Sunday, August 30, 2015

Globalisation: Does the Future belong to Shoes On or Shoes Off?

We live in a globalised world, a world in which billions of Africans wear flip flops mass produced in China and where children in Malaysia support British football teams like Manchester United and Arsenal. How will this trend towards an increasingly localised planet affect the practice or non-practice of removing shoes in homes?

In the West, I think the trend will be towards removing shoes. Increased travel has made us more familiar with cultures where shoes are removed and many will adopt this. Immigration of peoples from countries where removing shoes is customary will also have this effect, especially as people of European ethnicity intermarry with Asians. I have noted before on this blog, the enthusiasm of young people for Japanese culture and I think that will have some small effect. In addition, the high cost of housing in countries like the UK means that people will want to look after their homes.

Yet there is a factor that works towards people keeping shoes on. This is the import of western movies and television in which shoes are worn at home, realistically or not. In the minds of many, keeping shoes on is associated with living a western lifestyle and a sign of affluence. Plenty of people in Africa the Middle East and Asia may hold the USA in contempt, but they still want to live what they perceive as an American lifestyle. I understand in many East European countries, removing shoes is seen as a bit old fashioned and keeping shoes on is associated with living a modern western lifestyle.

Yet I think the shoes off still has the advantage. Cultures will be selective in what they take from the West, as Japan has always been. In some Asian countries films are produced in which characters wear shoes indoors, despite the fact that nobody in those countries would do that in real life. The viewers are presumably able to distinguish this from real behaviour. But the ultimate advantage that shoes off has is that it is practical. No matter how popular western culture may be, the streets will still be just as dirty.

17 comments:

Sandro said...

Great points, Mat)
I can witness quite a few people over the ex-USSR follow the illusion that, as they say, shoes are taken off "nowhere else" either they want to adopt the shoes-on practice or reject it.
What is a different impression of mine, it seems Russians somehow manage to predominantly encounter tramplians even in such mostly shoe-free cultures as Denmark, or even in Arabic countries. I know that from their experiences shared over web-forums. It might be they just don't mention the opposite cases as taking shoes-off is a norm for them, and they take it for granted.

Matthew Celestis said...

Hi, Sandro.

I find it interesting that in the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand, serving Russian expats there, they seem to have adopted removing shoes in their churches, even though that is not the custom for Orthodox churches in Russia. I find that an encouraging cultural exchange.

Sandro said...

Absolutely

Paul said...

The future belongs to shoes on, I am afraid. Think of it this way - decades ago it was common to remove your shoes when dressing shop windows or climbing furniture, but these days you will not see it anywhere.

Sandro said...

It is probably due to shop windows and furniture having cheaper and more durable upholstery. Decades ago, one couldn't expect a shoes-off home in Britain or US.

Paul said...

Well, decades ago there were not as many immigrants from the shoes-off regions. I don't think mainstream population in the UK and the U.S. is really shoes-off.

Matthew Celestis said...

Paul, where do you live?

Your observation does not relect my own experiences as somebody living in the UK.

Paul said...

Matt - US here. What observances do you have in the UK, if I may ask?

Matthew Celestis said...

Most people seem to assume they should offer to take their shoes off, if not remove them automatically. Not everyone, but most, especially younger people

Paul said...

I am a bit surprised that younger people are more likely to offer to take their shoes off, but then they might not be as looks-conscious or particular about what they wear. I doubt it that a lady wearing a nice dress and tights and heels would offer to take her shoes off when visiting. Have you ever seen it happen?

Also, do you agree with me that removing shoes to dress shop windows or to climb furniture is now passé?

Matthew Celestis said...

Yes, I have seen smartly dressed women remove their shoes.

Removing shoes in shop windows seems less common than it used to be. I think that is down to shops being owned by huge chains and run by young junior managers. They don't take the same care that your old school shopkeepers took. I imagine these young store managers take better care of there own homes and probably don't wear shoes at home.

Anonymous said...

Paul is just trolling and trying to wind everyone up with deliberatly contentious comments.

Paul said...

Matthew, I have seen smartly-dressed women remove their shoes but it was only because the weather was bad and their shoes were mucky - on a normal day, I am sure they would prefer to keep their dressy shoes on. I did observe the generational divide as far as shoes go, but I am not sure younger people take better care of their homes - in fact, I think it is vice-versa. Taking good care of your home is a matter of maintenance and spending money, and older people tend to have more money. And, you can be shoes-on and still take good care of your home.

Bob said...

Paul, Like Matthew I regularly see smartly dressed women remove their shoes. We maintain a shoe free home so when my wife's friends visit they automatically slip off their shoes as they enter our home. Other professional women who are not friends but have visited our home, real-estate agents, insurance people, etc have either taken their shoes off or have been asked to. It has never been an issue.

Paul said...

Bob, sounds like it is your house rule, not a general trend. I have seen it, too, and would be pleased if someone offered to take their shoes off (doing it without asking first is a bit presumptuous, I think), but I would never, ever require visitors to take their shoes off. If they want to keep their shoes on (as it happens here most often), so be it.

Bob said...

Paul, Yes it is a house rule of ours. Many of our friends have the same rule. If you have been to someone's home previously and know that they prefer shoes off it is not presumptuous to do it whenever you visit; therefore it is, in my opinion, perfectly normal to automatically remove your shoes when entering such a home. My wife does when she visits friends who have this rule. When visiting someone for the first time she will offer. As far as non friends professional women, I should have been clearer in my comment; some will ask if they should remove their shoes while others have to be asked.

Paul said...

Bob, thank you for clarification. I typically keep my shoes on and don't ask whether I need to take them off, unless it is inclement weather (and even then, I only ask people I know well.) People who have been to my house before know that keeping shoes on is OK. If they take their shoes off without asking, I find it a bit presumptuous, as if they were planning to overstay their welcome. Visitors who are not friends are expected to keep their shoes on, unless the weather is really, really bad.

That said, it is common for realtors to go shoeless when they do an open house, especially when it is wet and rainy outside.