Saturday, August 06, 2011



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.


Sandro said...

I like the look of smart shoes at the door )

Matthew Celestis said...

I would be happy to post a photograph of your own doorway.

Feel free to email one.

Matthew Celestis said...

Anybody is else is free to send me a photo of their shoe-lined doorways.

Sneakerman said...

I still can't get used to this idea of shoes off at the door. Saying that after giving it a try for a week at my parents house where everyone wears slippers, walking about the house in trainers now feels out of place and so I bring my old but very rarely used slippers with me.

My own house is different, I have attempted to follow this way of thinking and have tried to keep my trainers off but after awhile I just seem to feel less complete and so will slip into them again. I even bought a brand new pair of trainers to wear on the ward when I had to go into hospital for a slight operation such is my addiction to them.

Something I found amusing tho was when my friends came round to my house they looked at a few pairs of shoes lying at my door and kinda hesitated before noticing that I had walked thru with my own (having swapped from slippers before they arrived) trainers on. I have done this myself when I see shoes lying at the door and being a shoes on guy my face kinda goes white and I think to myself 'oh no!'. lol

I will stick with shoes on however you are maybe correct that opinions will indeed change. I have a friend who now insists on shoes off when visiting her home. It is extremely fasicinating how heated the shoes off or on debate can get.


Matthew Celestis said...

Thanks for coming and sharing your experiences.

Keep working at it and your habits will change.

Matthew Celestis said...

You can tell I work in addiction counselling.

newtouk said...

I am so happy to have found this blog spot. Just moved to England from Canada, where Everyone removes their shoes. maybe it's the OCD in me but I can't stand when people come into our house (where I have young children, btw) and walk all over in their shoes. When my English relatives came to see us when we lived in Canada, I always had to remind them to remove their shoes. It drove me nuts because I always felt as if I was being rude and they never hesitated to give me a look to suggest they felt it was too. How on earth can I get them to take off their shoes? You would think seeing us wander about without shoes would give them a clue! I'm trying to teach my children the shoes off policy because it brings in dirt, but when they see others bulldozing about in their shoes, I feel like a hypocrite as I am trying not to offend. Grrr

Matthew Celestis said...

Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you like this blog.

Well done for insisting on shoes-off. I'm sure most British people wouldn't think it was rude.

Moderate Mouse said...

What I'm about to say would probably be more appropriate for when/if you re-post "Comparison with Smoking" but I wasn't sure when you planned on doing that, so I'll go ahead with my two cents worth:

My mom used to smoke, mostly when I was a teenager but quit when I was in my second semester of community college sometime before going into some surgery. She took the gradual cut-down approach to quitting smoking. I think it was within the first couple of months that she had quit that she said that regardless of how much information or what-not one is given on why they shouldn't smoke, if they are still not ready to quit, they're not going to quit. When and if they are ready to quit, they'll need to go about it in a way that works for them, whether it's cold turkey, gradual cut-down (like my mom did), going on the patch or the gum, etc.

I think the same can be said wearing shoes inside one's own home. You could list every reason why shoes should not have a role in one's ensemble in the home that you could possibly think of, but it's ultimately up to whoever is on the receiving end to decide whether or not they are ready to quit wearing shoes at home in favor of slippers or bare or stocking feet, and when/if they are ready to change, they will need to figure how to make the change in a way that works for them. And I'm willing to give Sneakerman the benefit of the doubt that he will change his at-home shoe-wearing ways when and if he's ready to. Whenever he is ready to change, if he's anything like me, he may find it easier to cut down gradually, maybe starting with getting some slippers he'd be willing to wear with regular clothes whenever he is going to be home alone for the day or evening and working his way up to up until time to go and/or regardless of whether or not he has company, etc rather than expecting to go from dressing all the way to shoes regardless of the day's plans one day to being shoeless every minute he's in the house the next. (But if he finds he's able to handle going cold turkey on shoes at home, more power to him.)

Having said that, if you don't want someone smoking or wearing shoes in your home, that's your business, and yes they do have a responsibility to honor your request. But if they do either of those things in their own home, whether you agree with it or not, that's their business.

Sandro said...

Matthew, I'll send you one as soon as I make it properly)

Matthew Celestis said...

Well done, Sandro.

Matthew Celestis said...

I don't disagree with you, MM.

Monie said...

I just wanted to comment and say that there are actually a lot of Black American households who have a no shoes policy.

I'm black myself, and I cannot count how many household I've been in and had to take off my shoes. I don't have problem with it at all. Since I grew up with the "No Shoes Policy" I almost instinctively look for a place to take off my shoes at, when I'm visiting someone.

In most Black American households I believe it wouldn't be unusual for you to take or be asked to take off your shoes.

Matthew Celestis said...

Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

This is something I have noticed. A lot of pro-shoes off people commenting on the internet are black Americans. I think a lot of black people in the UK have shoe-free homes.

Do you think there is a reason why black people are more inclined to insist on shoes-off than white people?