Why Do Some Immigrants Smell So Bad?

I am sitting here at my office desk and I am wondering: Why do some immigrants smell bad? One of the main issues, when you work with immigrants, is the strong smell, mostly immigrants from some countries such as India, South East Asia, and Africa. This is a sensitive topic because it touches one’s culture and way of life. So, I did a little research. Normally, Africans, Indians, and South East Asians, in general, use a lot of exotic species and ingredients when cooking. It turns out those spices used in their culinary release compounds when cooked. As a result, they get trapped in their clothes and their skin. For instance, If you were to cook an Indian meal or African meal at your house, you would probably also smell the same. In essence, we are what we eat and our body odor reflects the foods we eat.

We are what we eat and our body odor reflects the foods we eat.

Let’s look at what that means and what can be done about it.

Why do immigrants smell bad?
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Do all immigrants smell bad?

Surely, if you have ever had one of their food, I am sure you have noticed how tasty they are. Africans, Indians, and South East Asia in particular are notoriously famous for the number of spices and ingredients used in cooking such as Garlic, onions, paprika, curry, etc…

Yet, after doing a little research it is common knowledge that foods like hot peppers or other spicy foods make you sweat. In addition, the aroma of foods like onions or garlic can be carried in your sweat. Apparently, might also lead to body odor. Moreover, the body odor due to the consumption of these foods can be strong.

Also if the house has a closed airflow, the smoke coming from cooking gets trapped in the clothes, on the skin, and the hair. As a result, the odor sticks around. The smell can be worst when mixed up with the person’s sweats.


Nevertheless, there is also a lack of self-awareness. Generally, most people from these parts of the world are not aware of their body odor issues and the discomfort to others. Particularly, first-generation immigrants who are still trying to figure out things. That is because Americans and Westerners as a whole have a strong sense of smell and different dietary habits.

Nonetheless, immigrants from those countries were born here or have been here for a very long time. Those tend to not smell bad. 

How to manage the situation?

Now that we know the root cause. Let’s look at how we can handle the situation.

I guess, the best way to handle the situation, in my opinion, is to have an honest conversation with the person. It is important to craft your way through carefully the conversation without being offensive or judgemental. Rather speak with respect to explain how food consumption can influence his or her relationship with others. You just want to make sure the person is mindful enough about the external world. It is not his or her fault. Just different environments and different sensitivities.

Then proceeds by giving some recommendations such as gums, strong antiperspirant with aluminum chloride, and a light perfume to mask the odor. If the person is concerned about the damage caused to their skin ask them to spray it on the clothes, not the actual body. Personally, I think a combination of a strong antipeerpirant and a light perfume works well. Moreover, after an ethinicity meal I like to have a gum or go straight to the bathroom for a mouth wash before returning to the office.


Nonetheless, no matter how you decide to handle the situation be compassionate. It can happened to you as well should ever move to another country. Actually,don’t be suprised if some people say westerners smell like cheese or milk. Of course that is because of our dairy intake. Hence, Keep in mind the goal is to make sure the person is aware of the discomfort without shaming the person or asking the person to change his or her diet. Actually, you just want to encourage the person to be mindful.

The person to be mindful of the discomfort without shaming the person or asking the person to change his or her diet.

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