Olores y Cultura

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Image source: Marie Hale
Image source: Marie Hale

¿Cómo afecta tu cultura a tu sentido del olfato y las cosas que crees que huelen bien y las cosas que crees que huelen mal?

En un artículo que leí, hacen el argumento que aprendemos nuestras preferencias olfativas. ¿Qué interesante, no?

Unos ejemplos puedo dar de mi vida: A mi, me gusta el olor de zorrillo y también el olor de gasolina. Yo sé que son olores muy ofensivos para mucha gente, pero estos olores están ligados a buenos recuerdos de mi niñez.

También, olores que normalmente se consideran agradable en una cultura, pueden convertir en ser ofensivos para otros. Por ejemplo, el olor que llamamos “cherry” (cereza, pero cereza artificial como usan en paletas y chapstick), me encanta. Tengo bastantes buenos recuerdos con el olor “cherry” – pero mi suegra odia el olor y el sabor de “cherry” americano. (Digo “cherry americano” porque ella le gusta cerezas naturales.)

Siempre cuando hice una jarra de jugo sabor “cherry”, mi suegra empezó a quejarse de “el tufo.”

“Hiede a sapuyulo!” ella me decía.

Yo no sabía lo que era sapuyulo pero es una fruta, también conocido por el nombre “zapote” o “mamey” en algunos países. Mi suegra me explicó que cuando era niña, tuvo que tomar sapuyulo por un remedio casero o usar lo en forma de jabón, no recuerdo exactamente pero de cualquier manera no le gustó – y por eso el olor de “cherry” le molestaba mucho.

¿Y tú? Cuáles son tus experiencias entre olores y cultura? Cuáles olores te gustan? Cuáles olores no te gustan? Y cómo afectan tus buenos o malos recuerdos a los olores que te gustan o no te gustan?

Nota: Mil gracias a mi amiga Claudia quién me dijo como deletrear “sapuyulo.”


How does your culture affect your sense of smell and the things you think smell good and the things you think smell bad?

In an article I read, the argument is made that our olfactory preferences are learned. Interesting, right?

Some examples I can give from my life: I like the smell of skunk and the smell of gasoline. I know these are very offensive odors for many people, but these scents are tied to fond memories from my childhood.

Also, scents normally considered to be nice in one culture may be offensive in others. For example, the scent we call “cherry” (cherry, as in the artificial cherry scent used in popsicles and chapstick), I love very much. I have many fond memories of the “cherry” scent – but my mother-in-law hates the smell and taste of American “cherry.” (I say “American cherry” because she likes natural cherries.)

Whenever I used to make a pitcher of cherry-flavored juice, my mother-in-law would start complaining of “the bad smell.”

“That stinks like sapuyulo!” she’d say.

I didn’t know what sapuyulo was but it turns out it’s a fruit, also known by the name “sapote” or “mamey” in some countries. My mother-in-law explained to me that when she was a child she had to take a home remedy made of sapuyulo or that she had to use it as a soap, I can’t remember exactly how it was, but either way she hated it – and that’s why the smell of “cherry” bothered her so much.

And you? What are your experiences with smells and culture? Which scents do you like? Which scents do you dislike? How do your good or bad memories affect the scents you like or dislike?

Note: Many thanks to my friend Claudia who told me how to spell “sapuyulo.”


  1. Never ending stand off between myself and ex in laws was cleaning with clorox. Bleach is my favorite smell like ever, and they would always complain that it smelled bad.

    • Did your mother clean a lot with Clorox? … My mother only used bleach on white clothes in the laundry room but my suegra used to use it liberally to clean everything and it was so overpowering in the house that it made me ill. LOL… I think some people have tolerance built up from childhood.

  2. Cada vez que voy a casa llevo comida para que la pruebe mi familia, sobre todo comida inglesa que no hay en España. Durante este tiempo he acertado más o menos, pero si hay algo que mis familiares no aguantan es jengibre. Da igual que sean galletas, gingerbread o jengibre escarchado, no se lo comen nunca porque les sabe a colonia!!??
    I always bring food back home for my family to try, mostly English stuff that you can’t find in Spain. It has been a little bit of a hit and miss over the years, but if there is something my relatives can’t stand is ginger. It doesn’t matter if it is ginger biscuits, gingerbread or crystallized ginger, they just won’t have it because it tastes of cologne !!??

    • Ha! Carlos is the same with ginger-flavored foods (I love ginger snaps!) – but strangely he’ll eat the pickled ginger that comes with sushi.

      • Ohhh gingersnaps and a cup of tea, best thing ever!! (Y luego me sorprende que mi familia me llame la inglesa LOL)

  3. Wow! ¡Qué interesante este artículo! Uno de los olores que más me desagrada es el olor a canela, porque tampoco me gusta. Soy súper sencible a ese olor y puedo idenficarlo cuando lo usan, aunque sea en cantidades ínfimas, para preparar algun plato. En días recientes he comparado ciertos olores con cosas de mi niñez, por ejemplo olor floral de un limpiador que se llama “Fabuloso.”

    Bueno, hoy empece un Spanish Friday nuevo. Trata de la historieta cómica Mafalda de Argentina: http://www.speakinglatino.com/mafalda-quino/

  4. I like the smell of horses. Horse hair, horse manure, horse sweat, whatever. Also dairy farm smells and sheep. I like the smell of cigarettes, too because it reminds me of my grandfathers, who have both passed. I know all of these smells are considered bad smells to most people.

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