Revealed: Dutch are least hygienic Europeans

Half of Holland does not wash hands after going to the bathroom. The Bosnians are the cleanest Europeans. 

Revealed: Dutch are least hygienic Europeans

Fifteen October is Global Handwashing Day. By which we don't mean: wait until then to lather up your paws. Now that would be counterproductive! Because unwashed hands spread diseases – often deadly diseases. 


Consider the fact that washing hands with soap reduces infant mortality for pneumonia (and other respiratory diseases) by up to 25%, and for diarrhea (and other intestinal diseases) by up to 50%. And consider the grim toll of those two eminently preventable diseases: they kill 3.5 million under-fives each year. In other words, improving hand hygiene is the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to reduce the mortality of young children.

Wash your hands before eating, and after going to the toilet. That is the simple message of Global Handwashing Day, which was first held in 2008. It's a noble and worthwhile cause – even if it is rather self-servingly sponsored by some of the world's largest soap-producing companies (1).

The Day, every year on 15 October, is focused mostly on developing countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, India and the Philippines, where basic hygiene (or a lack of it) is a more critical factor in determining whether children survive than in the developed world. Improving hand hygiene requires an increase in awareness, the application of peer pressure, and a change in culture.

But it's not just the developing world that needs cleaner hands. As this map shows, some countries in Europe too have a definite problem with (not) washing hands. The map shows the result of a Gallup poll from 2015. Question: Do you automatically wash your hands with soap and water after going to the toilet? 

 Cleanest respondents are the Bosnians (96%), followed by the Turks (94%). These high scores are no doubt relatable to wudu, the Islamic procedure for washing hands (and mouth, nostrils, arms, head and feet) as a means of ritual purification, for example prior to prayer. 

Other Balkan peoples are among the most hygienic in Europe, but quite a bit below the Bosnians and Turks: Kosovans (also mainly Muslims) are at 85%, equalled by the Greeks and followed by Romanians (84%), Serbians (83%) and Macedonians (82%). The only other European people with this level of post-bathroom cleanliness are the Portuguese (85%). 

The next batch of countries is again about 10 percentage points lower, in the seventies. Iceland, Sweden and Germany lead the pack (78%), then come Finland (76%), the UK (75%), Ireland (74%) and Switzerland (73%). Bulgaria (72%) is a relatively dirty spot in the otherwise clean Balkans. The Czech Republic (71%) is less eye-catching, surrounded by schmutzig Central Europe. And Ukraine, also 71%, seems spotless, compared to those (relatively) filthy Russians. 

Dropping to the sixties, Poland has the highest score (68%); followed by Estonia (65%) and their slightly dirtier neighbour Russia (63%). France (62%), Spain (61%) and Belgium (60%) are all languishing at the bottom of the sixties. Austria (65%), surrounded by cleaner neighbours on almost all sides, can look down on Italy (57%).  

But who is the dirtiest of them all? Surprise, surprise: it's the Dutch. They generally benefit from a reputation for order and cleanliness, but as it turns out, that is largely undeserved. As this poll shows, fully half of all Netherlanders do not wash their hands with soap when returning from the bathroom. No other country in Europe does worse (to be fair: not all countries were surveyed). It would seem the Dutch could benefit from this device, as invented by cartoonist Gary Larson. 

Handwashing map of Europe found here at Jakub Marian's excellent cartography website. Gary Larson cartoon found here on Pinterest

Strange Maps #886

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

 

(1) Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever – but also UNICEF, USAID and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, among others. 

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Matthew Yglesias and moderator Charles Duhigg explore the idea on Big Think Live.

Big Think LIVE

Is immigration key to bolstering the American economy? Could having one billion Americans secure the US's position as the global superpower?

Keep reading Show less

Mystery anomaly weakens Earth's magnetic field, report scientists

A strange weakness in the Earth's protective magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.

Satellite data shows a new, eastern center emerging in the South Atlantic Anomaly.

ESA
Surprising Science
  • "The South Atlantic Anomaly" in the Earth's magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
  • The information was gathered by the ESA's Swarm Constellation mission satellites.
  • The changes may indicate the coming reversal of the North and South Poles.
Keep reading Show less

Mars pole may be hiding salty lakes and life, find researchers

Researchers detect a large lake and several ponds deep under the ice of the Martian South Pole.

Mars.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Italian scientists release findings of a large underground lake and three ponds below the South Pole of Mars.
  • The lake might contain water, with salt preventing them from freezing.
  • The presence of water may indicate the existence of microbial and other life forms on the planet.
Keep reading Show less

In praise of nudity: The nudist beaches of Central and Eastern Europe

"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"

Photo by Jessica D. Vega on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
They lie on towels, blankets and mattresses, without wind screens, but under umbrellas.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Crows are self-aware just like us, says new study

Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast