Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Shoes on my Picnic Blanket!

I attended a picnic in a park today with a group of friends from church.

They were quite amused by my insistence on keeping my picnic blanket a shoe-free zone. In fairness to me, they did acknowledge that my picnic blanket was a lot nicer and more comfy. The others had blankets made of rough wool, while mine was a soft, fluffy blanket.

It did get stepped on quite a few times by some of the energetic children, but those people who sat on it with me did remove their shoes or flip flops.

A picnic blanket is for eating off. You don't put your shoes on the kitchen table and you shouldn't put your shoes on a picnic blanket.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Germs Are Not Necessarily the Issue


A lot of people think those who ask for shoes-off in their homes are 'germaphobes.' It is certainly true that a lot of people who have a shoes-off policy are parents of small children who are concerned about germs being walked in on peoples' shoes. This is a quite legitimate concern.

This concern is often countered by the so-called 'hygiene hypothesis.' This holds that allergies are currently on the rise because peoples' homes are too clean and modern children are not sufficiently exposed to bacteria. There is evidence to support this theory, even if the jury is still out.

Even assuming that the 'hygiene hypothesis' is correct, there is no obvious way to decide how much dirt is healthy. Very few parents would be happy about cooking in a dirty kitchen, or having their children sleep in filthy rooms. While some bacteria is good and healthy, some bacteria can cause all sorts of diseases.

More importantly, there are some things that your shoes pick up that are not germs, but very much in the unwanted category: lead, pesticide, weed killer, dog excrement, roundworms, dust, pollen, plant sap, mold, toxoplasmosis (a parasite which is transmitted through animal excrement and which can survive in infected soil), cigarette ash, arsenic, mecury, asbestos, cadmium and thallium.

Simply put, your shoes can pick up anything. Please keep them out of the house.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Upstairs Downstairs


Some people have a rule in their house that people may keep their shoes on downstairs, but not upstairs. In a similar manner some people require only overnight guests to remove their shoes.

I understand that the upstairs is a more intimate part of the house and the place where sleeping is done (so a natural place to keep allergy-free). However, I really do not see the need to only go half-way on the shoes-off policy. Who wants a clean carpet upstairs and a dirty one downstairs? Besides most peoples' children will be playing as often on the floors downstairs as the floors upstairs.

It seems much more simpler and straightforward to have the whole house shoe-free.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

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.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Road to Poland: Clash of Cultures: Please remove your shoes

An American married to a Pole posts about her reluctant adoption of the custom.

The Road to Poland: Clash of Cultures: Please remove your shoes

Martin: But what if people don't take their shoes off? Then they're walking all over the carpet and the floors with their shoes on. Besides, isn't it more comfortable to have your shoes off?

Me: Yeah, but I just don't think it's polite to make guests take their shoes off when they are here to celebrate a family event (Baptism) in their Church clothes, especially if they don't want to.

Martin: OK, ok. Fine, we'll ask them. Nobody *has* to take their shoes off.

Me: Thank you.

Notice that Martin and Olivia recognise that asking people to remove their shoes is not forcing people to remove them. A lot of people discussing this subject on the internet cannot see the difference between politely asking people and 'making' or 'forcing' them.

Saturday, June 04, 2011



If asked to remove their shoes, most people are polite enough to comply. However, it is always possible that there may be some refuseniks.

If somebody refuses to remove her shoes, the host has several options:

1. Not let them in.

2. Let them in, but express one's unhappiness. Not invite them in again.

3. Let them in, express one's unhappiness, but invite them again hoping that next time they will comply.

4. Let them in and say nothing. Not invite them again.

5. Let them in and say nothing. Invite them again in hope that next time they will be more polite.

There is no right or wrong response. Whether you let them in and whether you invite them again entirely depends upon your wishes.

You have every right to refuse to admit somebody to your home. If a person is visiting to sell you a product or service, or to promote their religious organisation (usually Jehovah's Witnesses are polite enough to offer shoes-off) then you might well refuse to let them in. On the other hand, if your boss is visiting, it might be a bad idea to refuse to let her in!

If the visitor is not a close friend, but a person you have invited to dinner in order to make close acquaintance with, you have every right to never let them darken your door again. On the other hand, you may not want to lose a close friend over the issue. However, you might feel more comfortable expressing your unhappiness to a close friend than to an occasional visitor.

There is simply no right or wrong response to refuseniks.

Would you let somebody in your house if they refused to remove their shoes when asked?