From taking off your shoes before entering someone’s house, to shooing out dirt and bad spirits during the New Year, the concept of cleanliness is deeply embedded in the Asian psyche. A recent study on Filipino spending habits conducted by Kantar Worldpanel showed that keeping clean is so sacred to Filipinos that bath essentials like shampoo and soap are at the top of many Filipinos’ shopping lists. In fact, just like in other Asian nations, the bathing rituals of Filipinos are getting more complex, including more varieties of products than ever before. Take a look below at why that might be so.
1. The climate
Probably number one on the list of reasons why Asians like to keep clean is the climate. Many Asian countries are located in the tropics, or have incredibly humid summers, and the oppressive heat contributes a lot to the region’s bathing habits. The easiest way to feel comfortable after a warm day is, after all, a cold shower. Even countries with temperate climates, like Japan, Korea, and China, don’t let the cooler weather stop them— a good soak in the hot springs is the perfect way to end a cold winter’s day.
2. Respecting space
Cleanliness in Asian cultures doesn’t just mean your body, but extends to certain spaces like the house or communal areas as well. While the spaces might vary per country— the smog-covered streets of Beijing are pretty different from the spic and span cityscape of Tokyo, for example— one thing that does remain in common is that keeping a place clean is a sign of respect, which is why so many Asian cultures clean house during the New Year, or before guests arrive. A clean body also means a clean spirit, so you’ll find many Asian temples have places where you can purify yourself before entering.
3. ‘Bonus’ benefits
Keeping your body dirt and germ-free might be popular for another reason— the bonus benefits. Asian markets have a huge variety of hygiene products that offer different advantages, more so than their Western counterparts, and as these products get more popular the list only expands. From Korean face masks with snail mucus for deeper moisturizing, to Kojic acid soaps for whitening— bath products in Asia don’t just stop at keeping you clean, they promise to change your life, too.
4. Good health
Another simple but pretty obvious reason why cleanliness is so important is because keeping clean goes hand in hand with keeping healthy. Scrubbing your body and your living space down well means that there’s less chance for germs and bacteria to proliferate, and that means a longer, easier life for you. In a region where humidity can often go as high as 100%, perfect conditions for breeding bacteria, staying clean is the best prevention.
5. Luxe ingredients
With hygiene being such an integral part of Asian culture, it’s no wonder that consumers demand bigger and better from their bath products. While this can mean innovation in things like skincare and haircare, it also means that these simple hygiene products can be vehicles of luxury. For example, this bar of soap is diamond-infused, made of gold dust and virgin honey, and is worth a whopping US$ 2,800. Even Cleopatra’s milk baths didn’t get as luxe as that!
6. Simple pleasures
Finally, one reason why Asian cultures love to keep clean might simply be because it feels good. The hustle and bustle of daily life can get a little draining, and sometimes the best solution to life’s problems is to simply take a breather. While a full-blown vacation on a weekly basis might not be feasible, it’s equally good to take an hour to yourself and let a warm shower wash all your problems away. A good bath will leave you feeling clean, refreshed, and ready to take on the next day head-on. Have a good one!
For more fun facts and travel articles, check out the rest of the articles on Daydreaming in Paradise.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.