DARE TO ASK: Washing up, without a washcloth
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I've traveled extensively and am wondering why even the best European hotels
do not provide washcloths for guests.
Marie, 49, Manassas, Va.
I guess me not knowing what a washcloth is says it all!
Sofia, 28, Odense, Denmark
We don't use washcloths as extensively as Americans, but we do wash ourselves
very well with soap and hands, thank you.
Carol, 24, Berkshire, United Kingdom
European people have the urge to view such things as "gifts." They are stolen
so much that hotels have stopped supplying them.
Ralph R., Rucphen, The Netherlands
As a native of Belgium, I can confirm that ... people there "scrub down" with
mittens made of thick bath towel fabric that are treated much more as personal
items than are washcloths in the United States. In fact, they are pretty close
to underwear in personalness: You wouldn't offer one of yours to someone else.
Paul, 37, Riverside, Calif.
I was at a German friend's house getting ready to go out after work, and she
told me I could take a shower. I asked her what they wash up with, and she said
they just used their hands or a bar of soap. And I said, "You don't even use
those little scrubby thingies?" and she said no. Then she gave me a look like I
was the weird one.
Michele, 31, New Orleans
I lived in Brazil for a number of years and found no washcloths there,
either. I believe some people of other cultures may consider a washcloth to be a
kind of dirty rag, and who would want one on one's body?
David S., 53, Broomfield, Colo.
Many Europeans view all the washcloth-wielding and lathering-up by Americans
as obsessive, to put it politely, said Suchi Rangaswami, senior manager for
Connecticut-based Tauck World Discovery, a leading international tour operator.
"It's purely cultural. Europeans are not used to using soap in general to the
extent we do here. ... They are much more easygoing about hygiene and
sterility," she said.
For years, hotels did not provide washcloths, but that's changing,
particularly in Northern and Southern Europe among large chains that are
attempting to cater more to American needs. As for expecting washcloths in
Eastern European hotels, or in smaller private hotels on the continent in
general? In your foamy dreams. Get ready to suds up your palms.
"I've never heard the bit about the washcloths being stolen. It's more about
hotels trying to cater to needs without losing the unique flavor of the
experience [of that locale]," Rangaswami said.
Other common American complaints about Europe's hotels: inadequate
air-conditioning and a real biggie, no bath mats, Rangaswami said. Most European
hotel managers view bath mats as disgusting because they usually get moldy.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.