their personal smell, a stronger, personal scent does not go unnoticed though. Especially if someone generally sweats more, this might become quite awkward for host families. Though Germans are generally very direct, telling your au pair that he or she stinks isn’t exactly the kind of conversation you want to have with your au pair.
So here we go with our 7 personal hygiene tips for au pairs in Germany
1 Shower regularly, but not too often
When you shower, make sure to wash ALL body parts, including your feet, armpits and butt. Usually showering once a day should be enough, unless of course, you have been sweating. You don’t need to wash your hair daily, but if you notice it getting greasy or smelly, make sure to wash your hair as well.
You wouldn’t imagine how often the question of “how much is too much” comes up in conversations with our host family. So much so, that we even wrote a blog entry on this issue. We often get calls because a host family feels like the au pair showers too much. Water in Germany is expensive and we try to teach our children not to waste resources, which is why it might catch host families off guard, if the au pair takes showers 3 times a day.
Please try and stick to once a day and don’t leave the water running for 30 minutes. If you really feel like soaking yourself in water, use the bathtub. If you don’t have a bathtub in the bathroom available for you to use, ask your host family if you can use theirs. I am sure they won’t mind.
2 Check that your towel isn’t smelly
When you are finished with showering, you are drying yourself with a towel, right? It only makes sense that it shouldn’t be smelly. Change your towel once to twice a week and, of course, when it starts to reek. If you are drying yourself with a smelly towel, the freshness of the shower is lost.
Please don’t just throw your wet towel on that pile of dirty laundry which is waiting to get washed at some point in the future. The laundry will eventually start to reek and could get mouldy. Hang your towel to dry and then, when it is dry, add it to the dirty laundry.
3 Brush your teeth at least twice a day
Some dentists suggest that you brush your teeth after eating. I suggest you brush your teeth when you get up and before you start speaking with other people. It isn’t appealing having a conversation with someone who has bad breath. In addition, don’t forget to floss. This can have a huge impact on your breath and oral health.
Have you every cleaned your tongue? Maybe that white “matter” on your tongue is causing for your bad breath too. Using your tooth brush, a tongue cleaner or small spoon, try scraping that stuff off your tongue. It will give you a new mouth feeling and helps combat bad breath.
Please don’t forget that the health insurance you are covered by is an “emergency only” coverage. It does not cover any “nice-to-have” check-up with dentists. Brushing and flossing regularly will help to prevent gum disease. Use a mouth wash if you still have the feeling that your breath smells bad.
4 Use Deodorant
There is a difference between deodorant, which is made to smell good, and antiperspirant, which is used to control the amount you sweat. I would suggest you look for an aluminium-free deodorant which you think smells good. Use it after you shower, in the mornings before you get dressed and if you notice yourself sweating a lot during the day. If you are physically very active and doing sports, switch to an antiperspirant.
Why aluminium-free? There is scientific evidence that aluminium in deodorants can cause breast cancer. In Germany, most companies are now offering aluminium-free deodorants. Just check the label when you go shopping.
5 Wash your clothes regularly
Please remember to throw your worn clothes into the washing. Your shirt should always be put into the washing after wearing it, i.e. daily. Same goes for underwear. Of course you should make sure to throw your trousers into the washing when they are dirty and smelly.
6 Use body lotion and facial cream
The skin on your face is sensitive and should be cleaned regularly, just like the rest of your body. Using a facial cream after cleaning your face gives back moisture to this sensitive skin.
Body lotion is something women tend to use more than men, though it makes sense for both. For example, washing your skin means you are pulling moisture from it, which a body lotion will give back. Furthermore, as the winter comes and the air tends to become dry from heaters, you might notice your skin becoming flaky. In fact, not drinking enough water during the day might also leave your body, and especially your skin, thirsty. Body lotion helps your skin retain its moisture and protect against environmental impact. And it doesn’t have to be that body lotion which smells of red berries. There is body lotion which is very neutral in smell.
7 If you are a woman change your tampon/pad regularly
I don’t know why I was surprised to learn that some countries don’t have tampons. It took me a while to realize that this was the reason my au pair would not go swimming during that time of the month.
For an explanation on what they are and how they work, follow this link. Cosmopolitan, that girls magazine which is available in most parts of this world, even did an article on how NOT to use them.
Generally, make sure to change both tampons and pads regularly, since both can be a source of strong smells. Girls actually die because of the toxic shock syndrome, which can result from not changing the tampons (not that I want to scare anyone from using them!). Very important is that you please make sure to never throw tampons down the toilette, as they could clog the pipes. As you can image, there is nothing more embarrassing than a toilette not flushing because a tampon is stuck in the pipes.