Saturday, April 02, 2011

Hospitality Part1


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. 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?


michele james-parham said...

Thanks for reposting this, Matthew!

Celestial Fundy said...

Nice to see you again.

Leyla said...

Hi everyone. My name is Leyla. I'm Sandro's friend from Baku, Azerbaijan. We met for the first time on a seminar for English instructors in Baku last year. I'm now visiting Tbilisi and enjoy Mr. and Ms. Sandro's kind hospitality using their home for stay and their wi-fi for web browsing. Of course I leave my shoes at Sandro's door as I've been brought up at my family, and as I always do at people's homes.
Sandro told me about your blog, CF, which I'm glad to read. I like the philosophic level you've brought the issue onto, and especially the definitions of offalists and tramplians. 
People in Azerbaijan are intuitive offalists ) Yet globalization  brings us to the culture clash with tramplians from other countries. 
There is a special topic in the most popular Russian-spoken  Azerbaijani web-resource,,  dedicated to the shoes-off issue.  Strangely enough, the starting user, obviously an offalist himself as it seems from his post, has called it "Please come in and don't take your shoes off". BTW, he says he lives in the UK, and people's walking in shoes at homes angers him )
The accompanying poll shows the following results: 
More than 71% (155) votes for "shoes are never allowed at my home", 21% for "shoes must come off at my home sometimes/depends on me", and the rest for "people needn't de-shoe at my home";
2/3 of the voters (171) walk in slippers at home, with the rest walking in socks/barefooted, and just one sneakers-wearer )
Though some users wrote they would like to stay in their shoes, everybody  seems following the rule half-automatically unless (in few examples) invited to stay in shoes. 
Russian speakers make up about 20% of the Azeri.  There is a tramplian tendency among them, while the Azeri-speaking majority is entirely offalist.  However, the poll  shows it's far from  domination even within the Russian-speaking minority. 
 Why Russian-speaking Azeris?  Of the same background, I can see few motivations coming from the fact Russian speakers are traditionally more urbanized, better educated and, as a result, more integrated into the Western culture. 
1)Some of them just find it impolite to ask people for their shoes off
2)For others, it's just traditional Azerbaijani rugs which necessitate shoe removal, while it's OK to walk in shoes on other floor coverings.
3)it's quite often among our tramplians to distinguish between formal (shoes on) and informal (shoes off) home parties.  
To generalize, somehow, some part of us have been "infected" a stereotype that removing shoes is  either a bad manner or something unpleasant for the guest and must be avoided whenever it's possible. 
Yet this tendency is decreasing after a fee years of strengthening. You know why? There is a construction boom in Baku. More and more families are moving from their old apartments to new ones, or just spend a lot for renovation. No Western-European values will withstand scratches on newly laid parquet you know )

Leyla said...

Maybe for the same reason, shoes-on isn't mostly a high-class thing: one wouldn't find an upmarket family residing a run-down place.
I  may be repeating some of the comments by Sandro, who is a good descriptor of the Azerbaijanis' shoe etiquette (BTW I think tramplianism  seems a more common thing among Georgians), yet here are some points related:
1) quite a few, Japanese restaurants don't have tatami (and consequently shoes-off) 
2)everybody must remove shoes when entering kindergartens/most playgrounds 
3)no shoe-free offices (there is a strong distinction between homes and no-homes)
4) ladies may feel shy staying shoeless in their skirts and in this case prefer slippers, though may walk in their stockinged feet for comfort. I don't know ladies except myself who realize the elegance of stockinged feet. Yet many do on a subconscious level as I can guess it.
5) boots are more likely to be removed at homes (never seen a lady bringing smart shoes to replace for boots though)
6)the first guest can change a party either into a shoes-off or shoes-on mode; I don't care staying the only person without shoes on a party, but feel happy when I manage to have others remove their shoes following my way.  
I am glad to learn shoes off is not that strange for European culture; 
I think we need to learn not only European music and literature, but also the practice to remove shoes in such public places as schools, libraries etc.

Celestial Fundy said...

Leyla, many thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences. It is great to hear from people all around the world.

I must convey my thanks to Sandro for inviting you here.

Leyla said...

Thank you, Mr, Celestial Fundie )

Sandro said...

Thanks a lot for regards, CF )

J. Devereux said...

Check out the piece that I wrote on about why removing shoes is healthy/green -- I included a link to your blog in the post.

Celestial Fundy said...

Thanks a lot, though the link to this blog is not actually working.

J. Devereux said...

the Practically Green site ( now has the correct link to your blog.