Why Did My Sanitary Napkin Smell like Goat Cheese?

Shopping for Sanitary Napkins in South Korea

foreign-correspondent badge finalGetting your period is at least an annoyance and at most, to use the words of my father, “so bloody it’s like the civil war down there.” Having your period at home is bad enough, but when you’re out traveling the world, it’s pretty inconvenient, especially when trying to adjust yourself to a whole new period culture. It’s not something one often considers in terms of ‘cultural differences’ when you first decide to go abroad but cultural menstruation differences soon become important in your everyday life.

In Korea for example, tampons don’t have the same popularity that they do in the States. This doesn’t bother me, after having a particularly traumatic incident of improper tampon usage resulting in my tampon falling out during a soccer game in high school. I can’t look at those little plastic coated sticks without a small wave of shame and self-loathing. Not everyone thinks about tampons this way, so many of my fellow American females came to Korea with stocks of tampons to make it through many months without a visit to an American grocery store. I came stocked with some tampons for sure (I like to swim after all) but also with plenty of sanitary napkins. When I did, eventually, run out of America sanitary napkins, I was forced to shop for them in Korean grocery stores.

I looked around, frantic, hoping that somehow an interpreter would pop out of the large toilet paper display to my right, explain the whole situation to me so I could get my pads and get out.

My first stop on the pad shopping express was Emart, Korea’s version of Walmart. Emart is staffed with workers dressed in yellow and grey who wander the store and help you shop. Most them let me be as I wander the electronics aisle or frozen food section, but this was not the case in the feminine hygiene aisle. That aisle was staffed by a woman in pink who could not wait to help me. During my first encounter with her, I sheepishly scanned the aisle, (I knew no Korean at this point) totally ready to buy anything that was in English, if nothing else, for comfort value. This woman, middle aged, dark curly hair, dressed all in pink, walked up to me with a kind smile, said hello in Korean, and asked me something. I awkwardly nodded and tried to turn away.

“Size-uh?” she asked.

I looked around, frantic, hoping that somehow an interpreter would pop out of the large toilet paper display to my right, explain the whole situation to me so I could get my pads and get out.

“Uh…” I stammered. “I… um.”

“Small?” the pad shopping assistant said, smiling with even more kindness than before and holding her hands out about five inches apart to show how large said pad would be.

“Yes,” I said with relief probably better suited to someone saved from drowning as opposed to someone discovering what kind of pad they should use in Korea.

I pondered and pondered and after a day it came to me: goat cheese. This revelation was a little startling.

This happened during my second month in Korea. At the time, I figured it would be my most awkward menstruation related encounter in Korea. I was young and foolish to presume such a thing.

Several months later, I was confronted, yet again, with a visit from the period fairy. Instead of going to Emart, I opted to go to a small convenience store near work. It was closer to walk to, and my lunch break was only an hour. I picked out pads, without a pink suited assistant, paid, and went to put them to good use.

After about a day, I noticed a smell. This smell was not a normal smell; it was…out of place. It reminded me of something. Not a bad something, but not a scent you want radiating from your vagina either.

I pondered and pondered and after a day it came to me: goat cheese. This revelation was a little startling. Why did this whole mess of blood and pads smell like goat cheese when I hadn’t eaten it in months?

Upon further inspection I noticed something on the side of my pad wrapper, something, thankfully, in English. It was one simple word: herb. In a flash of insight the first mystery was solved: I didn’t smell like goat cheese, the pads were scented to smell like herbs that I normally associated with goat cheese, like basil.

But still there was another question to answer, and I even voiced it aloud in my school’s bathroom stall. “Why does my pad smell like goat cheese?” Why? Why that scent Korean pad manufacturers? I wouldn’t say it was pleasant or desirable. It didn’t even smell fresh. It smelled, well, like goat cheese! I have yet to find an explanation as to why although truth be told I haven’t looked all that hard. Sometimes in life, I find there are things I am never meant to understand. Perhaps a goat cheese scented pad is one of them.

About Kylie Genter

Kylie GenterKylie Genter is an English teacher in South Korea.

One thought on “Why Did My Sanitary Napkin Smell like Goat Cheese?

  1. Avatar
    well
    September 9, 2016
    Reply

    Well, I think the material difference of the pads could be the reason of the smell. American pads mostly feel like vinyls or plastic(I am not really sure what they use exactly) but korean pads are mostly cotton finished(at least the top of the pads are) and feels much better when you stick those. Also it’s blood and it is actually more natural that blood smells after it met the atmosphere. Even though I don’t think Korean pads are free from the chemical I honestly think that american pads have lots of chemical and toxin added to remove that smell.

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