Tuesday, November 10, 2009



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.


peggy said...

I agree - I was just talking to a colleague about it...Here in New Zealand, Maori always take their shoes off before entering the house, and that's what we always did at home (I am part Maori, although I dont look it) My husband (grudginly) and kids always take their shoes off, but I struggle a bit with visitors of English/European descent who dont generally do this - or say "you dont want me to take my shoes off do you?" Leaving me feeling rude if I say - "well actually..."! I need to find some good wording for a wee sign, and I will buy some slip-ons and keep them in a box at the door for visitors.

Celestial Fundy said...

Don't be afraid to make your preference clear.

Bear in mind that some people of English descent may regarding wearing borrowed slippers as weirder than going bare foot.

Rose~ said...

"Bear in mind that some people of English descent may regarding wearing borrowed slippers as weirder than going bare foot."

I love that Matthew Clarke! LOL

Celestial Fundy said...

Thanks for dropping in.

richyrich said...

Have you seen this link?


The poem is good I think!