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Shoes and Customs

Just because I'm curious...

Poll #1551475 Shoes and Customs

If a guest arrived at your house and they did not take off their shoes, would you consider that action:

perfectly normal. They should keep their shoes on!
not preferred, but acceptable.
slightly rude.
extremely rude. They should take their shoes off!

Where do you live?


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
I have to qualify my comment a bit . . . I currently live in Japan, and I have tatami mats as flooring for two of my rooms. You're not supposed to wear hard-soled shoes on tatami for not only cultural but practical reasons: it gets them dirty and wears them out faster.

That said, while wearing shoes inside at all is culturally taboo in Japan, as an American (originally from northern Indiana) I don't give a rat's ass if people wear them on the tile floor in my kitchen. The shoe rule is only a practical concern for my flooring.

If I lived in a normal apartment in the US, I wouldn't care about people wearing shoes in my house at all.
Apr. 15th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
I thought of you after I posted this poll. ;) I know it's culturally taboo in Japan (although I didn't know anywhere inside.. like your entry about slippers at the graduation ceremony! So interesting!).

In North Dakota and Minnesota, it is definitely taboo to where your shoes inside a house or apartment. Most people don't even think about it and kick off their shoes at the front door out of habit. I'm curious where people do this and where people keep their shoes on. -- I could see it go either way. Who wants sticky-smelly feet or socks in their house? ;)
Apr. 15th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
I'm wondering how much I may be a personal anomaly to not only my present region of Japan (if only my neighbors knew I sometimes walk around my kitchen in boots . . . ) but Indiana as well, in that I don't generally care about taking shoes off.

I saw your comment below about it being cold and snowy so much of the year so people have to take their shoes off, and that definitely applies in northern Indiana during the winter season when it comes to snow boots, etc. But now that I think about it, I knew a few families that had an explicit no-shoes rule year-round, usually enforced by having a shoe rack or a large mat by the door with the families' shoes on it. (When I saw one of these, I'd always cued to ask: "Do you want me to take my shoes off?"). One family I knew had a little sign just inside their front door with a cute message about removing shoes in their house.

My dad once tried to institute a no-shoe policy at our house, but I remember it seeming awkward to me. Most of the time I do like taking of my shoes, but sometimes I'm warmer or more comfortable in my shoes-- or I'm going to be in the house for such a short period of time-- that I really don't want to take them off. I guess since I can go both ways, I tend to want to give my guests both options, too.
Apr. 15th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
In the year that we've had our house, noone has ever kept their shoes on, apart from small children and that was just because they were so excited they ran inside instead of taking off their coat/hat/shoes/etc at the door. It's not that I've instigated a no-shoe policy, it's that a no-shoe policy is the general default here.

Maybe next time I have a guest I should say, "Oh no, no, you can keep your shoes on" and observe their reaction. I am sure they would be extremely puzzled and look at me bizarrely. People would not even think to ask a question like, "Do you want me to take my shoes off?" -- because that would be silly to them. :)

I know I'm just repeating what I already said, but I want to make it clear that it's just second-nature here.. I'm just trying to show I'm not being pushy or instigating a policy or trying to make my guests uncomfortable, that's just the way it is. People don't even think about it. ;)
Apr. 15th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
I just asked my husband if he knows of anyone in this area who doesn't automatically take their shoes off at the door. He immediately responded that his uncle Rich never does. So I guess there is one person! :) He's been to our house about two or three times, and I guess I didn't notice (probably because it was also when there were a large number of other people). See, it's not that I care if people wear shoes or not. It's just considered weird to wear them inside! ;)
Apr. 15th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
I don't want to live in a house with floors so delicate that they can't stand shoes. ;) I'm practical like that, I guess. I prefer being barefoot everywhere, so I tend to take my shoes off in other's houses (if I feel it's appropriate), but when people visit mine, shoes on or off, I don't care - I just want them to feel comfortable. It can feel rather demeaning to be made to take off your shoes upon entering: what if a guest is self-conscious about their feet, or is wearing ugly socks, or just doesn't enjoy being barefoot?
Apr. 15th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
I can totally see your point. From an outside perspective it seems really bizarre to have people take of their shoes, especially when it's a large party and you have a huge pile of shoes at the front entryway.

It's just that here people honestly don't even think about it. They just automatically take off their shoes at the door (in a house, but not anywhere else). I cannot remember the last time anyone didn't take off their shoes. And if someone is from out of the area and is really oblivious to unspoken rule and does wear shoes in the house, I would think it's highly unlikely that the host would demand they take them off. It would just be surprising.. like people who stand in an elevator facing the "wrong" way. ;) Culturally, people around here tend not to be direct.

I think the whole shoe-taking off custom is because for half the year our shoes are so full of snow or mud that we pretty much have to take them off otherwise they'd leave large clumps of wetness/dirt everywhere. While our floors could live up to it, that would be a major pain to clean up everyday.
Apr. 15th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
what if a guest is self-conscious about their feet, or is wearing ugly socks, or just doesn't enjoy being barefoot?
Plus it complicates formal entertaining when women attend in outfits that involve high heels. You go from having sleek long legs with coordinated shoes at the end of them to plodding around in stocking feet, which makes you look shorter and is really awkward anyway.

In Japan people don't tend to entertain in their homes very often, so I guess that fixes the problem here . . . But no idea how people get around it other places.
Apr. 15th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
I was just discussing this with my mother yesterday :)

We thought, aside from culture, a lot of it could do with climate. In my province, our winters are snowy, so you obviously don't want that tracked around your house. Spring is muddy, and fall can be too.

Part of it is me, I think. I hate wearing shoes. I hate wearing SOCKS, let alone shoes. My toes like their freedom *L*
Apr. 15th, 2010 03:17 pm (UTC)
I was thinking the same thing. For half the year (or more) our shoes are full of snow or mud so it's a practicality thing to take it off and I guess it just extends to the summer.

I just find it funny that here, every person that I can think of takes their shoes off at the door without even thinking. It's funny at large parties when you have a huge mound of shoes all piled up at the front door. I could see how that would be really bizarre to someone not used to it!
Apr. 16th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
Plus I think we spend so much time in shoes that we're happy to get out of them!

*L* I know! It's worse than the coat pile. When I was in England, I stayed a week with one friend, and a few days with another, and they both did the shoes-in-house thing. I asked if they minded if I didn't, and they were fine, but I just don't get why you'd want to in the first place. My feet are always happier out of shoes than in them.
Apr. 15th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
haha...I think I vaguely remember this issue coming up when you were at our house years ago? Or I might be remembering someone else.
Apr. 15th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Ha! Yes! I think that was me. :) I felt awkward because I didn't know if I would be weird or not for taking my shoes off but it's so uncomfortable for me to wear shoes in the house.

If I recall, you guys didn't care either way but you generally just wear shoes?
Apr. 16th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
Well, I think it just depends on the situation. Obviously if the weather is nasty, then it's much more polite to take your shoes off. When I come home to my own house, I usually walk into my room and then take my shoes off there. BUT if I was going to someone else's house, especially if it was a house I didn't go to terribly often, I think it would be more polite to leave my shoes on or at least ask if it is okay to take them off.

Now that I think about it, taking your shoes off seems to me like a way of "making yourself at home". In some cases that's perfectly fine, but other times might be seen as overly familiar or overly comfortable.

I picked the first option in the poll, because I think of leaving your shoes on when going to someone else's home as the "safe" or default option, as far as being sure not to offend them or seem too much at home too soon. I wouldn't be offended if someone took their shoes off as soon as they walked in the door, but I'd probably be a little surprised.
Apr. 18th, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)
Well said, sister o' mine!

Yes, I remember this discussion from before. I'd just like to say that now I'm in Texas, and people still leave their shoes on in other people's houses.

So I think you northerners have some sort of I-want-to-be-Japanese complex. :)
Apr. 16th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
I grew up in the South and I always felt there it was (largely) acceptable to keep shoes on...it really depended on the circumstances and the house. Now I live in Minneapolis and I would never keep my shoes on...but I've never thought of it as a culture thing. I've always considered it "the weather is awful here, so don't ruin my house too" kind of thing.
Apr. 16th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
I think in Minnesota we get so used to taking our shoes off at the door that even when it is nice weather, we still do it out of habit. ;)

On a completely different note, are you a Neil Gaiman fan? He's going to be in Stillwater on Sunday and I am planning on attending. What's a four-hour drive to see one of you favorite authors, eh? ;) I'll also be visiting a friend of mine in Plymouth. I'm excited! If you're interested and want more details, let me know!
Apr. 17th, 2010 02:26 am (UTC)
How exciting! You'll have so much fun. I love Neil Gaiman. That would be so neat to see him and I hadn't actually heard about it. I would actually *really* like to go, but I don't think I could make it out to Stillwater on Sunday :( (Dan and I are celebrating our anniversary a day early, which makes it tricky.) STILL, it would be fun to see him. I heard he was writing a (future) episode of Doctor Who? I hope that's not a rumor, because I'm really looking forward to that :) Either way, I hope you write about your trip. I like visiting Stillwater...it's such a cute little town.

You'll be staying very close by...I live in Plymouth too!

Hope you have fun!
May. 1st, 2015 11:11 pm (UTC)
I am weighing in much later, by about five years, but your poll is very interesting. I wonder if the cultural differences are more rural-to-urban than they are state-to-state (at least among the ones in the U.S.). My home is a shoes-on home, but just a little closer to an urban environment, it seems people are more shoes-off. It would be interesting to know if all or many of these people would fit that trend.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )