Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shoe Covers

Occasionally some people suggest shoe covers as an alternative to shoe-removal.

I have expressed scepticism before that shoe covers can be worn with high heeled shoes. I find it impossible to imagine what an high-heeled shoe with a cover on would look like. Shirley Saunders supports my suspicion. She points out in her book that shoe covers can be damaged by high heeled shoes.

From an aesthetic point of view, I would not want people walking about my home in covered shoes. I want it to be a place of relaxation not a crime scene. In any case, I think most people would feel sillier and more self-conscious in shoe covers than in socks or bare feet.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Something horrible I learned from Shirley Saunders' book.

Roundworms live in the intestines of dogs and cats. They pass their eggs into the feces. These tiny eggs can survive in the soil for months.

You might not see any dog or cat plop on the ground on which you walk, but potentially you are picking up Roundworm eggs on your shoes.

If you allow shoes in your house, Roundworm eggs may be introduced onto the same floor on which your children play. It just takes your child one mouth to hand contact for her to become infected. Potentially she could develope lung problems as a result of infection.

Just take your shoes off and ask others to do the same. Its not rocket science.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Treating other people with respect


We should always do our utmost to treat other people with respect.

All of us have little things that we are sensitive about. Other people might find it hard to understand those things and may think we are oversensitive about them. However, that does not mean that we should not take those things into consideration.

For instance, some people may not like to hear bad language. If so, you should try as hard as you can not to swear when in that person's company. You may think that is silly. You may think they have the problem, not you and they should deal with it. I disagree. I think that you should respect the fact that those people do not like bad language.

Some people may not like you to smoke when there children are present. You may think that is silly, after all they are not going to be affected by you smoking just one cigarette in front of them. However, perhaps these people do not want you to set an example to your children. You should respect that.

Likewise, some people do not want shoes to be worn inside their homes. This is something important to them.

You may think this is daft. If it is for cultural reasons you may think "They are living in the UK not in China." If it is to protect the carpet you may think "Carpets are meant to be walked on." That is fine. You are entitled to your opinion. However, you should still treat their preference with respect. They are fellow human beings who have the right to their preferences and opinions as much as you do. So please don't complain if you are asked to remove your shoes in such homes.

We should also not be afraid to state our preferences. Nobody is going to know that you would rather they avoided using bad language in front of their children unless you tell them this. In the same way nobody will know that you would like shoes-off in your house unless you make it clear. There is nothing wrong with expressing how you feel and asserting your wishes. You have the right to be respected.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why the difference between Japan and Sweden?

Why is it that so many Americans go to Japan and declare that removing shoes in homes is wonderful, while so many other Americans go to Sweden (and Norway) and complain about having to remove their shoes in every home they visit.

It may be because of the different sorts of ex-pat that settle in Japan and Sweden respectively, but I have no idea what difference that would be.

It is nothing to do with the weather; winters in northern Japan are very cold and Japanese homes are much less likely than Swedish homes to have central heating. You are far more likely to get cold feet in a Japanese home.

It may be that Japanese come across as more polite or likeable than Swedish people. Better not go to far that way, or I might offend any Swedish visitors.

I think it has a lot to do with expectations. Everyone who goes to Japan knows that shoes need to be removed in Japanese homes. Not so many people know about removing shoes in Sweden, so people going there may not be psychologically prepared for the change of custom.

I suspect racial attitudes may come into it.

Japanese people look different to most westerners. We expect them to have strange and exotic customs. The exoticism of removing shoes in Japanese homes may come across as a quaint and aesthetically pleasing custom.

Not so the Swedish custom. The Swedes look like westerners, except in being demographically more fair-haired. we expect them to behave in a western manner and not have the sort of strange, exotic customs that we expect in Japan or Thailand.

The Swedes just come across as an whole nation of those awful westerners who expect you to remove their shoes to protect their wretched carpets.

The sort of westerner I am. And the sort of westerner that is becoming increasingly more common. The future is bright under a midnight sun, the future is Nordic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yet another American rants about having to remove shoes in Swedish homes

I have mentioned before the peculiar thing that American ex-pats in Japan seem to love removing their shoes in Japanese homes and tend to adopt the custom, while Americans living in Sweden seem to find the custom abhorrent and objectionable.

Karen, an American ex-pat actually went to the trouble of writing a five-part dissertation on removing shoes in Sweden. It does contain some strong language.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

At no.97

The Telegraph recently reported on a poll of the top 100 things that British people find annoying.

At no. 97 was:

People who don't remove their shoes in the house

97 is rather low, but some of the things that made the top 10 are really annoying. Perhaps the reason it came so low was that those who find shoes in the house really annoying (like me) ask visitors to remove their shoes anyway.

Thanks go to Rachael for blogging this.

Mung Beans and Lentils

I had mung beans for tea last night. I have lentils or some other sort of pulse almost every day.

I suppose eating lentils and pulse is rather stereotypical for environmentalist, New Agey shoe-removers.

But I normally ruin the image by having sausages for breakfast.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Running Leaner and Greener: Leave your shoes at the door

Running Leaner and Greener: Leave your shoes at the door

The Future

I can forsee this blog becoming redundant in the future.

I see a lot of signs that removing shoes is steadily becoming the norm. I would venture to predict that in ten years time, keeping shoes on within a home will seem as antiquated as addressing your boss as 'sir,' as they do in The Good Life.

Of course, I might think differently if I were living in the north of the country rather than Hertfordshire, but the north can't be that far behind.

Friday, September 18, 2009

East European Family in KFC

I ate at a KFC today. I saw an East European couple in the restaurant, probably Polish. They had a small child, perhaps six years old. I found it fascinating that while the couple spoke to each other in their own language, their daughter frequently used English, even at such a young age.

The girl's father wiped the table before he sat down to eat with his daughter and her mother. East Europeans seem to recognise the value of cleanliness. As it happened, he was wearing the uniform of an hospital cleaner. I am sure this family, like most East Europeans remove their shoes when entering their home.

This family appeared like almost a model immigrant family. So often East Europeans seem to be so decent; hard working, clean living and generally moral (I suppose I mean conservative) in their values. I think it is wonderful that families like this from Poland and other East European countries are settling down here and having children.

I will admit that I have a tendency to romanticize East Europeans. Their cultures have their faults. I am well aware, as an alcohol misuse worker that many East Europeans drink far too much and are often arrested for drink driving. Yet I believe their exodus is enriching this nation. And may they bless us with their custom of shoes-off in homes.


I was talking to some staff at the hospital and a doctor brought up the subject of removing shoes. She said that in her home she always takes her shoes off and when visiting other people, she always brought her slippers with her (with a bottle of wine for the hosts). Very thoughtful.

A Little Time For Me: Changing the World.. One Shoe at a Time

A Little Time For Me: Changing the World.. One Shoe at a Time

Strollerderby: Kick Off Your Shoes For the Kids

Strollerderby: Kick Off Your Shoes For the Kids

Encourage but not insist?


Some people say that it is fine to encourage people to remove their shoes, but one should not insist that they do so.

There is a fine line between insisting on people removing their shoes and encouraging people to take them off. There are a number of things one could say that are subtle encouragements:

We take our shoes off here.

You might like to take your shoes off.

These imply strongly that the host wants the guest to remove her shoes. I do not see that insisting or asking is worse than encouraging. If you encourage people to take their shoes off, then you have started from the assumption that people will be willing to take them off. By encouraging, you apply a degree of moral pressure to comply.

I think a lot of people would not want the uncertainty of just being encouraged. I was dating a girl a few years ago when I was not 100% sold out to the shoes-off rule. She asked me if she should remove her shoes. I told her that we removed our shoes but she did not have to. She was actually uncomfortable at this answer and asked me whether I wanted her to take them off or not.

Sometimes it is simpler just to be straight with people and ask them to remove their shoes. No need to beat around the bush.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

'Free Love'

Doing a late night shift at the hospital last night, I saw part of a documentary on 'free love'.

The presenter, Dawn Porter, visited a house in San Diego which hosted a sort of club for people who engaged in 'free love'. They also used New Age techniques and enjoyed naked communal bathing. Dawn Porter was asked to remove her shoes before entering the house.

Not the sort of behaviour I would commend, but at least they take their shoes off for their 'free love' parties. I like the fact that although removing shoes is a very practical and sensible thing, you also get lots of odd and interesting people who do it and insist on it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


My apartment wasd inspected by the letting agents yesterday. I got a letter today saying that it is being kept in good condition.

I don't know if the letting agents complied with my doormat message of 'Please take off your shoes', but it would be nice to think they did. It might have even prompted them to remove their shoes in the other two apartments in the block.

I think my 'shoes-off' doormat is a great way of sending a message about shoes in homes.


I gave three medics at the hospital some training about alcohol misuse today.

As trainers often do, I gave them an icebreaking exercise. I asked them each to name something they really disliked.

With my occasional crusading zeal, I named my pet dislike as people not removing their shoes in my home, though I said that it seldom happens because I don't permit it.

One of the medics said she felt the same way. She permitted shoes downstairs, but did not allow them to be worn upstairs, where a carpet was fitted.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Happy Home: shoe-free or not?

Happy Home: shoe-free or not?

Bare Feet


In the UK and the USA a lot of people feel a sense of disgust and abjection towards feet. Of course, in many Asian countries, the foot is considered to be unclean. However, this is in connection with the fact that the foot touches the ground. Thus, shoes are considered to be far more unclean than the naked foot. In an Asian home, barefeet are acceptable, but shoes are not. This is actually the very opposite of the western abjection of the foot.

It is very common in internet discussions about shoes-off in homes for the subject of barefeet to be raised. It is argued that barefeet are disgusting, more so than the dirt on peoples' shoes. Of course, if you do feel that feet are disgusting, you can still ask visitors to remove their shoes if you lend then flip flops or socks to wear. Angie mentioned this in a previous post.

It is very likely that the sense of disgust about barefeet will decline. Sandals and flip flops have become incredibly popular in the UK and the USA. People are becoming more used to exposed feet. And ladies (and maybe some men) are spending good money on keeping them looking nice.

The argument that feet are more unhygienic than shoes is quite wrong. Unless a person has been going barefoot outdoors, they will not have been picking up the awful things that the soles of shoes pick up (though sandal-shod feet do get a bit dusty). You may think your feet are disgusting, however, you undoubtedly have more germs on your hands than on your feet. Feet are usually remarkably cleaner than the average pair of hands.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Prague Daily Monitor: Leave your shoes at the door

Prague Daily Monitor: Leave your shoes at the door

By Emily Prucha

About removing shoes in the Czech Republic.

"When I first arrived in Prague, my American roommate and I were told that Czechs take off their shoes before entering someone's house. Although we weren't required to remove our shoes during our TEFL training course, we noted that our teachers and support staff often did, wearing "indoor shoes" or slippers instead. The first clue of how this tradition would affect me came one morning when our downstairs neighbor pounded angrily on our front door. She stormed inside and stomped around in her street shoes, presumably mimicking what we did, and then pantomimed putting on slippers and scuffled noisily in her stocking feet. Chagrined, we vowed to remember to take our shoes off, at least to prevent bad neighborly relations, if not to conform to a culture we were still trying to understand."

The Ramen Girl

Last night, I watched The Ramen Girl, a weepy romantic comedy. It is about an American girl who goes to live in Tokyo and gets dumped by her boyfriend. She then decides to learn to cook ramen, Japanese noodle broth and takes on the tutelage of a bad-tempered Japanese cook. I don't normally go in for weepy rom-coms, but I like Japan and I like Japanese food, so I gave it a try. It was a very enjoyable film.

The American heroine makes the mistake at one point of setting foot in a Japanese home with her shoes on. Not so surprising given that her American boyfriend wears shoes in his apartment, as does another foreigner. However, I am a bit sceptical of this. I get the impression most foreigners living in Japan adopt the local custom of removing shoes. Not necessarily out of choice; if you rent an apartment in Japan, the landlord will require you to go shoeless and to make sure any visitors do the same.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Party Last Night

I attended a party last night that was in honour of somebody leaving for university. The guests were all young people who attended, apart from a middle-aged couple. Everybody removed their shoes.

It is always encouraging when older people remove their shoes. Young people tend to remove their shoes as a matter of course, but when older people do so, it shows real consideration.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shoes Off in Great Britain!

Britannia agrees.

Shoeless at Home: Is it Safer for Baby?

Shoeless at Home: Is it Safer for Baby?

Being Straight with Guests


I would argue that having a 'don't ask but encourage' policy with shoes is not really any more polite than having a shoes-off rule.

Sometimes it is good for people to know where they stand.

It did occur to me that having a 'don't ask' policy might cause resentment and division amongst guests at party.

The people who take their shoes off may feel superior to those who have kept their shoes on. Even worse they may feel resentful of those people who have kept their shoes on.

A bigger problem is the embarrassment caused to guests who have kept their shoes on when they realise that shoes-off is preferred. Discovering that shoes-off is preferred when they have been walking about the house shod for an hour might make them feel rather awkward.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


There are an awful lot of comments on the internet by ladies who would like to have a no-shoes house, but have an husband who refuses to remove his shoes. I can only recall one comment by a man whose partner was reluctant to comply with a shoes-off policy.

Husbands, can you not see any benefit in having a clean home? If you have to get your carpet cleaned or replaced it will cost you money.

Why be bossed about by your wife? Why not take the initiative and introduce a shoes-off policy in the home yourself. Take some leadership in the household. If you read this blog, you will find plenty of reasons for not wearing shoes at home.

You cannot think that there is anything manly about being worried about getting cold feet?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Shoe Blog: Shoes- Should they be worn in the house?

Shoe Blog: Shoes- Should they be worn in the house?

Mail-Online: Shoe Etiquette

Mail-Online: Shoe Etiquette

Mel B ended up having to remove her shoes for a premiere held on a boat at the Venice Film Festival. I think she looks elegant enough without her heels. Remembering that being on a boat = no-shoes is crucial for celebrities.

Hospitality Part 2


Guests are aware when they visit a home that the hosts have boundaries that cannot be crossed.

Guests know or should know that they cannot go wandering about upstairs, looking in their hosts' bedrooms. They ought to be careful in conversation that they do not mention subjects that may cause offence to the host. If the host has strong views on a subject, it is best not to argue with him or her. Guests know that they cannot bring their pet dog to somebody else's home unless the host has expressly said this is acceptable. Even if the host is an animal lover, permission to bring a pet dog must be sought.

It is now recognised by most people that when you visit the home of a non-smoker, they should not smoke inside. If they need to smoke, they should put their coat on and go outside. There are still some people, probably mostly from the upper strata of British society who think it is rude to forbid smoking in one's home. However, this view is very much in a minority.

It is important to recognise these boundaries when one visits a home and if hosts prefer, even if they do not insist on it, removal of shoes, this should be complied with by guests. To ignore this boundary is, as stated in the previous post, taking hospitality for granted.

Some people would object to comparisons with smoking pointing out the health risks of smoking, compared with the minor ill effects to health of wearing shoes past the door. However, it is not so much the health risks that should deter smoking in a non-smoking home. Nobody is going to get lung cancer because a few guests smoked at a dinner party. They are unlikely to even develope a cough because of it. No, the reason one should not smoke in a non-smoking home is simply because the smells and mess are not convenient for such hosts. It is simply impolite. Likewise it is not convenient to impose the dirt and dust of your shoes in the home of a person who would object to it.

Some would argue that it is polite for guests to remove their shoes if this is what the hosts do, but it is impolite for the host to request shoes-off. They feel that it is better to leave the responsiblity of politness to guests. To my mind, this is not quite logical. If guests have the responsibility to comply with the preference of their hosts, then it is surely quite reasonable for guests to make their preference known.

Part of the reason why a verbal request for shoes-off may be necesary is because etiquette is so uncertain and in such a state fo flux on this point. While it may be a good idea to remove one's shoes when one is welcomed by a shoe-less host, as this may be a shoes-off home, such a gesture might be taken as impolite by some. There are some who go shoe-less in their home who would be surprised by guests going shoe-less. It is probably necessary for those who desire shoe-removal to make their wish known.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Lady on GMTV

When I am in the hospital staff room in the morning, GMTV is usually on.

GMTV has a lot of phone-in competitions. Many of these competitions are introduced by a lady who is usually filmed in a rather expensive looking house. This lady is always barefoot.

I have no idea whether this lady is a celebrity or just a pretty face, whether the house is her own or whether it is a no-shoes house (the carpet upstairs is almost white, so it would be sensible), but it is nice to see somebody with shoes-off in a home on television on many mornings. It rather runs counter to the tendency of television to have people in shoes all the time.

Hospitality Part 1


There are some who think that asking guests to remove their shoes is contrary to the principle of hospitality.

This is a culturally relative matter. Albania and Turkey are countries in which hospitality is greatly valued and yet it is expected in those countries that guests remove their shoes.

The shoes-on people argue that a hostess should primarily be concerned with her guests comfort and not with the state of her carpet or floor. However, most guests will feel more comfortable after removing their shoes. They may, admittedly, be uncomfortable because they are embarassed about their feet or they feel their shoes are part of their outfit. Those problems can be dealt with by letting guests know in advance that shoes-off is expected and so they can either bring slippers or plan their outfits with bare or stocking feet in mind. Any embarassment should be minimal if guests are not taken by surprise.

In my opinion, those who insist that guests should be allowed to keep their shoes on take hospitality for granted. I may well invite you. I will give you the best seat. I will cook for you. I will serve you the best food I can. I will give you whatever you want to drink, whether it be alcoholic or not. I will give you my undivided attention. I will entertain you with conversation. If you live nearby, I will drive you home in my car. If not, I will let you stay the night. I will wash up the dishes and cutelry you have used and clean up any mess you make. Given that I am willing to do all this for you, do you really think it is so unreasonable that I ask you to take your shoes off?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Stuff Christian Culture Likes: Leading worship barefoot

Stuff Christian Culture Likes: Leading worship barefoot

The stuff on this blog might not mean much to those of you who have not grown up with Charismatic Evangelical Christianity, but it is full of the stuff I have been exposed to (some of which I loathe).

Personally I am not into the worship leader and worship band style (though they are at my church), though worshipping barefoot is cool. I often take my flip flops off at church (I have never worn any other kind of shoes at this church, even in winter), and other people at the church often kick their shoes off during the service.

A poem about removing shoes at the door!

Shoe Rack by Monica Sharman

Not a big fan of poetry myself, but this is rather thoughtful.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Just got back

I was in the other part of the country this week in order to take my PhD examination. Horrible experience, but I passed it. Just need to make some changes to my thesis.

I am afraid my PhD thesis has nothing to do with removing shoes in homes, in case you were wondering.

I stayed with some old friends in Worcester after the exam. This couple some times take their shoes and sometimes keep them on. I can't help but take mine off when I am at their place, even when they have their shoes on. It is just seems too weird to keep them on. It would feel totally weird.

You will recall I posted about crocs the other day. The lady of this house mentioned that she wanted to get some crocs. This surpised me because she is a very stylish girl. I have noticed that a lot more teenage girls and younger women are wearing crocs. They seem to be becoming much more accepted (as is removing shoes at the door).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Platt Family: No shoes... Please!

The Platt Family: No shoes... Please!

Do you have a shoes-off policy? Write about it and I can post a link here on this blog.

Being a Patriot

I love this country. For me Britain stands for the monarchy, Protestantism, English cathedrals, fish and chips, Doctor Who and Motorhead.

However, GK Chesterton said that the true patriot is not the man who loves his country because of its greatness, but the man who loves it in spite of its faults.

I love this country, even though it is not the custom here to remove shoes when entering homes. Things are getting better in this regard, but there are still too many people who see no problem with stomping about a carpet in filthy shoes and there are still too many people here who think it is bad manners to ask a guest to remove her shoes.

Because I am a patriot I want to change my country's attitude. I love this country in spite of its fault.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I confess I wear crocs. Fashion police, you may as well come and arrest me now.

I like them. They are comfortable and I think they look alright. I don't understand those people who think crocs are hideous.

I suspect that a lot of the people who wear crocs keep shoe-free homes. Crocs are ideal for them, being easy to remove. They are also totally functional, appealing to people who are not really into wearing shoes much.

I also see a lot of slightly hippyish mothers who look very environmentally aware wearing crocs. Those are exactly the people one would expect to keep no-shoes homes.