Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Should one provide slippers for guests?


In some Eastern European and Asian countries, guests change from their shoes into slippers provided by the host.

Some argue that if you intend to have a shoes-off policy in your home, you should keep some slippers for guests to wear. It is argued that this will make them feel more comfortable and prevent embarassments such as foot odour and holes in socks.

I am not inclined to think so. If slippers are provided, then they must either be disposable plastic slippers or else slippers that can go in the washing machine. It would be quite unreasonable to expect guests to wear slippers that have been worn by somebody else that day. I am not sure whether most slippers are machine washable. Some guests might not even trust you that they really have been cleaned and may prefer to stay in bare or stocking feet.

I think the practise of providing guest slippers might be just a bit too weird for British. Many British people will have been to a house where shoes-off was required, but not many people will have been offered guest slippers to wear, unless it was in another country. I think a lot of English guests would prefer to go barefoot, rather than wear slippers that are not their own. In conversations I have had with people about Japan, I have noticed people go 'ew' at the idea of wearing borrowed slippers.

It might be a good idea to buy slippers for family and regular visitors and keep them at your house. These should be worn only by the person they are provided for. Hopefully, one's family and close friends would be delighted by this consideration.

Providing clean socks is a different matter. I would suggest keeping a supply of clean socks in different sizes by the door for guests who are not comfortable going barefoot.

I think it is very sensible to let visitors know in advance that one has a shoes-off rule in one's home. That way, they can be sure to wear socks without holes or bring their own slippers if they prefer.


richyrich said...

Have you seen these 2 links? The first of them is a reference to this blog:

Celestial Fundie said...

Thanks. I had not seen those before.

Tiger Mouse said...


I have previously commented under the name "Moderate Mouse".

While providing slippers seems all well and good in theory, there is something that I'm curious about. In Japan or any other country in which slippers are available to guests I wonder how do they know how many pairs to have available. (Or are they only available for household members or the most frequent of guests?) It seems to me that unless they obtain dozens of slippers all at once, it could be too easy to run out in the even of a huge gathering. Another concern I have is, unless there's such a thing as "one size fits all" slippers, (and if anyone knows whether or not there is such a thing, feel free to let me know) the slippers in question may not fit.

As far as bringing my own slippers is concerned, I'd be willing to do that (or for that matter, a pair of flip-flops to act as slippers...even if I need to clean them off any...I have a pair of blue ones that I've occasionally stepped outside in, weather permitting, but because of a, for lack of a better term, fuzzy detail on them that they're not exactly something I'd wear in public) if I am informed in advance of any kind of "no shoes" policy that is in place. (If I'm staying somewhere overnight and I have the packing space for it, I'll probably have a pair of slippers with me anyway to go with whatever pajamas I bring with me.)

Speaking of brining my own slippers, if hypothetically, I were to visit a country where (outdoor) shoes in the house is a no-no in most, if not all households, would it be okay for me to bring my own, or would it only be acceptable to 1.only use whatever ones are available from the host or 2.(especially in whatever offalist countries that don't do the "slipper" thing, one of which I THINK is Thailand, but I'm not 100 percent sure)tough it out in bare or stocking feet. I hope I don't offend anybody in the "socks and/or barefeet only" camp, but I'd have a hard time with it unless what I will be doing is such that it wouldn't have made much sense to wear shoes anyway and I'd especially have a hard time with it in a situation where there is a certain amount of formality to be maintained in one's appearance and/or demeanor...I don't know how to better explain it. That being said, if I have any business in an offalist home and they insist that I remain in socks/stockings or less for some reason, I would respect their wishes and comply. (I don't know, are there offalists out there that don't even approve of "houseslippers" for any reason? If what I have asked is a dumb question, I apologize.)

To anyone who opts to provide clean SOCKS, I suggest that you do your guests a favor and make sure that the socks ARE clean. And unless you are okay with your guests keeping the socks, it might help to have a small basket or something where they can leave whatever pair they used on the way out so as to remind you to wash them at your next available opportunity.

Celestial Fundie said...

Thanks for your thoughts.

Japanese people tend not to host large gatherings in their homes, one reason for this being that their homes tend to be much smaller.

In my experience, the slippers they provide in Japan are usually not very comfortable.

You also don't wear slippers on tatami mats and sometimes not on carpet, which means bare or stocking feet in bedrooms and living rooms.

Anonymous said...

I spent a couple of years in Korea where they also do not ever wear shoes in the house. Every home has a tiny lobby with cupboard for shoes and the entrance is very often littered with house slippers. The slippers are a 'one-size-fits-all' backless kind. The sole is just a thin, non-slip rubber or plastic, and the remaining of some sort of padded fabric - nothing fancy or super comfortable. Just something to put on your feet in someone else's home. When you enter the home there is always a pair for you and you just slip them on - whichever pair is closest to you. Also, you never go to another person's house without wearing socks or stockings, so it is not considered 'icky' to wear slippers someone else wore. Anyway, those slippers are easily thrown into the washer and drier. I wish I'd bought many before leaving... I can't find any like that here in Texas.

Celestial Fundy said...

If they can be washed that is great, but I still think a lot of western people would find it weird borrowing slippers.