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Germphobia is a class thing, isn't it?

(277 Posts)
tenbob Fri 22-Jun-18 09:13:57

Full disclosure: I'm slightly fascinated by the posters here who won't wash their hands on a towel at someone else's house, buy cakes at a school fair or use a public toilet for fear of germs, and admit to being the sort of person who eats stuff past the sell-by date if it passes the sniff test

But I've just spent a couple of days working at a food fair type thing and noticed a definite class divide in germ tolerance

There was no end of stereotypical posh families who would share their ice cream with the Labrador, eat food that had fallen on the floor etc

And the mums (it was always the mums) who were obsessively wet wiping everything were non-posh

Can you prove or debunk my theory?
And if I'm right, why are the upper classes so relaxed about dirt?

KittyHawke80 Fri 22-Jun-18 09:33:36

I agree with you, actually. I’m a dirt poor minimum wage slave, but my dad came from a very wealthy family. His aunts were like those two ‘stuff and nonsense’ women that French and Saunders did so brilliantly about twenty years ago: food from Fortnum’s, furnishings from Harrods - but all filthy and slightly flyblown. They didn’t cut off their fingers and feed them to the dogs that I know of, but I wouldn’t have put it past them. The take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door and alcohol gel brigade are never out of the top drawer.

KittyHawke80 Fri 22-Jun-18 09:34:21

You could always tell the richest ones at my school, too - they drove the clapped-out Volvos.

Ifonlyfor1day Fri 22-Jun-18 09:40:01

Maybe, Been working class myself and not having fancy car or holidays my home is probably my source of pride, I am anti germ. There are some children's houses I wouldn't eat cake from. I only binned the ones DD bought at the school fare yesterday, well the few she had left.

Unfinishedkitchen Fri 22-Jun-18 09:41:57

Watch a load of typical class obsessed MN members rush to list the many way in which their houses are manky and their kids are filthy to try and show they’re UC.

Hygiene isn’t a class thing at all. I’ve seen manky houses lived in by WC people with dirty kids and the beautifully kept houses and clean kids of wealthy people and the same in reverse.

thecatsthecats Fri 22-Jun-18 09:43:10

My mum somehow got in with the local upper classes - landed, National Trust property, dozens of rented properties on the estate.

Patched Barbour jackets, Hunter wellies with plastic bags inside to keep out the damp. Would think it common to buy furniture and not inherit it.

I'm not sure how it equates to germophobia though?

For the record, I use all the 'U' words, wash my hands and practice basic hygiene, but tend towards the researched and scientifically valid opinion that clean freaks are either just wrong or need to be pitied also.

MargaretCavendish Fri 22-Jun-18 09:45:23

If you're right - and I guess it chimes anecdotally with me, but that's hardly conclusive! - then isn't it about a fear that people will judge you because they think you're not capable of keeping a super clean home, rather than not wanting to? A bit like how, in my experience, people with lots of money are much more relaxed about charity shop or second hand stuff because they don't feel like anyone will judge them for not being able to afford 'better'.

MereDintofPandiculation Fri 22-Jun-18 09:48:50

I wonder whether you have to be in a position of "security" to go against society's norms? OK to be scruffy or lax in hygiene standards if other parts of your lifestyle show that it's your choice rather than poverty. OK for a young person to be unkempt, but there comes an age where unkemptness leads to hints about care homes. And so on.

ZibbidooZibbidooZibbidoo Fri 22-Jun-18 09:50:23

Based on only my own interactions and observations I would agree OP. I say this as a working class person with germ issues! grin I think it’s probably partly to do with the whole “judgement” thing and possibly I think due to the lack of knowledge about germs and what is “safe” germs and what isn’t.

NotTakenUsername Fri 22-Jun-18 09:50:54

I have no idea if this would stand up statistically, but it’s an interesting consideration (ignoring the fact that ‘posh’ is no indication of class wink).

My first thought is that Poundland is coming down with anti-bacterial gels etc - does Harrods do them at the tills too? grin

longwayoff Fri 22-Jun-18 09:51:46

You are absolutely correct. I think this happened after 1945 when servants. became hard to find and the top drawer slowly realised that things didnt clean and cook themselves. So there wasn't a culture of cleaning and cooking as it had been done by other people for centuries so they hobbled long as best they could. Any chambermaids for top hotels out there? Prepare yourself for tales of unbelievable filth.

NotTakenUsername Fri 22-Jun-18 09:52:16

MereDintofPandiculation that’s really interesting and also really sad. Yes, rich people don’t lose their children because their clothes are dirty.

Moonkissedlegs Fri 22-Jun-18 09:53:33

I don't know about germs as such, but certainly the wealthiest 'old money' posh people I know drive rubbish cars, and their houses are fairly messy and lived in.

MargaretCavendish Fri 22-Jun-18 09:54:48

I wonder whether you have to be in a position of "security" to go against society's norms? OK to be scruffy or lax in hygiene standards if other parts of your lifestyle show that it's your choice rather than poverty.

Yes, this is what I think too. I also think with things like scruffy and slightly grubby kids they are judged differently depending on social group, and it's not irrational or paranoid for people to think that. I've seen people worry about a really messy house leading a health visitor to flag with social services, for instance - but I don't think that's a fear shared equally across different economic groups, nor do I think it's equally likely to actually happen to everyone.

Bearfam Fri 22-Jun-18 09:55:22

Ha! I must be lowest of the low then! I do work in a very old poorly maintained building so that doesn't help. I also have anxiety issues. I think there is probably a truth in what you say. In my experience less well off people are often a lot more aware of what the world thinks of them. So perhaps don't want to be judged as being poor and dirty?

ShamelesslyPlacemarking Fri 22-Jun-18 09:56:48

Because poor people need to “prove themselves” and rich people benefit from being “approachable”.

borlottibeans Fri 22-Jun-18 09:58:36

I wonder if it comes from the same place as not complimenting the food because that's the cook's job? Perhaps caring about germs is the housekeeper's job?

Also as PPs have said it's about confidence and not feeling like you have something to prove to stop people looking down their noses at you.

NotTakenUsername Fri 22-Jun-18 09:58:39

This has gone from interesting to depressing... sad

<<Reaches for the bleach>>

Zoflorabore Fri 22-Jun-18 09:59:00

Unfortunately for me I have OCD so I suppose whether I was UC or not I would still have problems with dirt.

I do get what you're saying though op, I live on a ( very nice ) estate that is probably 70% social housing, mine included.

The houses that stand out around here are definitely the social housing ones and I know many women locally who's homes are immaculate. All of them without exception are working class.
It's sort of like a badge of honour.

BluthsFrozenBananas Fri 22-Jun-18 09:59:05

In my experience the worst people for germaphobia are Americans. Not tarring them all with the same brush, but many are obsessed with hand gels and putting loo roll or paper covers on the seats of public loos. I’m not sure where that fits in with your class theory though.

MargaretCavendish Fri 22-Jun-18 09:59:27

Yes, rich people don’t lose their children because their clothes are dirty.

This extends to other things too, and it's both sad and really dangerous, as it stops people getting help they need. For instance, it never occurred to me not to tell the midwife that I have a history of anxiety and depression in our booking-in meeting, and when she referred me to perinatal mental health I thought that it was a nice change to get such a prompt referral for mental health! But when I idly Googled what to expect from this appointment I found page after page of women terrified that this would lead to social services taking their baby away. That's just not a fear that ever crossed my mind, because I've been lucky and privileged enough in life that I tend to assume institutions are on my side and so I'm not scared of them.

Ifailed Fri 22-Jun-18 10:03:14

I wonder how much of this is down to being/the fear of being judged? You only have to read the almost daily threads on here about competitive cleanlinesses and how some recoil in horror at idea of not showering 3 times a day and sleeping in 'dirty' sheets - whereas those at the top tend not to care so much?

BarbarianMum Fri 22-Jun-18 10:03:30

I agree about the "judgement" thing. My mum's solidly working class and very obsessed with cleanliness and appearances. She says to be respectably working class when she grew up meant maybe not much money but a clean house and children, your husband not getting rolling drunk on a Friday and church on Sunday.

My dad's family were minor aristocracy and cleaning was something the maids did. Children cleaned up and brought to the drawing room for afternoon tea.

Interestingly both grans attitude to food hygiene was the same "what doesnt kill you fattens you" - but both had known exteme hunger/near starvation during WW2 so that may not be a class thing.

I'm middle class so we're quite scruffy but secretly embarrassed about it. smile I dont worry about germs at all.

WeirdScenesInsideTheGoldmine Fri 22-Jun-18 10:03:37

I teach at a private school where there is a very busy second hand uniform shop

I never saw anything like that in state schools

Posh people don’t care

ImperfectTents Fri 22-Jun-18 10:04:01

Ffs. It's ideas like this that lead to snot smeared children in muck smeared party dresses and wellies being wheeled out by class obsessed wanna be hipsters who think it is frightfully non u to allow their children to look tidy.

People are people, and there are lazy shites across the economic spectrum. And that's what it is an economic spectrum with various levels of luck and unfairness not some natural inborn 'betterness'

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