Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An Observation

I have noticed that people are more likely to remove their shoes in public places when they are wearing sandals or flip flops, as opposed to closed shoes worn with socks.

I suppose their are a number of reasons for this. Sandals and flip flops are easier to remove than sneakers with laces or knee-high boots. People's feet are likely to smell less if they have been wearing open shoes. Also, when people are wearing sandals, their feet are half-naked anyway.

Thus, I suppose the trend for people to wear sandals for a greater part of the year is very positive for shoe-free homes. It seems like only a few years ago when British people wore sandals for about one week in August and when they went abroad. These days, a lot of British people, especially women, seem to wear sandals and flip flops throughout the year, even in winter. Maybe it has something to do with the warmer weather (I am not expressing here any opinion on climate change).

Monday, October 30, 2006

Shoes-Off Signs

I was thinking about shoes-off signs yesterday.

I had thought that people who put them up are a bit lazy, as they did not want to ask people to take their shoes off. It occurred to me, however, that some people might consider a sign more polite than a spoken request for shoes-off.

Some people might feel embarassed and patronised by being asked to take their shoes off. Seeing a sign would save the need for such a request. They would know that shoes-off was required and could pretend that they knew they should take their shoes off without being told.

However, I am not convinced. I think most people, at least over here, would prefer a polite request to a written sign. Once people have got into a routine, they should not need to be told any more.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I saw a young woman being arrested in Worcester today, presumably for shoplifting. Naughty girl. She was led out of Debenhams in handcuffs and put into a police van.

Earlier this week, the supermodel, Naomi Campbell was arrested for an alleged assualt. She seems to have this habit of getting into a lot of hot water.

If you are ever arrested in the United Kingdom, you will probably be required to take your shoes off at the police station. Your shoes will either be confiscated at the custody desk or else you will be required to leave them outside the cell.

I suppose the main reason for this is to stop detainees hanging themselves with their shoelaces. But I dare say there are other reasons. After all, in some police stations, they just take your shoe-laces. I suppose they worry about prisonners using their shoes as a weapon (ladies high heels could be lethal) or even just kicking the door of the cell and making a racket. Maybe they also worry about getting their clean cells dirty.

You may not have to take your shoes off when visiting most British homes, but if you are a guest at a police station over here, you are expected to be polite!

Friday, October 27, 2006

An Episode in a Programme I shall never watch

Frequent reference is made in internet discussions of the shoes-off rule to an episode in the sitcom, Sex in the City. I understand that this is a rather immoral programme and I have no intention of ever watching it. According to recent surveys, most young women do not at all approve of the lifestyles of the main characters in Sex in the City.

From internet discussions I have managed to discern a brief synopsis of the sub-plot in this episode. One of the main charcters is invited to a baby shower, at which the hostess requires her to remove her expensive shoes for hygeine reasons. The shoes are stolen during the party and the hostess refuses to pay for the loss, despite receiving some expensive presents from the guest.

This seems a typical attempt to portray those with a shoes-off rule as mean and selfish.

I suppose it does raise the question of whether a host or hostess should be responsible for such a loss in the unlikely event of it happening. It might be a little awkward if the shoes that are stolen, as in that episode, are shoes that cost considerably more than the host would pay for shoes.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Imelda Marcos Mentality

Times Online: Nothing beats a woman's desire to show off a fresh pair of heels

It seems a lot of women have an Imelda Marcos mentality that drives them to buy more shoes than seems feasibly possible. According to a survey, the average woman over forty owns 19 pairs of shoes, but many own far more.

A lot of people, especially Christians, have this idea that consumerism is the great evil of our age. They think that people are driven by advertising to purchase more and more stuff, tearing up the environment and exploiting the Third World in the process. I believe such thinking is naieve and stems from lack of economic knowledge. Spending money, even on lots of pairs of shoes is good. It drives the economy and creates wealth. Even the problem of debt is not the great evil that some people make it out to be. The reason so many people get into debt is not because they are brainwashed by advertising, but because the consequences of debt are not as severe as they used to be. Nobody goes to debtors prison any more.

There is a downside to this shoe obsession for those who prefer shoes-off in their homes. While these ladies probably get the most satisfaction when they buy their fancy heels, they will naturally want to show them off when invited to parties and social occasions. They may not be keen to leave them at the door and spend the evening in bare or stocking feet.

The key to this problem is training and expectation. These ladies with their shoe collections know they cannot always be wearing expensive high-heeled shoes. They cannot wear them on a yacht, they cannot wear them doing yoga, and they will probably not wear them for a casual visit to somebody's home to watch a movie.

If women know in advance that they will need to remove their shoes, then they will not be disappointed about it. They can plan their outfit with slippers or barefeet in mind. If they attend a party or dinner with their Manolo Blahnik's with six inch heels, and have shoe removal sprung on them, they may be a little resentful. If they know that shoes-off is part of the evening, they can regard it as a more relaxed and casual event.

If the ladies with their Marcosite collections want to show off their shoes, they can be assured that the hostess will see them. Plus, their trophy footwear will outdo that of any other guests when left in a line by the door. Otherwise they can always show them off in restaurants or at the races.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Open Home Policy

The pastoral assistant (do they really need to use such offices and titles?)at my church and his wife have an open home policy in their house. This means that they are ready to welcome visitors at any time to their home without notice.

Having an open home policy is a really beautiful way for a Christian family to make their house available for the service of the Lord. They are using their home for evangelism, for fellowship with other believers and for ministering to the lonely. This really is a commendable ministry.

Obviously, a family with an open home policy will need to set clear boundaries for their visitors. One boundary I would very much recommend is to request that visitors remove their shoes. While this might not seem like the hosts are rolling out a red carpet for visitors, visitors must remember that the family with the open home are granting access to their house to far more people than an average family. They naturally want this to make the minimal inconvenience to their lives. What is more they can show far more hospitality if they are not cleaning up all the time. A shoe-free home will also be a more welcoming place for small childen who prefer to make use of the floor, rather than the furniture.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Could it Be?

I thought I saw a handwritten 'shoes off' sign in the porch of a house in Droitwich today.

Of course I could have been mistaken, maybe it said 'Coats Off'. I thought it would have been rude to walk up their drive to have a look.

If it was a 'shoes off' sign, it would be the first I have ever seen. Not a British thing at all.

However, I did visit a home once whose owners had put a new floor in their bathroom. They had not yet varnished the wood and so had a sign outside the bathroom asking visitors to remove their shoes before going in. Silly people; what about the carpet in the rest of the house?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka- Wikipedia

Lonely Planet: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Web Server

Sri Lanka- The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Sri Lanka, as it is customary in that country to remove shoes when entering homes.

Formerly knonw as Ceylon, from where we get the name of a popular variety of tea.

Sri Lanka was badly hit by the Boxing Day Tsunami. Relief efforts have been serioulsy hampered by the long standing conflict between government forces and the rebel Tamil Tigers. This conflict has been going on for years. There were some hopes of peace recently, but these seem to have been dashed.

The conflict stems from the ethnic division between the Sinahalese majority who are dominant in government and the Hindu Tamil minority in the north.

Many people think that Buddhism is a peaceful and tolerant religion, however, Buddhist persecution in Sri Lanka of both Hindus and Christians demonstrates this to be a quite false notion.

In my first year of university, I met a couple of theology students from Sri Lanka. I had long hair at the time, and the first time we met, they were surpised by my name, thinking I was a girl. One of them was Anglican, the other Methodist. They were 'Liberal' in theology and believed that people could be saved through false religions. Some western Evangelicals have a funny idea that all Christians in the Third World are really conservative. Sadly, that is not the case in many denominations.

The Sri Lankan government has tried hard to restrict evangelism and it is very difficult to enter the country as a missionary. Much prayer is needed for an end to such restrictions.

For information on the persecution of Christians worldwide visit:

Barnabas Fund

Open Doors International

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It is not Selfish to ask Visitors to Remove their Shoes

Some people claim it is selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes. They think that it shows excessive concern for one's carpet or flooring.

On the contrary it is not selfish at all.

Firstly, there is an health issue involved. Peoples' shoes pick up dust and animal excrement which is not good for one's health and especially bad for the health of one's children. If one has babies or small children that play on the floor it is extremely sensible to keep one's home shoe-free.

There are many worries today about the health risks posed by pollution, toxins and chemicals. Personally, I think many of these health scares are exagerrated. Many of the supposed health risks have not been scientifically verified. However, it is best to keep as much nasty stuff out of the house as possible.

Secondly, the notion of selfishness here is relative. In a country where shoe-removing is the norm, like Finland or Russia, it would hardly be selfish to insist on shoes-off.

In Britain or the USA, where keeping shoes on is the norm, there are many people who would like to insitute a shoes-off policy, but who are afraid of causing offence or being deemed 'selfish.' If a person is brave enough to insist on shoes-off, she makes it easier for those other people who feel that they would like to make their homes shoe-free. In time, the norms of the UK and the USA may change and shoe-removing may become as normal as it is in Thailand or Sweden.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Smelly Feet

Apologies for raising less pleasent aspects of this issue.

The issue of 'smelly feet' is often raised as an argument against the Shoes-Off rule.

In Western society there seems to be a lot of paranoia about the phenomena of 'smelly feet'. I think this is simply a result of people not removing their shoes very often. Your feet will actually smell a lot less if you remove your shoes regularly. It is unfortunate that we in Britain have not yet reached the civilised heights of Finland, where it is acceptable to remove shoes in business meetings and on trains (not that people do not do so in Britain, but it is frowned upon somewhat).

Nevertheless, I think most people worry too much about this issue. People imagine their feet smell far more than they actually do. I have met very few people who let off much of an aroma after removing their shoes, and most of them were people who did not wash and change their socks regularly.

If people know in advance that they need to remove their shoes, they can make sure they wear clean socks, or even better, bring slippers with them. If they are especially worried about it, they can use some of those fancy foot deoderents.

Feet wil smell a lot less if people wear sandals. Sneakers are best avoided in favour of leather shoes.

Some people will say 'I would rather put up with a dirty floor than people's smelly feet.' Well, I guess people must set up their onw priorities. However, stinking feet will leave with the guests. A dirty floor will not. Nor will the dust they brought in on their shoes, and that is very bad for your health.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Athlete's Foot

An unpleasent fungal infection.

A lot of people mention Athlete's Foot as an argument against people having a shoes-off policy. However, this is a quite unnecessary concern.

Athlete's Foot is generally associated with swimming pools and changing rooms. It is possible to catch Athlete's Foot on one's barefeet at a swimming pool or in a locker room. However, recent research indicates that this is not so likely as was previously thought.

Most importantly, the reason people catch Athlete's Foot in those places is not because people there are barefoot, but because the fungus needs a warm and wet environment. People get exposed to the fungus in the damp conditions. If they fail to dry their feet, the fungus is very comfortable and even more so if the victim puts on sweaty socks.

The fungus will not survive long on the clean, dry floor or carpet of a person's home and so you are very unlikely to catch Athlete's Foot in somebody's house, even if the owner has the condition.

What is more, people who are not wearing socks are likely to put on sandals when they leave, as opposed to closed shoes. Thus, they will not create the right environment for the condition to thrive.

Of course, if you are worried about it, you can always bring some slippers or socks when you visit a shoes-off home.

People who have a shoes-off policy ought to let their visitors know in advance and be willing to lend a pair of clean socks, if not slippers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boat Show

My sister and her boyfriend visited an exhibition of luxury yachts in Southampton recently. As is normally the case with such exhibitions, they were required to remove their shoes before entering the boats.

If you ever visit a luxury yacht, you may well be asked to remove your shoes. You may have non-marking deck shoes, but the owners may not know where you have been walking in those deck shoes.

Yachts are one of those rare situations when rich and famous ladies have to do without their stilettos. I understand Victoria Beckham wears high heels on her yacht, but I guess she is entitled to wreck her own property. If she needs to wear high heels on a yach, one rather wonders how she manages to cope on her visits to Japan.

Readers, you may not have the money to own a luxury yacht, but if you have a beautiful wood floor, you can easily keep it as shiny and smooth as any the deck of any yacht by always keeping it free from shod feet. Would that not be nice?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Shoes Off Outside the Door: My Sister's Shoe Box

I visited my sister, Heather, in her beautiful apartment in Poole, near Bournemouth this weekend.

I was delighted to find that my dear sister had become something of an Offalist. Most of the people in her block of flats leave their shoes outside the doors of their apartments (like detainees at a police station leaving their shoes outside the cells!) to protect the fine carpets. My sister and her boyfriend adopted this practice when they moved in. However, a letter from the landlords had warned that shoes left in the corridor presented a fire hazard. Hence, my sister and her partner are now storing their shoes in a big box outside their apartment. Sadly, Heather did not see fit to enforce her shoes-off policy and she put her shoes on inside the apartment once or twice. However, it is vry encouraging that young people like Heather and her neighbours are more inclined to keep their homes shoe-free than the previous generation.

During the night, the people in an apartment below were playing loud dance music. I think they might have been having something of a party. While it was a little annoying, it was nice to think that it might at least have been a no-shoes party.

Friday, October 06, 2006

37 Reasons for Having a Shoes-Off Policy in Your Home


37 Reasons for having a shoes-off policy in your home:

1. Carpets are not easy to clean.
2. Carpets absorb dust and become breeding grounds for dust mites, causing the development of asthma and allergies.
3. If you do not have a carpet, the dust will not be absorbed and you are likely to breathe it in.
4. Shoes can leave marks on wood, PVC and marble floors.
5. Shoes can scratch wood flooring, especially if they have high heels.
6. Boots and high heeled shoes can cause wear and tear to carpets.
7. That goes for rugs as well.
8. Shoes pick up small particles of grit that cause wear and tear to carpets.
9. Shoes pick up traces of petrol fumes and industrial pollution.
10. Shoes can pick up pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals.
11. Shoes pick up traces of animal excrement.
12. Ever noticed how much chewing gum there is stuck to the streets?
13. In a square mile, there are more insects than people on the planet. How many do you think you have squashed on your shoes?
14. If you have a crawling baby, do you want him or her to be exposed to the dirt from people's shoes?
15. In rain or snow, you are less likely to get the floor wet.
16. If you live near a beach, you will bring less sand into the house.
17. If you have a crawling baby, you will do less damage if you accidently step on him or her.
18. If you get mad and kick the cat or dog, you will do less damage (apologies to animal lovers).
19. If your children play rough, they will do less damage.
20. It creates a less formal atmosphere.
21. It creates a greater sense of relaxation.
22. Your guests will become more like you by removing their shoes and will feel part of the family.
23. An oriental, Scandinavian or East European visitor will feel more at home.
24. It teaches children the importance of respecting and looking after things.
25. Psychologically, removing your shoes helps you to enter a frame of mind where you keep your everyday troubles outside your home.
26. It is more comfortable.
27. It is healthier for you feet to take your shoes off during the day.
28. Small children with growing feet should wear shoes only to the minimum.
29. If you wear high-heeled shoes, your feet badly need a break.
30. You can put your feet up on the sofa without taking your shoes off first (Dont tell me you put your feet on the sofa with shoes on?).
31. You can put your feet up on the coffee table without taking your shoes off first.
32. If you ever visit Japan, it will seem less weird.
33. If you are ever arrested and they confiscate your shoes, along with your belt and jewellery, it will seem less weird.
34. Your feet smell less if you do not wear them all day.
35. When you lovingly chastise your children, you will have a slipper to hand.
36. It was a Biblical custom (come on, did they wash their feet with shoes on?)
37. Do you really think the Saints in Glory are going to trample the sparkling, clean New Jerusalem with shoes on?



I am always a little surprised when I see children wearing shoes at home, whether on television or in person. It surprises me because when I was a child, my parents expected me to remove my shoes at the door. When I visited my friends' homes, their parents often expected me to take my shoes off. So it always seems a little strange when I see children keeping their shoes on at home.

The practise of removing shoes was expected until I reached the age of about 12. My parents became less stringent about it as I got older. Occasionally this house rule would be revived in later years. It was restored when I was 21 when my parents and I moved to a house with cream carpets, though they were not consistent in keeping to it.

There are some homes, in the UK, where the hosts will expect the children of guests to remove their shoes, but would not expect it of adult guests. Some guests will insist that their children remove their shoes without removing their own. I can understand why some people may be more concerned about children's shoes; children do tend to be less careful about what they step in and are more likely to run around in long and wet grass. However, adults should never forget that their own shoes pick up an awful lot of less noticeable dirt. There is also the fact that children learn to follow rules better when adults act consistently. There is a certain amount of 'do as I say, not do as I do' in the requirement of shoes-off for children only.

Many childcare experts are of the opinion that children should wear shoes to the minimum necessary and therefore recommend shoes-off indoors for health reasons.

Silly Argument


Some people argue that even if you have a strict no-shoes policy in your home, you could still spill coffee or red wine on your carpet and cause permanent stains.

This is true. You can still spill red wine or coffee in a shoeless home and cause permanent stains (those of you who are teetotal will say 'Don't drink red wine then.' As it happens, I do not drink wine, just beer and spirits. I do drink black coffee, though).

However, do you want a carpet with stains that is full of dust, dirt and bugs or a carpet which has stains, but is a lot cleaner?

Stains do not cause wear and tear to carpets, though they are messy. The tiny grit particles that your shoes pick up do wear your carpet out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to....Kazakhstan!

Kazakhstan page in Wikipedia

Lonely Planet Guide: Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan Country Analysis Brief

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Kazakhstan, as it is customary in that country to remove shoes in homes.

Kazakhstan has been in the news recently as a result of the actions of one Sacha Baron Cohen, a Jewish comedian from the UK. He used to pretend to be a Black urban television interviewer called Ali G. This character was terribly funny, but very rude. More recently, he is pretending to be Borat, a spoof television interviewer from Kazakhstan. He has caused incredible offence to the government of Kazakhstan by making a mockery of the country, presenting the Kazakh people as misogynist and anti-semitic. The government of Kazahstan are so offended that they have invested millions in a film entitled Nomad about the history of their nation.

Kazakhstan is a huge country. After Russia, it is the largest country in the former Soviet Union or the Commonwealth of Independant States (CIS). Most of the country is steppes (arid grasslands), with some desert and several mountain ranges. It does have quite a bit of fertile land, where considerable amounts of wheat are grown.

Kazakhstan is becoming quite rich, as a result of its plentiful supplies of gas.

Kazakhstan has quite a bit of ethnic diversity. As well as the Turkic Kazakhs, there are Russians, Tatars, Ukrainians, Kurds and others. Old Stalin had a nasty habit of taking whole people groups, loading them in trucks (donated by the Yanks during the war) and dumping them in the mroe desolate regions of the Soviet Union. Hence, there are Germans and Koreans in Kazakhstan. The German community has diminshed considerably since the end of Communism. The presence of Koreans in the country has been somethign of a blessing for Kazakhstan (and other Central Asian republics) since most were faithful Christians fleeing persecution by the Japanese.

Kazakhstan is mostly Islamic, but Christians make up a large minority.

Radio broadcasts make up a key part of strategies for evanglizing Kazakhstan. Radio ministries include Trans World Radio and the Far East Broadcasting Company.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How to survive in Sweden without offending anyone

How to survive in Sweden without offending anyone

Early Inspiration

Before my family moved to Worcester, I spent six months in a secondary school in Somerset.

In this school, some assembly meetings were held in the gymnasium. The pupils were required in these meetings to remove their shoes to protect the shiny floor. The teachers, however, kept their shoes on. That is apart from one senior teacher who always removed her high heeled shoes in the gym and conducted the assemblies in her stocking feet.

I was quite surprised at the time by her removing her shoes. Although it was only in recent years that I have become dogmatic about this subject, the memory of her concern for that delicate wood floor stayed with me.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Blueprint: Off with their Shoes

Blueprint: Off with their Shoes

Apartment Therapy: Hot or Not?

Apartment Therapy: Hot or Not?

A jolly American person made this hilarious comment about me on this discussion thread. I had not even commented on it until today:

"Totally agree with your point. What people think in far off countries like Japan, Norway and Canada is irrelevant to us Americans. As Americans, we choose to exercise our freedom to wear shoes in other peoples' homes. Asking guests to remove shoes is not just rude, but unamerican.

Don't believe me? Look at this link. Some freedom-hating shoe-removal nazi gave an award to the place where removing shoes in peoples' homes is most customary. And guess where that was? AFGHANISTAN! That's right, folks, home to the Taliban, you know who, and taking off your shoes."

I did not realise how famous I am.



I believe there is an issue of stewardship here.

All that we have is a gift from God. We may enjoy our posessions, but we do need to give account to the Lord of how we have used them.

Carpet cleaning services are necessary to keep homes really clean, but they are very expensive. Replacing carpets costs even more. Having a shoes-off policy considerably reduces the need for maintaining carpets and other kinds of flooring. Therefore, as stewards of God's gifts, I would suggest that Christians ought to strongly consider the benefits of having a shoes-off policy in their homes.

Clean homes can also be more effectively used in the service of the Kingdom. Homes can be put to so many uses; entertaining visiting speakers, providing shelter for those who need it, hosting fellowship meetings (I think a good case can be made for holding all church meetings in homes) and Church lunches. Keeping homes shoe-free means that larger numbers of people can be accomdated at the home with minimal impact. It also makes the floor a safer place for small children and babies.