Saturday, April 21, 2007



Some people in Britain and the USA have an interesting perspective on this subject. They feel happy taking off their shoes at the home of an Asian person whose culture demands removal of shoes, but consider it deeply rude for a British or American person to insist on visitors to her home removing their shoes.

There are two problems with this attitude. Firstly, there is a touch of cultural arrogance about it. It implies that the Asian custom of removing shoes is purely of spiritual or cultural significance with no practical value. Maybe Asian people are primarily concerned about keeping their homes clean! Behind the pretended respect for a foreign culture, there is the unspoken assumption that Western practice is superior.

Secondly, this attitude seems to take a rather static view of culture, seeing it as a set of chains that bind people to particular rules of behaviour. In fact, culture is dynamic and fluid, it changes over time.

It seems to me to be quite obvious that if a person of Asian descent can be considered British while keeping her home shoe-free, it is perfectly acceptable for a White British person to keep her home shoe-free.

It may be the norm in Britain and most of the USA for shoes to stay on in homes now, but this may change. In fact, I believe it probably will. Many White Americans and even British people are adopting the custom of shoes-off in homes.

We are living in a global village with increased immigration, travel and communication between different cultures. There is tremendous potential for different cultural practices to migrate across geographical boundaries.


richyrich said...

Many White Americans and even British people are adopting the custom of shoes-off in homes.

Well as you said in your posting the other day under the heading of "A Positive Gesture", the fact that the visitors to your home offered to take off their shoes without any prompting would suggest that it is becoming an increasingly common practice in Britain now.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I am sure it is.

Do you know many people who follow the custom?

richyrich said...

Do you know many people who follow the custom?

I can't say that I do but I have come across some anecdotal and hearsay evidence that it isn't at all uncommon. As a child I was sometimes made to take my shoes off at friends houses but mostly (though not always) it was a rule for children and not adults. I can't say that I have actuallt been asked to do so as an adult. However there was one occassion some years ago when a friend and I went to visit another friend. We then went for a walk and the weather had been bad and there was a lot of mud around and when we came back to the friend's house we all took off our shoes at the door. Shortly afterwards a neighbour called by and on seeing us all in our socks and our shoes at the door she took off her shoes as well, thinking it was a rule at the friend's house.
I have heard some people say that they know people who have shoes off policies and who ask visitors to remove them. So I do think that there is good reason to think that it is gradually becoming more common in the UK. I hope I'm right!

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I can relate. I have never had the request as an adult (exept after country walks).

But I know one family who certainly prefer shoes-off (I have never visited their house) and a girl who says that her parents do.

One certainly hears in conversation about people who require shoes-off.

God Bless