Tuesday, August 24, 2010



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.


Moderate Mouse said...

During one of the earlier times that this had been posted, one of the things I had mentioned having a problem with is waiting until THE minute it was time to go to put shoes on. (It may have been because I was raised to believe that if one had an outside engagement, when one got dressed, it needed to include putting shoes on before eating breakfast or anything else. To have the shoes literally be the last thing one did before going out just wasn't done.)

Looking back on it now, I have to say that I'm kind of embarrassed that I even had that objection, especially given the time I usually have to spare in the mornings these days (e.g., aside from getting ready, I often have time to take care of morning dishes as needed, read my bible, etc.). As I've noted in a previous post, one of the steps I'm working on towards disassociating the use of "real" shoes from life inside the home is holding off on putting them on until closer to time to go (with few exceptions).

In my head, there are currently too many factors to take into account to look at the shoes-off concept from the cleanliness angle. However, I can see potential in it as a means to confirm one's intent to stick around for a while (or to at least show that one is not in that much of a hurry to get out the door). One of the objections I had read to shoes being worn indoors is that it makes a person look like they could walk out any minute. I've wondered about that, but I think I'm starting to understand.

Eldar said...

The fact of life is that shoes-off is also a part of the mainstream European culture, not just some ´exotic Eastern cultures´whereby you follow the rule just of deference. In fact, if you consider that all of Scandinavia plus Central/Eastern Europe plus Russia (admittedly a European culture, even though a bit different) remove their shoes indoors, then it´s difficult to argue that shoes-off is somehow not European or Western.

Celestial Fundy said...

Very true. Nice to hear from you again.

Moderate Mouse said...

Is it just me or is that spam I see coming from that Ania person?

Celestial Fundy said...

I get so many spammers on this blog.

Not noticed them before? I must be deleting them quick then.