Sunday, 2 May 2021

Off or on?

Wise Web Woman started an interesting thread on whether you should wear your shoes in other people's houses, or take them off. Is removing your shoes common sense or fastidious nonsense?

There are strong views either way. What the shoe-removers say:

  • It's a question of hygiene. They don't want shoes that have picked up who-knows-what filth on public streets dropping that filth on their floors, especially on pale-coloured carpets and rugs.
  • Thousands of harmful bacteria lodge on people's shoes, and are easily shed inside a house. If children regularly play on the floor, they could pick up something nasty.
  • In some countries it's normal to remove your shoes on entering a house, and not doing so is seen as disrespectful. Often the householder will supply slippers to replace outdoor shoes.
However there are also good reasons for not removing your shoes:

  • You might have some sort of deformity or foot infection. A disability might make it difficult to remove and replace your shoes. You may have holes in your socks. Your feet may feel cold easily. Or there are splinters in wood flooring.
  • The hygiene aspect is exaggerated. The chance of catching something toxic from a person's shoes must be pretty low, or we'd all be falling ill very day. We're a lot more likely to get food poisoning.
  • With no shoes on, you're more likely to pick up bacteria from the householder's carpets and other floors, especially bacteria left by dogs and cats.
But if someone prefers to keep their shoes on, they shouldn't be forced to remove them or asked for a reason. That would just be rude.

Jenny's brother asks visitors to remove their shoes in his house. So do the couple two doors down from us. We're happy to do so, on the grounds of hygiene. But there isn't a no-shoes rule in our own house. What filthy beasts we are!

25 comments:

  1. In India, we automatically remove our footwear at the entrance to homes when visiting. In fact, very often, I have to ask people to keep theirs on if they are on short visits but, usually they would simply smile and take them off anyway. I have only one contact who insists on keeping his shoes on and I allow him the privilege which I consider as just eccentricity.

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    1. Ramana: When Jenny and I visited the Belfast Islamic Centre for their open day, we were asked to remove our shoes, and we were happy to oblige.

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  2. I'm in Sweden and it is custom to remove shoes before entering a home. No exceptions. I suspect it arose because of the long, harsh winters, and you cannot really wear your outdoor shoes inside, or else you drag in slushy snow and drip icy puddles everywhere. Not to mention that we often need spiked shoes in winter to walk on the ice. The winters are long, so it just extended to the whole year. No-one thinks twice about it and it's automatic.

    Polished parquet floors are the norm here and they'd be ruined by the heavy duty studs and the water if people wore their IceBugs inside. I even see people going to the opera in their trusty boots, but carrying their dress shoes in a small bag and they change into them in the foyer.

    It was a learning curve for when when I first came here but I soon adapted. And most Swedes are horrified when they see British and American programs on tv with people wearing shoes inside. Each to their own I guess :)

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    1. Marie: Interesting to hear removing shoes is the norm in Sweden. Very true about slushy snow being brought into the house, and the damage from studded and spiked shoes. I had to google IceBugs, which I've never seen in the UK. Yes, I can imagine that anyone used to removing shoes is taken aback by the more casual habits of other countries!

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    2. Marie: I see you're from Adelaide. It's a lovely city. Jenny and I have been there several times; we stayed in an apartment in Glenelg.

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  3. I automatically remove my shoes when I enter someone’s home unless they tell me not to. We prefer people remove their shoes at our house unless it’s summer and people will be spending most of the time on our deck. My parents would always bring ‘house shoes’ when they came to visit. Apparently, that’s a German thing,

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    1. Bijoux: Bringing house shoes is unusual. But I guess it saves the householder scrabbling around for suitable indoor shoes.

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  4. I've only been to one persons home where she wanted people to remove their shoes. I left instead. I'm not taking my shoes off n someone else's home.

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    1. Mary: Any particular reason why you don't want to remove your shoes?

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  5. It all depends on how dirty your shoes are and what house you are entering. With mine, come on in.

    I did rush from work one evening for a get together with a group of people. The house was wall to wall white carpet. I wanted to bug out in that I knew my feet had to stink. I put their house shoes on and made a stop at the bathroom which was foo foo as heck. Washed my feet with handsoap, dried them with toilet paper, cleaned the sink and floor with toilet paper.

    The embroidered towels were too nice to use. I peeked in the bathroom later in the evening. No towels had been used. There were a lot of dirty hands in that room was all I could think.

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    1. Ann: That's another possibility - smelly feet that you don't want to expose. You certainly went to great lengths to clean them up! As you say, how come none of the towels had been used?

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  6. No point in removing shoes in our house...you risk being pierced by fragemts of bones from the dogs' dinnersi
    We removed our shoes when visiting Turkish friends in France and when visiting mosques abroad...but in Konya, in the queue to remove the shoes, some chap was whacking our shoes with a rod so we backed off and did not visit the mosque in question.
    Most of our friends are country people, so the removing shoes has not arisen...

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    1. Fly: I certainly wouldn't want my feet to be speared by bones. But I guess slippers would prevent that. Why on earth was that guy whacking people's shoes?

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  7. I don't like being asked to remove my shoes, probably a leftover from my brother's athlete foot medicine that turned everything purple, but I do take them off for Dave's sister--I bring slippers there, and during a Minnesota winter when I change from boots to clean shoes when entering a friend's house.

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    1. Linda: It makes sense to change your shoes when you've been outside in winter muck and slush. But I wouldn't want to remove my shoes if I had athlete's foot, I could give it to everyone else.

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  8. I respect the shoes off if that’s the custom of the house, but have never encountered a house interior with that custom whose condition was objectionable. I’ve never required shoes off to enter my home but have sometimes thought it might be a good idea if i get some new carpet. I wouldn't like shoes off on hardwood or other uncarpeted floors though some gross descriptions in the objections above for certain pet-infested carpeted houses I’d want to keep my shoes on there. No absolute answer either way it seems.

    Diverging from your topic, listening to discussion of Scotland and maybe Wales becoming independent from GB. Interesting times.

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    1. Joared: It's a complex issue, isn't it? Yes, I wouldn't like to remove my shoes when there are pets about, shedding all sorts of germs.

      There's a lot of support for Scottish independence, and increasing support for Welsh independence. It's quite possible the UK will break up in the near future.

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  9. New carpets mean no shoes but gradually the rules get relaxed/forgotten. Same with George: he was banned from the lounge when we decorated. Yes, you can imagine how long that lasted.

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    1. Liz: I can imagine George would be sneaking into the lounge whenever you weren't looking.

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  10. I believe my point in my post was the rudeness of the demand rather than the message. I have no problem kicking off my shoes on entering any place that requires it or when told to. I have never made made that a rule and I find white or pale carpets, etc. quite eccentric in that floors are meant to be walked on (like lawns!!) and why would anyone install such obstacles to others' comforts?

    I take off my shoes outside my door when going into my own apartment but that is just a matter of comfort rather than hygiene.

    I like your point about people's feet.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. www: Yes, I took your point about the rudeness of the demand, but you started a very interesting thread about shoe-removal. Indeed, why put down pale-coloured carpets which necessitate removing shoes? As for lawns, that reminds me of places with "Please keep off the grass" signs!

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  11. I don't think there is a right or wrong to this, but my opinion is you follow the house rules where you are a guest. I don't have a rule either way. But if it is important to someone that people not track in dirt by wearing shoes, it would be extraordinarily rude to refuse to take your shoes off.

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    1. Agent: I do the same, I comply with whatever the householder prefers. My outdoor shoes are filthy with fallen cherry blossom at the moment!

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  12. It's been so long since I went into someone's house, or vice versa, that I've forgotten!
    I'll do as I'm told so long as I don't have a hole in my sock.
    Sx

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    1. Ms Scarlet: That's my strategy as well. It could be a problem though as quite a lot of my socks have holes in them (I don't throw them away until they have at least two holes).

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