Just as I was giving up on the idea of ever blogging again, I happened to come across this blog post. No, you don’t have to click on the link–heaven knows I hate having to do outside reading before enjoying my usual bloggy repast–I will just tell you about it. It was about the practice of asking people to remove their shoes when they enter your home. The person who wrote the post thinks it’s rude to ask people to do that, unless you live in a part of the world where that’s the cultural expectation (e.g. Japan). Apparently, he doesn’t like to remove his shoes. That’s neither here nor there. You can read his argument and that thread if you want to, or you can read my blog. Or I guess you could do both, but since I commented on the thread, I’ll just warn you that there are spoilers for this post there. Beware!
I don’t actually have strong feelings about removing my shoes in someone else’s home, or about being asked to remove my shoes in someone else’s home. In our house, we don’t have a no-shoes rule. I didn’t grow up in a no-shoes-inside household, so it is not ingrained in my psyche that shoes are inappropriate footwear for the indoors. As it happens, I enjoy wearing shoes much of the time, even inside my own house. I tend to put on shoes if I plan to work inside my house because it puts me in the frame of mind that I am not just relaxing on my sofa. I find it difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for work if I am barefoot or in stocking feet. I must be fully shod, or I am going to be continually tempted to sit down on the couch and read a good book instead of making myself useful. That’s just how I am, love me or leave me.
Another thing is that my feet get really cold during the winter, and I need to wear both shoes and socks to keep them warm enough. It might be psychological, or I might have freakishly-cold feet. I don’t know, but that is another reason why I tend to wear my shoes even indoors (where it theoretically should be warm enough to go without shoes, but somehow it is not).
So obviously I’m not going to ask people to remove their shoes when they come to my house. That would be dumb. Number one, I don’t care. Number two, it really would be rude to ask other people to remove their shoes when I’m not willing to do so myself. Rude, or just weird. I don’t know. Either way, I don’t care if people take their shoes off or not. I would actually prefer that my children keep their shoes on, if only so I could keep track of where they were. (The shoes, not the kids.) But that’s another subject.
Still, I don’t mind when other people ask me to remove my shoes in their home. It’s their home, after all. And I would hate to be responsible for ruining their carpets. I would hate for them to think I didn’t care about their carpets. So of course I will take off my shoes, if that’s what they want. I don’t usually have to ask. Usually it is obvious when you step into a no-shoes house. For one thing, the carpets still look nice. For another thing, there are a lot of shoes lined up by the door. For yet another thing, the person answering the doors is not wearing shoes, and neither is anyone else inside the house. In any case, I will remove my shoes, more often than not, without asking because I assume that no one is going to be offended if I remove my shoes. I do not wear socks with holes in them (they bother me), and my feet are reasonably attractive, so I am not embarrassed to show my socks (which are usually cute–I make a point to wear cute socks because I love them so much) or my bare feet (that’s why I paint my toenails–to be seen!), and I don’t imagine that people are disgusted by the sight of them, so what do I have to lose by removing my shoes? Only the will to work and some extra foot warmth. So as long as you’re not asking me to do housework in your house, there’s no problem.
If I strongly suspect that I am entering a no-shoes house, I will have my kids take off their shoes, too. But my kids actually hate to wear shoes and won’t even wear them outside (regardless of the weather) unless I make them (for weather reasons or for going-to-the-store reasons), and so their feet are usually even dirtier than their shoes are. (They don’t like wearing socks, either, so if they take off their shoes, their socks are bound to follow sooner or later–I have a lot of difficulty keeping them in socks–and so the bare feet are liable to make an appearance at some point, whether I will it or not.) I do worry about them getting their filthy feet on people’s nice, clean carpets. But I guess the damage done by filthy feet is not as offensive as the long-term wear-and-tear done by shoes, so far be it for me to second-guess my host’s preferences.
My own carpets are hosed, of course. Your shoes aren’t going to hurt them. The kids and I have already seen to that. I always think it’s funny when people ask if they should take off their shoes in my house, when I myself am wearing shoes and my carpets are clearly, ridiculously disgusting. I guess they see the pile of shoes by the door and don’t realize I only dumped them there so I would know where they were when I needed them. I always tell people they can do as they like. If you’re more comfortable without shoes, by all means, take them off. But recognize that my carpet may do more violence to your feet than your shoes could possibly do to my carpet. For something nailed down to the floor, it has seen a lot of this world. Like a wise old prostitute, there is little that will shock it.
When I was in Japan last year, one thing that did drive me a little nutso was all the rules about feet and shoes and where you could put your feet and shoes. As I said, I do not mind removing my shoes in someone else’s home, and I don’t mind removing them in someone else’s country, either–indeed, I am happy to do it. The last thing I want to do is be an ugly American and offend your cultural sensibilities by putting my shod or unshod foot in the wrong place at the wrong time, or whatever. But this was not the simple “remove your shoes when entering my home” business of well-carpeted America. It was a whole system of social mores and cultural taboos that was completely foreign to me and which I found difficult to fully grasp. Take shoes off here, wear slippers there, but don’t wear those same slippers there–put on some entirely different slippers to go to the bathroom, but don’t let the bathroom slippers touch the non-bathroom floors and don’t let the regular slippers touch the bathroom floors, and don’t let your bare feet touch the bathroom floors or touch the non-bathroom floors if they’ve already touched the bathroom floors–it was all a little much for this insensitive American who likes her shoes. And her feet. And doesn’t really like to wear slippers, if you want to know the truth.
Obviously, I could never live in Japan because I don’t know Japanese and probably won’t learn it in this lifetime. Also, I get claustrophobic. But even if I could get over those two issues, I don’t think I could ever master the shoe thing. (Needless to say, my children are wholly unsuited to step within the borders of that fine country. They won’t be doing it on my watch, that’s for sure!)
Anyway, I’ve never thought it was rude to ask people to remove their shoes when they come to your house. It seems to me that more people than not prefer that you remove your shoes. I have always assumed our family were the weirdos. (Generally, it’s a safe assumption.) So now it’s time for the (social) science portion of the blog post!
Do you wear shoes inside your house?
Do you prefer that guests remove their shoes when entering your home?
Do you prefer to keep your shoes on when not in the privacy of your own home?
Are you annoyed when people ask you to remove your shoes in their house?
How do you feel about slippers?
Could you make it in Japan?