Are Germans hyper-sensitive to food smells?

81 posts in this topic

Posted

I was heating up yesterday's delicious maple pan-seared salmon in the breakroom for lunch and my colleague opened a window. Yes, I know, there are people everywhere who dislike the smell of fish, so this is a bad example... but Germans really do seem to be especially bothered by food smells. Growing up in the States, I can't remember anyone complaining that cooking might have the undesireable side-effect that you might (God forbid) smell the food. Unless perhaps it's something you really dislike eating. Here it seems to be a common complaint, and many people studiously avoid onions and garlic for fear of poisoning their breath. I just don't think Americans think so hard about these things. But the question is: do we have the same sense of smell at all? Are we just more open-minded, more forgiving? Or do we have better ventilation? What about other nationalities?

My colleague and I had a discussion about it (we're translators) and she was dubious that there could really be a difference. But she mentioned worrying about her clothes smelling like food, something that would never even occur to me.

What do you guys think? I was wondering if it might have something to do with the general blandness of the food here, but said colleague loves Indian food... so it really does seem distinct from the act of eating.

What do you guys think?

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Posted

I think it's an individual thing, rather than something that has to do with nationality. My boss (German) and I both hate it when food smells linger in the office (I mean the desk and open area, not the kitchen). My German colleague, on the other hand, can add hot water to some unspeakable stuff, or get a Leberkäsesemmel, and eat at his desk - and sit cheerfully all afternoon in the resulting miasma. A quick air out is a must, but it's usually instigated by me or the boss.

Mhmm... maple pan-seared salmon! :)

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Posted

(Dare I mention the side dish: spinach with chestnuts and sweet potatoes?)

Yum! (I mean... yuck?)

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Posted

get a Leberkäsesemmel, and eat at his desk - and sit cheerfully all afternoon in the resulting miasma.

My colleagues and I do that all the time, and never noticed any kind of lingering smell from a leberkäsesemmel. All of us eat at our desks just about every day. I think the lingering smells are worst with asian food, but no one complains. We like to keep the windows open a lot, anyway.

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Posted

I think the lingering smells are worst with asian food, but no one complains. We like to keep the windows open a lot, anyway.

also eating döner at desk is not a good idea...

I am not a fan of food smell either. I keep windows wide open while i cook. Generally I eat at mensa so no worry. If I had to eat at work, I go to tea kitchen. Exception is a sandwich.

EDIT: Mahlzeit :)

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Posted

The smell of food that comes from our local Greek restaurant drives me crazy

(but only because it smells so delicious and it's always tempting me ;) )

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Posted

Where are you from, Arahlucky?

As for the Americans, can you remember people complaining about food smells back home? I was also specifically thinking about cooking smells, not just lunch at work.

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Posted

One thing I note, and I'm normally at at least two different companies per day, is that Germans hate the food smell, but never comment about the ungodly amount of cologne and perfume worn by various staff members. I will take the stairs in order to avoid some of the older ladies and younger men in the elevator. Gives me a headache. However, no one ever comments on it or even seems to notice that the office smells like a French whorehouse.

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Posted

I'm not fussed about most food smells and have worked with people who brought in leftover Chinese takeaway that smelled quite strong, but microwaved fish in a workspace would irk me. Those smells seem to get into hair and clothes and linger and I wouldn't like that in a workplace environment.

Outside the workplace, though, it sounds delicious.

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Posted

I am Indian. No matter how much i love eating curry but preparing at home is a big deal for me. So goes for bratkartoffel and other foods.

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Posted

So far it sounds like I'm the odd man out. I guess Germans have entirely normal attitudes to food smells, or I have an unusually permissive one. Oder?

Meanwhile, I feel really guilty about the fish. I did wipe out and air the microwave, open two windows, and wash the dishes aftwewards...

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Posted

.... and wash the dishes aftwewards...

If not for fish, you don't wash dishes generally :P

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Posted

oh yes I remember complaints about food smells in the US.

passive aggressive as Americans can be, they would rarely tell the offender, but cluck about it amongst themselves.

especially over popcorn and fish and curries.

ETA: I have no idea what you mean about cooking smells. I mean, it's not easy to cook in most communal environments. So cooking at work is sort of strange. And I can't imagine ANYONE complaining about cooking smells if they've been invited to someone's home for dinner or something like that. So what do you mean?

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Posted

We actually have a stove-top here at work. To my knowledge, it has only ever been used to warm up glühwein. I think I'll come in one day and chop up some onions, chilies, garlic, etc., brown some meat and start making a pot of chili, just to see if anyone complains... :D

** Actually, coming from me, I doubt they'd be surprised. They already joke about all the tabasco I put on my food and about how often I eat spicy chicken wings and bbq ribs that I brought from home.

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Posted

If not for fish, you don't wash dishes generally

We have a dishwasher in the office kitchen, so I would otherwise have used that.

I actually enjoy washing dishes. Something about warm, soapy water...

---

I guess that's just one more case where I don't understand my own country / other humans. I was mainly thinking about the WG I lived in when I moved here, actually, where such comments were common... and falsely generalizing it seems... Anyway, my colleague just called me out overall for making too many generalizations, and I see her point, so I'm backing down and rethinking the social implications of making unnecessary intercultural comparisons out loud. Too much "us" versus "them."

I feel a bit silly about this whole thing. Living abroad, it's easy to ascribe cultural significance to what may well be individual, personal preference.

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Posted

I feel a bit silly about this whole thing. Living abroad, it's easy to ascribe cultural significance to what may well be individual, personal preference.

Welcome to the club dude, we all get use to it and it's fun when you look back :)

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Posted

Isn't fish supposed to be eaten fresh? The reek that comes off microwaved fish is just plain revolting (how do people even find it edible?). From my 20+ year work experience in the USA (in the 'multi-culti' Silicon Valley), ~90% of the complaints from warmed up microwave food came from microwaved fish. To answer the OPs question,'Are Germans hyper-sensitive to food smells?'...A qualified 'Yes', when it comes to microwaved fish...other microwaved food odors, not so much.

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Posted

We just got a hot plate, but it was in use and I'm not sure that would have been any better. I try to avoid the microwave and don't own one at home, but sometimes a warm meal is nice...

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Posted

well I can share an experience here. We cook Indian food ones in a while at home (ginger & garlic has to be their with some awesome spices). It has been a week since we made Indian chicken curry, but even though, after a week my parents in law came to visit us (Germans) and to my surprise they asked if we are planing on chicken curry for the night. WHAT?? I do open windows while cooking and all those things to keep the air fresh at home, but "damn" I was surprised of there sense of smell, or the smell left from cooking.

Since they asked for it so I had to make it again though, but yep I agree with OP that thy do have strong sense for the food smell.

Might be from kartoffelsalat ;)

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Posted

How bloody insensitive of you to reheat stinky Salmon! Reheated Salmon stinks to high heaven. The Salmon available in Germany is generally frozen and in my opinion stinks even when freshly cooked. I would have opened the window too. :P

But hey, you gotta eat!

Edit: Bring in and reheat some left-over tripe or kidneys next time, just for laughs...

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Posted

I never heard of people complaining here at work about a food smell other than, "Mmm... that smells good, you are making me hungry!" I work at a school and most of us including me eat in the teachers' room. I usually eat cold stuff because I have to eat when there is time to do so but occasionally I do bring leftovers if I will be there all day and have more than a 15 minute break. However, I have had people complain when I have been on the train with warm food.

I do think that Germans do seem to really worry an awful lot about eating garlic and onions. No one has complained about how I smell even though I do eat garlic regularly, but I might not get close enough to the colleagues and the pupils just might be afraid to say something because they don't want to hurt their marks. :D

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Posted

I could see a connection to not wanting their clothes to smell. My wife is German and we've been married for 14 years. Although I've been doing laundry twice a week for all that time, she still won't let go of the wear-everything-three-times attitude that Americans usually don't suffer from. It's not like she's saving money or the environment or anything, I run the machines with or without her stuff.

With that said, I went with my son to a winter party where we were wearing about ten layers of winter clothing that had all been freshly washed for the season. When we came home, it all smelled so bad like schnitzel, we had to wash it all over again. My wife of course insisted that we just hang it outside until the smell goes away--I entertained the idea--it didn't go way.

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Posted

My colleagues and I do that all the time, and never noticed any kind of lingering smell from a leberkäsesemmel. All of us eat at our desks just about every day. I think the lingering smells are worst with asian food, but no one complains. We like to keep the windows open a lot, anyway.

In my last place of work in Yorkshire we had rented offices over a supermarket in Keighley, and there was a small kitchenette in each office. We were fobidden from eating hot food at our desks because "some people don't like food smells."

I don't think it's a particularly German hangup. Perhaps a hang-up of culinarily conservative people.

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Posted

I'm culinarily adventurous, but I sure don't want to be smelling someone's lunch while I'm trying to get work done.

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Posted

bring in some dried squid, or durian. they'll be thankful if you only bring salmon afterwards.

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