What "Smelling Good" Means in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and More

Amanda Montell
PHOTO:

Isabella Behravan

Perfume: It's as complex a subject as food, and our individual tastes range spectacularly. One woman's favourite fragrance could give another an actual migraine. Emotionally, we might associate certain fragrances with our childhoods, our first loves, our personal sense of style. It's no wonder that the U.S. perfume industry is worth over $40 billion.

But just like food, fragrances don't only speak to individual preferences—they reflect entire cultures. In the U.S., our opinions on what smells "good," as personal as they are, are totally different from what people in Moscow or Tokyo or Dubai prefer. We'd never really considered this fact until a recent visit to Scent Bar, an indie fragrance boutique in Los Angeles, which features hundreds of rare perfumes from different countries, some of which are only available in the U.S. at the brand's cosy West Hollywood location. Scent Bar's co-founder Franco Wright sees thousands of customers from all over the world and has become very familiar with the fragrance preferences of each culture. As it turns out, history, tradition, and even climate all inform a country's particular taste in fragrance.

Interestingly, though, there are some commonalities across all markets. "One thing we know is that 'fresh-' and 'modern-style' fragrances are still popular across each country, each customer," Wright tells us. The one fragrance that seems to unite all cultures is Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 ($118), a unique sandalwood fragrance that smells different on every wearer and is Scent Bar's number one best seller. "It's quite unbelievable," Wright says of the product.

But most fragrances are not quite as versatile. Curious to see what "smelling good" means around the world? Keep scrolling to find out the most popular perfumes in France, Russia, and more, according to an international fragrance expert.

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