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Does my Culture Impact my Scent Style?
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June 27, 2022

Pinpointing yourself to a country, where you were born, where you live; you have different preferences in taste, even in music and in fashion, all merely because of the cultural influence around you. The same goes for fragrance. This interesting phenomenon, invisible to the eye, doesn't only speak to individual preferences, yet more grandly, reflects entire countries and continents!

To understand the personal preferences of what smells "good” to individuals of different countries, it only requires us to have a look at their domestic bestseller perfume. Statistics do reveal that history, tradition, and even climate, all influence a region's particular taste in fragrance.

When it comes to perfume, there are some commonalities that run across all markets, such as the desire for “fresh” and “modern-styled” fragrances.

The olfactive differences between various continents

From left to right: Cool Water by Davidoff, Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel and BLV Pour Homme by Bvlgari

Asia

Large in size, with different regions, cultures and traditions all in one, China’s perfume preferences commonly correlate with the different climates.

For instance, the woody, powdery, spicy notes, such as those parts found in Chanel No 5, which is probably the most iconic Chanel perfume, and BLV Pour Homme by Bvlgari, are better fitted for dry areas such as Beijing; whilst fresh, powdery florals are favoured in the warmer regions, like Shanghai.

Moving south, to a more humid and hot climate; refreshing yet pungent scents, such as Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, are known to be more successful. In contrast with a more reserved society, Japan instead evades heavy scents and gravitates towards niche, hard-to-find fragrances, that are delicate, subtle, well-balanced and often with aquatic nuances, including L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake and Cool Water by Davidoff for men.

The Koreans’ sense of smell correlate similarly to that of the Japanese, with very light, softly fruity, and citrusy fragrances thriving most in their market.

With an overall divergent understanding of fragrances stemming from their strong cultural attitude of respect for one another; perfume, especially the stronger scents, is considered disturbing and thus rather offensive to the taste buds. Nevertheless, the region is undergoing changes in their perceptions, with the perfume industry gradually growing.

From left to right: Good Girl by Caroline Herrera, Gucci Oud by Gucci and Pour Homme Oud Noir by Versace

Middle East

Fragrance is completely ingrained in Middle Eastern culture and plays a huge important role. Revered to a high degree, and rooting from historical practices, the Persians were the first to use distillation in extracting oils from flowers to create beautiful aromas. Who would’ve known that decades, centuries later, perfume application still remains an essential ritual in their daily lives!

Renowned for the most fragrant of traditions: smoldering incense, ritualistic essential oils and fragrant teas; it is no wonder why the language of fragrance applies on many levels in their culture. From a spiritual way to anoint oneself before prayer, to epitomising a personal fingerprint, a statement; perfume is a powerful tool in characterising one's individuality.

With surely the strongest olfactive preferences globally, the residents of the Middle East seek a bold and definitely above average longevity. Moreover, their traditional approach includes layering of multiple opposing scents.

Most prevalently they use fragrances such as earthy vetiver, sensual oud, floral rose and jasmine, and different woods, all to create the most elaborate, exclusive, and astounding compositions to showcase their combination of scents. The most prominent in the region include Good Girl by Caroline Herrera, Pour Homme Oud Noir by Versace and Gucci Oud by Gucci.

From left to right: Dior Homme Eau de Toilette by Dior, Happy by Clinique and CK One by Calvin Klein

USA

Three quarters of the population in the USA, majority of which are the younger generations, use perfume. Overall, they have a rather broad range of olfactive preferences. Known for their voracious appetites, this justifies their admiration for gourmand notes, such as perfumes with a vanilla scent and fruity strawberry. These are best exemplified by brands such as Victoria Secret.

In addition, the USA is fond of fragrances that offers a fresh and clean feel, like CK One by Calvin Klein; the most prevalent olfactive preferences reflect timeless and elegant simplicity. These most traditionally are feminine garden florals, with common use of lily of the valley and rose scent.

The top sellers for women in the USA include, Trésor by Lancôme perfumes, Beautiful by Estee Lauder and Happy by Clinique. Similarly, men’s fragrances have also seen a shift into the lighter and more botanical territory, with notes such as citruses, florals, and woods becoming increasingly eminent due to the recent push towards unisex perfumes. Examples of male and unisex fragrances include Super Cedar by Byredo, the newly reimagined Dior Homme Eau de Toilette by Dior perfumes, Y by YSL, as well as Essencial Oud by Natura.


Africa

Although the perfume market is underdeveloped in Africa, it is expected to be lucrative, with the local population constantly on the look out for unique perfume from outside the region as they further develop their taste for fragraces.

The majority do not regard perfume as an essential daily wear and instead see the bottled potions as a luxury, something that they may gift or spray on their skin for the most exciting of occasions! Nonetheless, it is seen that fresh and zesty as well as floral and fruity scents are most favoured for both male and female fragrances.

From left to right: Eau Sauvage by Dior, Light Blue by D&G and La Vie Est Belle by Lancome

Europe

Most definitely the oldest and largest population of users of modern perfumery, having the treasured perfume capital Paris at its heart, France. For the French, perfume is as much of the culture as consuming foods, having a glass of the finest wine or eating cheese… it’s simply part of the phrase “c’est la vie”, and of course, the surrounding countries have benefited from the French parfum experience!

Accessible to the middle class, the innovation of perfume is the driving force behind market growth. In comparison to, for instance the US, whose fundamental and ulterior motive is really to say “I am clean”, or even with the Middle East, where perfume is used to introduce yourself, even before you step into the room.

In constrast, the Europeans use each spray as a narrative for their character, showing off their taste perception and personality that day. You won’t only find a couple of bottles on their beauty counter, more realistically, you’ll find a whole perfume cupboard… A different scent for each occasion to portray different personalities and moods! This continent focuses on rather easy-wears, whilst also remaining clean and fresh, yet not forgetting the vital element of sexiness!

Starting from France, you’ll notice that they’re not afraid of bold, timeless scents, even with the strongest of accords, such as dark, spicy and common nuances of musk. Examples includes the classic Shalimar by Guerlain, La Vie Est Belle by Lancome, and J’adore by Dior. Moving across the continent, into the southern European regions, Mediterranean freshness is de rigueur, with the local ingredients, such as the citruses, bergamot and orange, as well as neroli, being the most successful.

The best examples include, Eau d’Orange Vert by Hermes, Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel, as well as Light Blue by D&G. Moreover, for men's fragrances, the Europeans do admire the classical cologne structures (high in citrus): bold, fierce and openly masculine, with frequent aromatic, aquatic and woody notes, such as Eau Sauvage by Dior, and Bleu de Chanel by Chanel.

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