Belgium has a particular smell. It smells of waffles and chocolate, combined. I’ve tried to tease the waffle smell out of the chocolate but they refuse to separate. The smell is most pungent at the shafts that exit from the underground metro stations. It’s a smell that creeps over into France a bit too. You catch whiffs of it in Paris in the Metro. I thought about other countries I’ve visited and most of them have smells. France, for example, except for the wafflely bits, smells of bad drains. As in Belgium, the smell is worst in underground train stations, but it can be found in almost every house, leeching out of the sinks and the lavatories. In French houses the smell is generally mixed with Javel water, a liquid bleach. The combination of ripe Reblochon and Javel and drains is very evocative of France and quite overpowering.
Greece smells of the crushed leaves of warm oregano in sun-baked mountains. India smells of sandalwood. Sri Lanka is a two-faced combination of rancid butter from the butter sculptures that decorate hotel dining rooms and which makes my nose wrinkle and wince just to think of them, and the heavenly smell of frangipane flowers. I decided that they were all new smells, smells I hadn’t smelt before I smelt them for the first time and so they were locked into my memory of the country forever. I couldn’t summon up a smell for America or for Australia or for Egypt, though I tried.
England smells of cut grass, Wolf’s ears, damp churches, sugar beet being boiled to make sugar, clean washing dried outside on the washing line, basmati rice cooking, oranges covered in cloves, old fashioned Buff Beauty roses, river mud, stale beer. Washing never smells the same in another country. I like the smell of my home. Lola Button says her friends like her smell so much they come and sniff her.