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European Journal

France: Personal Hygiene as a Luxury Good

In France many cities are having to construct more public bathing facilities, known as "les bain-douches". Two million people here live in apartments which aren't equipped with a bathtub or shower. Most of them are found in Paris.

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Each year, around a million Parisian use public baths -- and their numbers are growing. French law doesn't require landlords to equip apartments with a shower or bathtub. So in Paris even working people often find themselves reliant on les bain-douches. These public baths were first set up in the 19th century. In the 1970s, there was little demand for them. But since the economic crisis hit, les bain-douches have enjoyed a renaissance.