Wednesday, December 10, 2008



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.


Lee said...

I totally agree with you that shoes-off policy is the way to go but on the contrary my reasons for doing so are in part based on my culture.

For the only way something can be imposed is for the decider to remain the dominant power. I take my shoes off whenever I enter a home, I enjoy eating the fins of sharks, I believe that sparing the rod will spoil the child because this is my culture and it is part of me and I am not ashamed to impose my view on anyone else because it is the only way.

When people start bowing down to the superior culture, when chopsticks are available at any restaurant, when everyone becomes the dog that they truly are. Our history and culture is unparalleled.

That's right, take your shoes off today, bow down to the rising dragon tomorrow.

Celestial Fundie said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Moderate Mouse said...

I'm the product of a typical US upbringing, where shoes on in the home is acceptable. My feelings towards a shoe-free home are mixed at least for now. My concerns are as follows:

1. While it is one thing to remove one's shoes at the end of the day or to not put them on in the first place when there is no intention of going anywhere. However, if I knowingly have any business calling me from the home in the form of school (which will only be for another two weeks) or (eventually) work, etc., it's easier for me to dress to the shoes first thing in the morning and then go about my morning "at home" business than it would be to dress for the day from the ankles up but then having to literally wait until the last minute to put the shoes on, especially if I get caught up in who knows what at home.

2. Even when I have no "off the property" business, there's that chance that I'll need to check the mail, or help carry in groceries, or do anything else that requires me to be outside. Not only does having shoes on ahead of time make me feel like I'm ready for anything, but unless the shoes in question are of the slip on/off sort, it can be very annoying to have them off for a long period of time only to have to put them on for a few minutes at most and then take them off again. It would also be annoying to have take them off temporarily if coming home for a short amount of time knowing that I'll be going back out again.

3. Part of whether or not I wish to have shoes on at any time is psychological. When I have dishes to wash, the table to set, etc., I prefer to have shoes on. While I understand that most household chores in themselves are indifferent to whether or not one has shoes on at the time, wearing shoes gives me the fortitude to do them. That said, when I'm ready to do any writing, studying, or anything else at home where I'll need to sit down for a substantial amount of time, usually in the evenings, then my shoes are more likely to come off. When they're off, I feel more, for lack of a better term, grounded.

4. The other concern I have about banning shoes from the home environment is safety. You may be confident that you will neither stub your toe nor break anything near your foot, nor spill hot liquid on it, but there's always a first time, and socks alone won't do you any favors there.

Maybe one day my views will change, but I am not ready to stop wearing shoes at least not yet.

Celestial Fundie said...

It is nice to find somebody with lots to say on this subject.

1. Slip-on shoes are pretty easy to put on. And you can think about what shoes you are going to wear when you get dressed.

2. I think this is more because you are not used to it.

If started having a shoe-free home, it would take time getting used to taking your shoes off and putting them on again and you might find this irritating.

But you would find that you are actually stopped thinking about it eventually. Going back into the house without removing your shoes would start to seem like going to bed without getting into night clothes.

3. You could get a pair of sandals or ordinary shoes, if you insist, and use those as slippers.

4. Do you never wear sandals in summer? Or make a hot drink after removing your shoes at the end of the day?

You can't eliminate every risk in life. Slippers will protect your feet a little bit and if you insist, use ordinary shoes as slippers.

There seem to be plenty of Swedes, Canadians, Koreans and Japanese who seem to cope with the minimal risks of toe-stubbing and spilling hot drinks.

God Bless


Moderate Mouse said...

Maybe the concept of shoes off in the home isn't as bad as i have made it out to be in my last post.

As for slip-on type shoes, it would be great to be able to invest in a pair of those and do away with tennis shoes altogether, at least the athletic kind, which put a limit as to what I can otherwise wear.(When I was growing up, between PE, marching band, and family standards as to what is/isn't considered necessary to one's survival, not owning tennis shoes was not an option for me. But now, I will bet you I could do away with tennis shoes and be okay.) However, it's not currently feasible. I'm reluctant to own anything new as I will be moving shortly after Christmas, and the only winter-appropriate non-dress shoes I have right now are a pair of tennis shoes my sister had bought for me this summer. When they do wear out, I'm hoping I will not be pressured to add a new pair into my possesssion, but there's no promises.

Maybe I was a bit paranoid about the safety issue. But I have heard it come up on other sites. Yes, I do wear sandals in the summer if I have access to a pair. The only ones I have are a pair of blue flip-flops with a detail on them that makes me reluctant to wear them in public. I'd maybe wear them at home more often if it were a different time of year. And yes, I do sometimes fix myself a hot drink after having removed my shoes. Even then, though, I'll usually have on slippers which I mostly wear with pajamas.

I guess in relation to the having to wait until the last minute to put my shoes on is concerned, if I'm really so bothered by it, I could just wear slippers that blend with the decorum of the oufit until I'm ready to go. But I'll have to wait and see.

Overall, I think that if I ever do decide to have a shoe-free home, I'll need to be sure that it is what I want. But as long as I'm as unsure as I am, it's not going to happen.

P.S. I've seen the 37 reasons to have a shoe free home a couple of times. If there's another potential reason NOT covered by the list, it would be so that the shoes themselves will last longer. (I read somewhere that in the pioneer days, children went barefoot in the summer to save their shoes from wearing out.)