Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest post from Sandro

Sandro is a regular visitor to this blog. He lives in Georgia (that is the ancient Christian kingdom in the mountains of the Caucasus incorporated into the Russian empire and after it the Soviet Union; not the Georgia in the USA. Today Georgia is an independent republic with important political and economic ties to the west).

What I really find strange that our museums do not require shoes removed. Yet when I was in Baku as a tourist with my wife, we also visited a number of museums, and our removing shoes was accepted in some of them though made certain fun of in one case. I am talking about apartment museums, i.e. ex-apartments of famous persons in Azerbaijan's history, now the dedicated museums.

Only in of them, a famous local jazz musician's, shoes-off was required. In others, our intention to take our shoes off seemingly shocked the staff, and we were strongly told to leave my shoes on (not surprisingly, the floors were dirty and scratched in those museums) or, if a museum had been renovated, offered extremely uncomfortable (even dangerous), falling down and slippery bags or slippers to put ON shoes. It would have been particularly troubling for my wife, who was wearing high heels (BTW bags cannot protect polished parquet from heels).

In cases with bags/slippers, we were "allowed" to remove our shoes with more or less tolerance or understanding. In one case, we preferred to put the bags on our stockinged feet, which was still not so uncomfortable for us and not so "shocking" for them. We found it was seemingly easier to "control" the bags without shoes rather than through shoes, and not to slide or fall down. This was especially vital for my wife, who was wearing high heels. I think the staff didn't notice we had left our shoes in the lobby.

In the museum of rugs, those on the display are located partly on the floor. The museum provides no slippers or bags, and visitors must stay in their shoes (the floor is parquet rather scratched). However, to see the labels with information, one has to step on the rugs displayed. We repeatedly removed our shoes every time stepping on a rug. We had to put them on to move from rug to rug, from room to room. We would have preferred to keep them off, but didn't want to move dirt from the parquet onto the rugs with our stockinged feet. Nobody from the staff commented our actions. I wonder whether they would have told anything hadn't we taken our shoes off. I hope they would.

Baku is a wonderful city with nice people, who follow the shoes-off policy at homes almost with no exception, but they don't accept the same policy for offices and, which is even harder to understand, for museums.


Sandro said...

thank you, CF )

Celestial Fundy said...

I have heard some museums in Russia require you to remove your shoes and put on slippers.

Sandro said...

in Pushkin's apartment-museum, they do; in other places, you put slippers on your shoes

Sandro said...

Some people think it's very hospitable to tell their guests not to take their shoes off. They want to show they appreciate their guests more than their floor. What a strange idea!
A guest told so may think you consider
1) him/her not entitled to feel at home at your place
2)his/her stockinged feet dirty or ugly.
A guest told so will be not sure if you really want him/her to keep the shoes on or still expect that the shoes be removed. It is especially topical for "westernised" homes across the Caucasus, their hosts sometimes very skilfully pretending they wouldn't like you shoes to be removed ("our floor is dirty...", "nobody does so in our place", etc.)
As a result, your guest may stay in his/her shoes feeling uncomfortable, unwelcome, fearing to scratch your floor and stain your carpet, looking at his/her shoes, so inappropriate in a home environment, and still unsure if it's really what you expected him/her to do.

Celestial Fundy said...

Great thoughts, Sandro.

Sandro said...

thank you, CF