Very differently from last week, where the curiosity came from a brief, this one came from talking to friends. I lived in London for almost 6 years - most of my adult life - and that’s where I started working for the first time for real (aka with actual responsibilities, rather than helping out friends). So my work ethics are that of the advertising scene in London, and that is my current default. It was really surprising, then, when chatting to Brazilian friends to find out that they (not only have and take a real, long lunch break they also) brush their teeth after eating. Say what?!
It was fascinating to find this pattern, talking to friend after friend. It seemed to be a cultural habit, rather just a singular peculiarity. I looked online, and there were quite a few articles from a variety of publications that had also considered it an unusual fact, and compared it to other cultures. So I decided to give it a go myself and use Curiosity Weekly to investigate it further.
The results were surely interesting. Only 15% of respondents said they brushed their teeth after lunch, but 67% did not find the habit strange. From the ones who had a different opinion, one claimed it was too much work, another said it was overbrushing and inconvenient, and another asked ‘I wish I would… But people who do it, I'm just, don't you have important things to do? Or like, catching a breath before a waterfall of meetings?’.
Notably, nobody from outside Brazil was a post-lunch teethbrusher. All the respondents who said they brush teeth after lunch were from Brazil. Amongst all Brazilians, the cut was pretty much half-half between those who do it or don’t, and none found the habit strange. Overall, most people said they brushed their teeth twice a day.
I also investigated if the country where people are currently living influenced their habits, with the premise that perhaps those who moved out of Brazil would be less likely to do it. The survey results showed that not be the case - of the 4 Brazilian respondents living outside the country, two were post-lunch toothbrushers and two weren’t, a percentage similar to the general results from the country.
The thing is Brazil is a country obsessed with beauty and cleanness. It constantly tops the ranking for cosmetic surgeries (ISAPS); it has the highest average of weekly showers in the world (Euromonitor); people save up or spend their savings on beauty products and services, and in time of crisis they would rather cut back on leisurely activities than on cosmetic treatments (SPC)! Were these things perhaps related?
I decided then to look at South Korea, a country not represented in the survey; known for valuing external beauty, and where cosmetic surgeries are incredibly popular (it’s the number one country in procedures per capita - ISAPS). It turns out that this cultural extrapolation got me onto something. Koreans also seem to be in the habit of brushing their teeth after lunch, in the office, school and even in shopping malls, with an average of 3 times a day for over 60% of the population, according to a 2014 survey by their National Institute of Health (Korean Times).
The NIH survey also revealed that Korean men tend to brush their teeth less than women, which was really puzzling. While searching for bathing habits worldwide, it was noted that women generally shower more than men too. Is there a connection here? Can we connect hygiene habits with the idea of beauty and the societal pressure on women? Is personal hygiene a by-product of societal pressure to look good? Does gender play a role in personal hygiene, as least in terms of frequency? Can that be a thing?!
Dove, call me. Let’s talk about adding real smiles to real beauty.
Next survey is about guns, and you can take it here.