Monday, June 30, 2008

Medical Conditions

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If you read internet discussions about the subject of the shoes-off rule, you will find countless people who claim to have a medical condition that means they must wear shoes all the time. If these discussions were representative of the population; nearly half the people in the USA have such a medical condition. I do not believe a word of it.

Yes, there are some people who do have a genuine medical reason for not removing their shoes. We must make exceptions for them.

Some people say having a shoes-off policy causes embarassment for such people because they must reveal their condition. However, this is quite unnecessary. A person with a medical condition can simply say:

I am sorry, I can't take my shoes off. Doctor's orders.


She does not need to reveal the nature of her condition. She does not need to give any embarassing details. There is really no problem here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shoes-Off at Parties?

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There are some people who are strict about no-shoes in their homes who make an exception for parties. They feel that parties are an occasion when people expect to dress up and this must include shoes. I disagree with their view. I think it is perfectly reasonable to require shoes to be removed for a party.

In Canada and Scandinavia, it is common for people to attend formal parties with a special set of party shoes that are not worn outdoors. This is not really feasible in the UK. I doubt that many British folks have shoes that are never worn oudoors, unless they keep a pair of sneakers to go to the gym. And if those formal party shoes have high-heels, they are unacceptable anyway.

Some people say that part of a party is clearing up afterwards, so you should not make a fuss about mess from people's shoes. This seems a little silly to my mind. People will make more than enough mess at a party without them bringing in dirt on their shoes. There will be plenty of spilled wine and crumbs ground into the carpet without chewing gum and dog dirt from peoples' shoes as well. Also the main party season in the West is Christmas and New Year, when there will be plenty of rain and snow (maybe not snow in England, but plenty of rain). The party season is a wet season.

Some argue that people will feel silly and uncomfortable at a party without their shoes. It is true that people might find it a little odd. But they will probably feel more comfortable for having removed their shoes. If it is made clear in the invitation that shoes willl need to be removed, then it will not come as a shock. Furthermore, if there is alcohol at the party, then most people will be feeling more relaxed.

The main argument levelled against shoes-off at parties is that people dress up for parties. A lot of people, particularly women, will chose their outfits very carefully and they the choice of shoes is part of that selction. For them, a party is an occasion to show off their good taste. They would not want to combine their cocktail dresses with barefeet.

In response I would say that parties are hardly the only occasions for dressing up. Ladies can show off their fancy shoes in restaurants or at the races. Not all parties are such formal occasions. If a party is a smart-casual event, it is actually quite rude to dress up more smartly than other guests.

The host sets the theme of a party. If it is meant to be a fancy dress party, then you should make the effort to find a costume or stay home. If it is an informal party, leave the suit or cocktail dress at home. If it is a no-shoes party, leave the kitten heels at the door.

I keep making this point, but I will make it again: it is best that guests know in advance that shoe-removal is required. If you are printing fancy invitations, make it known there (with some clip-art maybe?). If people know that they will have to take their shoes off, it will not come as a shock and they can plan their outfit with this in mind. They can bring some nice slippers that complement their outfit if they want and they can avoid long trousers that only look right when worn with high heels.

There is the question of whether it is really possible to hold a formal party while people are shoeless. It may be difficult in the West to maintain an air of formality when everybody is without their shoes, but is that really such a bad thing? Is it not better to be relaxed at a party? Certainly, the host and guests can make an effort to keep the party formal. Men can look reasonably smart by combining respectable slippers with their suits and women can look pretty elegant in stocking feet. So all is not lost. If shoes-off in homes becomes more common, shoe-lessnes will probably become less associated with being casual and informal.

There are some people who will certainly be far more happy and comfortable to party without their shoes on. As I argued in a previous post, it is not simply a matter of giving these people the choice. At a shoes-on party, those who take it upon themselves to remove their shoes are likely to get their feet squashed and to have to walk on a soggy carpet. Shoes-off for all guests makes it easier for those who want to take their shoes off.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Refuseniks

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If asked to remove their shoes, most people are polite enough to comply. However, it is always possible that there may be some refuseniks.

If somebody refuses to remove her shoes, the host has several options:

1. Not let them in.

2. Let them in, but express one's unhappiness. Not invite them in again.

3. Let them in, express one's unhappiness, but invite them again hoping that next time they will comply.

4. Let them in and say nothing. Not invite them again.

5. Let them in and say nothing. Invite them again in hope that next time they will be more polite.

There is not right or wrong response. Whether you let them in and whether you invite them again entirely depends upon your wishes.

You have every right to refuse to admit somebody to your home. If a person is visiting to sell you a product or service, or to promote their religious organisation (usually Jehovah's Witnesses are polite enough to offer shoes-off) then you might well refuse to let them in. On the other hand, if your boss is visiting, it might be a bad idea to refuse to let her in!

If the visitor is not a close friend, but a person you have invited to dinner in order to make close acquaintance with, you have every right to never let them darken your door again. On the other hand, you may not want to loose a close friend over the issue. However, you might feel more comfortable expressing your unhappiness to a close friend than to a occasional visitor.

There is simply no right or wrong response to refuseniks.

Would you let somebody in your house if they refused to remove their shoes when asked?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Homegrown: Important information for flooded gardens

Homegrown: Important information for flooded gardens

Recommends leaving garden shoes at the door.

Babycentre: No shoes in my house

Babycentre: No shoes in my house

Treating other people with respect

We should always do our utmost to treat other people with respect.

All of us have little things that we are sensitive about. Other people might find it hard to understand those things and may think we are oversensitive about them. However, that does not mean that we should not take those things into consideration.

For instance, some people may not like to hear bad language. If so, you should try as hard as you can not to swear when in that person's company. You may think that is silly. You may think they have the problem, not you and they should deal with it. I disagree. I think that you should respect the fact that those people do not like bad language.

Some people may not like you to smoke when there children are present. You may think that is silly, after all they are not going to be affected by you smoking just one cigarette in front of them. However, perhaps these people do not want you to set an example to your children. You should respect that.

Likewise, some people do not want shoes to be worn inside their homes. This is something important to them.

You may think this is daft. If it is for cultural reasons you may think "They are living in the UK not in China." If it is to protect the carpet you may think "Carpets are meant to be walked on." That is fine. You are entitled to your opinion. However, you should still treat their preference with respect. They are fellow human beings who have the right to their preferences and opinions as much as you do. So please don't complain if you are asked to remove your shoes in such homes.

We should also not be afraid to state our preferences. Nobody is going to know that you would rather they avoided using bad language in front of their children unless you tell them this. In the same way nobody will know that you would like shoes-off in your house unless you make it clear. There is nothing wrong with expressing how you feel and asserting your wishes. You have the right to be respected.

Encourage but not insist?

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Some people say that it is fine to encourage people to remove their shoes, but one should not insist that they do so.

There is a fine line between insisting on people removing their shoes and encouraging people to take them off. There are a number of things one could say that are subtle encouragements:


We take our shoes off here.


You might like to take your shoes off.


These imply strongly that the host wants the guest to remove her shoes. I do not see that insisting or asking is worse than encouraging. If you encourage people to take their shoes off, then you have started from the assumption that people will be willing to take them off. By encouraging, you apply a degree of moral pressure to comply.

I think a lot of people would not want the uncertainty of just being encouraged. I was dating a girl a few years ago when I was not 100% sold out to the shoes-off rule. She asked me if she should remove her shoes. I told her that we removed our shoes but she did not have to. She was actually uncomfortable at this answer and asked me whether I wanted her to take them off or not.

Sometimes it is simpler just to be straight with people and ask them to remove their shoes. No need to beat around the bush.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bare Feet

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In the UK and the USA a lot of people feel a sense of disgust and abjection towards feet. Of course, in many Asian countries, the foot is considered to be unclean. However, this is in connection with the fact that the foot touches the ground. Thus, shoes are considered to be far more unclean than the naked foot. In an Asian home, barefeet are acceptable, but shoes are not. This is actually the very opposite of the western abjection of the foot.

It is very common in internet discussions about shoes-off in homes for the subject of barefeet to be raised. It is argued that barefeet are disgusting, more so than the dirt on peoples' shoes. Of course, if you do feel that feet are disgusting, you can still ask visitors to remove their shoes if you lend then flip flops or socks to wear. Angie mentioned this in a previous post.

It is very likely that the sense of disgust about barefeet will decline. Sandals and flip flops have become incredibly popular in the UK and the USA. People are becoming more used to exposed feet. And ladies (and maybe some men) are spending good money on keeping them looking nice.

The argument that feet are more unhygienic than shoes is quite wrong. Unless a person has been going barefoot outdoors, they will not have been picking up the awful things that the soles of shoes pick up (though sandal-shod feet do get a bit dusty). You may think your feet are disgusting, however, you undoubtedly have more germs on your hands than on your feet. Feet are usually remarkably cleaner than the average pair of hands.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Your carpets or your guests?

The article linked in the post below quotes a cliche commonly uttered in the debate about shoes-off. That is that, if you ask your guests to remove their shoes, you must regard your carpet as more important than them.

I would suggest that those who insist on the carpet v guests dilemma are making a zero sum fallacy.

A zero sum fallacy is when one assumes wrongly that if you have more of one thing, you have less of another. Often people of generally Left-wing views make this fallacy about economics. They wrongly assume that the fact that some countries are wealthy and some are poor means that the rich countries must be taking wealth from the poor nations. However, this ignores the economic reality of wealth creation. There is no fixed amount of wealth in the world, but rather wealth is created by economic activity. So if some have more, it does not necessarilly follow that some have less.

Coming back to removing shoes, those who ask 'do you prefer your carpets to your guests' wrongly assume that being concerned about your carpet necessarilly means that you are less concerned about your guests' comfort.

It is not necessarilly the case that the two things are in conflict. That is because not all guests, or necessarilly even the majority of guests, would be unhappy to remove their shoes. Many guests will be indifferent and many will be far more comfortable after removing their shoes. Therefore, to ask guests to take their shoes off to protect your carpet is not necessarilly to disregard the comfort of the guests.

The same may be said about food. Some guests may love brocolli, other guests may absolutely hate brocolli. Does the fact some people hate brocolli that if you serve brocolli at a dinner party mean that means that you care more about brocolli than your guests?

How dirty are your shoes?

How dirty are your shoes?

This article focuses on bacteria tracked in on shoes. Some readers would query whether keeping out bacteria is desirable. Personally, I would prefer to point out the benefits of keeping out dust, pollen, animal excrement and chemicals rather than germs.

This article also quotes some negative comments about shoes-off etiquette.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hayfever

I am getting really bad hayfever at the moment.

One thing you can do to reduce hayfever is to remove your shoes at the door and ask visitors to do the same. That way you will avoid walking pollen into your house on your shoes and grinding it into the carpet. Another blogger has testified to me that this really does make a difference.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hospitality part 2

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Guests are aware when they visit a home that the hosts have boundaries that cannot be crossed.

Guests know or should know that they cannot go wandering about upstairs, looking in their hosts' bedrooms. They ought to be careful in conversation that they do not mention subjects that may cause offence to the host. If the host has strong views on a subject, it is best not to argue with him or her. Guests know that they cannot bring their pet dog to somebody else's home unless the host has expressly said this is acceptable. Even if the host is an animal lover, permission to bring a pet dog must be sought.

It is now recognised by most people that when you visit the home of a non-smoker, they should not smoke inside. If they need to smoke, they should put their coat on and go outside. There are still some people, probably mostly from the upper strata of British society who think it is rude to forbid smoking in one's home. However, this view is very much in a minority.

It is important to recognise these boundaries when one visits a home and if hosts prefer, even if they do not insist on it, removal of shoes, this should be complied with by guests. To ignore this boundary is, as stated in the previous post, taking hospitality for granted.

Some people would object to comparisons with smoking pointing out the health risks of smoking, compared with the minor ill effects to health of wearing shoes past the door. However, it is not so much the health risks that should deter smoking in a non-smoking home. Nobody is going to get lung cancer because a few guests smoked at a dinner party. They are unlikely to even develope a cough because of it. No, the reason one should not smoke in a non-smoking home is simply because the smells and mess are not convenient for such hosts. It is simply impolite. Likewise it is not convenient to impose the dirt and dust of your shoes in the home of a person who would object to it.

Some would argue that it is polite for guests to remove their shoes if this is what the hosts do, but it is impolite for the host to request shoes-off. They feel that it is better to leave the responsiblity of politness to guests. To my mind, this is not quite logical. If guests have the responsibility to comply with the preference of their hosts, then it is surely quite reasonable for guests to make their preference known.

Part of the reason why a verbal request for shoes-off may be necesary is because etiquette is so uncertain and in such a state fo flux on this point. While it may be a good idea to remove one's shoes when one is welcomed by a shoe-less host, as this may be a shoes-off home, such a gesture might be taken as impolite by some. There are some who go shoe-less in their home who would be surprised by guests going shoe-less. It is probably necessary for those who desire shoe-removal to make their wish known.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hospitality

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There are some who think that asking guests to remove their shoes is contrary to the principle of hospitality.

This is a culturally relative matter. Albania and Turkey are countries in which hospitality is greatly valued and yet it is expected in those countries that guests remove their shoes.

The shoes-on people argue that a hostess should primarily be concerned with her guests comfort and not with the state of her carpet or floor. However, most guests will feel more comfortable after removing their shoes. They may, admittedly, be uncomfortable because they are embarassed about their feet or they feel their shoes are part of their outfit. Those problems can be dealt with by letting guests know in advance that shoes-off is expected and so they can either bring slippers or plan their outfits with bare or stocking feet in mind. Any embarassment should be minimal if guests are not taken by surprise.

In my opinion, those who insist that guests should be allowed to keep their shoes on take hospitality for granted.

When I get my own house or apartment, I may well invite you. I will give you the best seat. I will cook for you. I will serve you the best food I can. I will give you whatever you want to drink, whether it be alcoholic or not. I will give you my undivided attention. I will entertain you with conversation. If you live nearby, I will drive you home in my car. If not, I will let you stay the night. I will wash up the dishes and cutelry you have used and clean up any mess you make. Given that I am willing to do all this for you, do you really think it is so unreasonable that I ask you to take your shoes off?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Simple Mom: Going Barefoot

Simple Mom: Going Barefoot

The relationship between host and guest

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Some people seem to see the shoes-off rule as an unfair restriction on the freedom of guests. I think that is a very sad attitude.

I rather see the removing of shoes as a beautiful and peaceful exchange between host and guest.

The guest removes her shoes when she enters the home. She shows respect to the house she is entering. She does not treat it like a restaurant where her custom is king. Nor does she treat it as her own home, where she may do as she pleases. She has entered the home of another family and she must respect the fact that their lives are lived here.

The hostess is in turn delighted by the respect that the guest shows her. In removing her shoes, the guest has entered into the environment of her family. The hostess will treat her guest with all the courtesy and kindness that she would show to her own family members. She will take care to look after her to the utmost while she remains under her roof. She will serve her the best food, give her the best seat. If necessary she will drive her home in her car or let her stay the night.

In removing her shoes, the guest becomes like the hostess, who is already shoeless. She identifies with the hostess who has welcomed her into her home. In their both becoming shoeless, the host and guest enter a fellowship and unity. They are both without shoes; they are equals. This is true friendship.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hardwood. Hard to Clean?

Hardwood. Hard to Clean?

How to clean hardwood floors. Recommends removing shoes at the door.

Weed Killer

My father sprayed some weed killer on the back patio today.

If you ever walk on a patio or drive with weed killer on, you should remove your shoes before going into your house. You do not want to bring that stuff inside.

What about your visitors? You cannot be sure that they have not walked on a weed killer sprayed drive. Ask them to remove their shoes before coming in your home.

Churches in India

At preaching class this morning, an elderly gentleman who travels around the world to preach in different countries, gave us a presentation on the subject of 'Preaching in a different culture'.

He mentioned that in India, it is common for congregations to remove their shoes before entering churches. Even if they do not, it is expected that a preacher will remove his shoes before delivering his sermon barefoot. This particular preacher felt that this custom was very precious in giving a strong sense of the sacred nature of the task.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

BNP going Asian?

Lancaster Unity: Of Barnbrook, his cream carpets and the mystery of the twenty year-old DNA...

It turns out that the British National Party man who got voted onto the London Assembly has cream carpets and a shoes-off policy in his home.

For those of you who are not British, the British National Party are a far-right group with a Neo-Nazi history who are totally opposed to immigration. I think they are a blight on this nation. They really leave a bad taste in the mouth.

It seems odd that somebody who is against immigration should be adopting a custom that is being brought into this country by Asian and East European immigrants.

I used to be very right-wing in my views. I used to be critical of immigration and a litle xenophobic. To my shame, I once had a friendly conversation with some BNP activists. Then when I found that having a shoes-off rule made sense, I began to think that maybe immigration might be a good thing. If foreigners had excellent customs like removing shoes at the door, maybe muliticulturalism was a good thing.

So a BNP man has a shoes-off policy. So do millions of Chinese people, millions of Indian people, so do Black Muslims, so do New Agers and environmentalists, so do some Jehovah's Witnesses and some Roman Catholics, so do Polish plumbers. So does a Fundamentalist Christian in Worcester who is a member of the Conservative party.

This blog is all about diversity and celebrating it. Removing shoes is a custom practiced all over the world by many different cultures. And it is a great one. The people who read this blog and agree with shoes-off may have very different ideas about a lot of things, but we all believe in treating homes with respect. And that means treating people with respect too.

Kitchen Table Medicine: The Naturopathic Management of Asthma

Kitchen Table Medicine: The Naturopathic Management of Asthma

Recommends removing shoes to avoid bringing in pollen and pollutants. A blogger has testified to me before that this really does make a big difference.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How to silently remind your guests to remove their shoes

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1. Cast your eyes downwards at the guest's feet for a few seconds.

2. Make a faint smile with gritted teeth.

3. Look down at the guest's feet again.

4. When the guest looks down, nod.

This is unlikely to work on first-time guests. This is only for reminding people who already know you don't want shoes in your house.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Shoes still Need to Come Off in Summer

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Some people may be of the opinion that shoes-off in homes is a good idea in the damp of winter, but is quite unnecessary in summer, except when it rains (which it certainly does here in the UK).

However, on the contrary I maintain that shoes ought to be removed even in summer.

It is true that the weather is drier in summer,so there is less chance of bringing damp or mud into the house. However, in summer, shoes will still pick up small particles of grit. These particles gradually wear out carpets.

If you have laminate or wood floors, there is still the risk of making scratches (watch out with those high-heeled sandals, ladies) or leaving marks (why do you think you are expected to wear deck shoes or go barefoot on a yacht?).

Dust is still a problem in summer. Dust is not good for your health or your children's health and the less of it in your house, the better. There is likely to be even more dust in summer, as the ground dries up and cracks.

Dog dirt is still a problem in summer. In winter, many people will walk their dogs to the minimum that is necessary. In summer, people will be spending longer outisde with their dogs, increasing the risk of fouling up. Dog dirt is extremely unhealthy stuff. Not good for crawling babies. You may try to avoid stepping in it, but your shoes will still pick up small traces and then grind them into the carpet if you do not take them off.

There is also pollen, which is only a problem in summer. Your shoes will pick up lots of the stuff. If you suffer from Hayfever or you live with Hayfever sufferers, I recommend having a shoes-off policy in summer.

Of course, on a hot summer's day, nobody ought to mind taking their shoes off!

Neat Freaks?

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It is commonly thought that people who insist on shoes-off in their homes are neat freaks who are obsessed with keeping their homes clean and tidy.

I dare say that there are some people who prefer shoes-off who are genuine neat freaks. And those who are Obsessive-Compulsive about cleanliness may well be among the shoes-off community.

Of course this is culturally relative. In Japan it is thought that money is dirty and unhygeinic because it is handled by untold numbers of people. Japanese people also regard any objects placed in bathrooms, such as books or ornaments to be 'dirty'. A person in a western society who held such attitudes would almost certainly be regarded as Obsessive-Compulsive.

I have known a number of people who really were excessive in their desire to keep their homes clean. Interestingly, these people did not require visitors to remove their shoes. I suspect that they probably spent so much time in cleaning their homes that they were happy to waste time cleaning up afer their visitors.

Many people who keep their homes shoe-free are not domestic goddesses who like nothing better than spending whole days doing spring cleaning. Rather, they are busy working people who have far better things to do. They do not want to clean up for the sake of it, but they know that living in a clean environment is healthier and far more pleasent. Knowing that time is precious they would rather keep the mess to the minimum and spend as little time as possible cleaning up after their visitors. Prevention is better than cure.

Nobody needs a house that is spotless, but it is pointless to allow dirt and dust to accumulate when it could easily be kept out by leaving shoes at the door. A floor is meant to be walked upon, but that does not mean that one should not reduce wear and tear and save time and money.