top of page

What's that smell? It's not what you think.

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

As I continue to research immigrants' experiences in Canada, I got to discuss about the various differences between their food and ours. Then the topic of smell came up. In a non-research format, you are most likely forboden to talk about smells of people unless you want to be labeled as racist.. and if this was at a workplace, then a whole slew of HR issues can come raining on you. BUT when you're in a research setting and the research is about race and various race differences, then it's a topic that can be discussed; thus our conversation about smell and people's perception of your smell.

When asked "Have individuals in your circle or network spoke with you about smell?" a particularly calm and well-mannered immigrant of Indian descent said "No." So I prodded with "What are your thoughts about the non-scent policies in workplaces in Canada?" then he curled the right side of his lips and said "Well, it must just be me but when I arrived in Canada, I was overwhelmed by this smell of soap!" This caught my attention quickly so I said "Can you elaborate?" What he said next became apparent that my mental model had to immediately be reframed. "I take the TTC* and every morning I have to practically cover my nose because everyone smells like soap. In India, where I come from, it is a different kind of smell." I realized quickly I was only looking at smell one way and didn't come to recognize that it is actually impacting immigrants in another way.

Next time you're in a crowd and you say "What's THAT smell?" ...another individual maybe saying the same thing about you!

*Toronto Transit Commission - it's the Toronto public transportation system which includes buses, subway, street cars.



bottom of page