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What do you think of the custom of taking one's shoes off before coming indoors at home? Would you do it in your country?

48 Comments

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It's the norm in Asia, not just in Japan. I've worked & lived in five countries. I like learning, observing and blending in with the locals. I'm a "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" kind of person.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's also quite common in Europe (maybe not in UK).

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Although it makes sense to me in Japan, whenever I visit people's homes in Australia, the U.S., UK and Canada - even if those people lived in Japan - we don't remove our shoes. Maybe there is a reluctance to take your shoes off when you are in someone else's home, especially if you have holes in your socks or it has been a hot day.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Having grown up in Hawaii, where we do the same thing, this makes eminent sense to me.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I thought it was strange when I first moved here years ago when a Japanese person asked me if it was hard to remember to take my shoes off here before entering a home. In my 50 years I have never wore my shoes in a house and have never met anyone who did. It would be considered rude and unsanitary. Sounds like a stereotype about foreigners. The bottom of your shoes probably contain some nasty bacteria that I wouldn't want spread throughout my home anyway.

4 ( +5 / -2 )

Many (although not most) people I know in the U.S. actually do this, if for anything just for the sake of lightening the housework burden. Still, families that do this usually make exceptions when guests come to visit.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Brainiac,

Never wore shoes in any house in Canada over the 35 years in the country. Never seen it. Might want to remove Canada from your list as it`s not common practice.

4 ( +5 / -2 )

Every day for thirteen years, after getting home from school, my mother's greeting was "Take your shoes off before you tread mud all over the carpet!"

Nothing exclusively Japanese about this at all.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Our household is half-Asian so we take our shoes off, otherwise I only remember other Asian households doing it. Although lots of times I've taken my shoes off in non-Asian households even if they said "Oh, you don't have to", just out of habit. It's not strange to the non-Asians because we're in California's Bay Area. (Asian meaning Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian, that I can recall.)

In other states, it would make sense but I haven't noticed anyone doing it (again, except for a few Asian households).

Also, real estate agents, maybe even most of them around here, put signs up at open houses saying "Please remove shoes", or sometimes providing booties that go on over your shoes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is probably the biggest stereotype Japanese people have about westerners. It's a pet peeve of mine because the answer to this question is never 'yes or no'. It is always going to be 'it depends'.

1) -It depends on whether it's raining, snowing or a dry sunny day.

2) -It depends on how dirty your shoes are. Did you just step in some mud or dog poop?

3) -It depends on whether the floor is carpet, linoleum, hardwood or tile.

4) -It depends on whether it's your own home or someone else's.

5) -It depends on where in the home you are walking. Corridor, living room... maybe. Carpeted bedroom on the second floor, probably not.

6) -It depends on whether you are wearing little tennis shoes or heavy boots.

7) -It depends how long you are planning to stay before you go outside again.

8) -It depends on whether you are wearing socks or not (especially for women's shoes)

I once made a flow chart like this for a Japanese co-worker who was fascinated by this. I assigned probabilities to all of these events (ie, 0% chance of walks around with wet boots on carpet in someone elses home) He was absolutely amazed by the nuance since he was convinced that all westerners walk around with shoes on all the time.

3 ( +5 / -3 )

I LOVE IT!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

'Every day for thirteen years, after getting home from school, my mother's greeting was "Take your shoes off before you tread mud all over the carpet!"'

Yep, I got exactly the same, often with "I've been on me hands and knees cleaning that all morning".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Having spent much of my early adulthood here in Japan, I adopted this custom in CA. My friends (Asian, Hispanic and Blck) friends didn't have a prob with it. Taking off you shoes in CA, is more common than one would think.

LoL, it was my "hick" buddies who would snarl whe they had to take off their shoes. My carpet was immaculate.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What I do I think? I like it is exactly like many other countries/cultures so there is nothing special about it. I'd love to see someone try and wear their shoes in my mom's house in Canada. She'd freak. And rightly so. As would I.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

It's disgusting to walk around a house in shoes that have been trampling through who knows what outside.

I always take my shoes off at the door of a residence, no matter where I am.

-3 ( +2 / -4 )

Pandabelle

Does that include when you visit someone else's home?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think it is so great a custom that should be spread around the world!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I think it's a great cultural habit. I've known some families in the US that did it as well, but most, I think don't. Now I look at TV/movies/etc. set in America, and I see they are wearing shoes indoors and think "Ugh, what a bunch of dirty barbarians."

LOL.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Case-by-case in the UK. In my home, mother dear had white carpets, shoes off. I actually have always much preferred to take my shoes off when house rules ask that you do.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The same as a couple of other comments, we kids also had to take our shoes off but when mother came to Japan, she didn't realize that "guests" are ALSO supposed to take their shoes off so she took that knowledge back home to Europe and applied it. However, some ladies, wearing "fancy" high heels didn't appreciate it too much... ;-)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@M3: Do you get out much?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It was mandatory in my house as a child in the USA. My mother my have had a problem, I remember the vacuum cleaner constantly running.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Its not just a Japanese thing. Happens in Europe too (although with sometimes less scrupulous bathing habits it can be a bit offputting at times).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I am with you on that, TelcoPhil. Perhaps we can form a support group.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@M3: Do you get out much?

Lol. Sorry, but it had to be said. Thanks for your concern.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Mandatory in my house in the US as well so I guess -- yes I would do it in my country.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes I would because when coming in from outside you can track dirt and who knows what else on the floors.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like it and it keeps the floors really clean. I do it when I go back to the U.S. I asked one of my American friends how he felt about it and he told me that he had the impression that I was going to be spending the night there. I just hope it doesn't mean that people dislike my company.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I used to frequently take off my shoes in the US. Some households demanded it, in others it was part of "make yourself at home". In my own home, I rarely wore shoes in the house and invited guests to leave theirs by the door, but of course guests who preferred not to were welcome to do as they liked.

Japanese people not wearing shoes in a house is not at all a noteworthy or unusual part of the culture. The only thing that is unusual is that it is such an inflexible, automatic rule here.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

As Kibousha said, it's an Asian thing so I am always smirking when Japanese people seem to think they are the only country in the world to do it.

As for me, I think it's great for the home.

But taking shoes off to enter other places such as a carpeted classroom, or carpeted room in a culture center... that is insane.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I love it. When I return to my country, you will not be able to walk in my home with your shoes on. But then again, sometimes people have stinky feet. I don't want to smell that at all but I can not tell the person that they need to take better care of their hygiene, therefore the person with the stinky feet will only be coming into my house ONCE.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

cevin7: "I think it is so great a custom that should be spread around the world!"

This isn't a Japanese custom, it's a custom used in Japan. Many nations have this as a general customs, and probably EVERY nation on the planet where it is not a general custom has houses where it is a custom, and those where it is not. I certainly don't know any nation where it's a custom to NEVER take off your shoes in the house -- it's just a personal choice.

In my home in Canada we always took our shoes off, and even had a side entrance for doing so in winter to avoid getting snow/slush/salt/sand etc., in the winter months on the floor in the main entrance. When guests came over we asked them to take off their shoes as well. However, at some of my friends' houses you were not required to take off your shoes, and you definitely did not at schools (though again, in winter, boots were changed for indoor shoes when it was snowy/muddy).

I think it's a good custom, but I also think it depends on the type of house. I've been to houses in areas of Vietnam and other poorer countries/areas where the floors are the ground, and so it makes no sense to take off your shoes 'indoors', and houses that are open (no walls). Needless to say I do it in Japan, agree with it completely (save for changing slippers a dozen times depending on the room within the same house/building), and cringe if/when I see people NOT do it in a place where it IS the custom.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I believe it is a wonderful custom and my family in the states does it. I rally understood once we had children that crawl on the floor. I'm cracks me up that the natives here think it is unique. There are peoples in the Middle East that do it as well. Turkey, for one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Dog mess loves that gap between the heel and sole of your shoe, the spot that you miss with your perfunctory wipe on the welcome mat, but is oh-so-accessible to the deep pile carpet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Myself, brother and sisters always did it at home in the UK but oddly enough it wasn't something that was insisted upon by my parents, it was what us as kids did because we felt more comfortable that way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One of the things I like least about Japan. Constantly removing your shoes and putting them back on. What is really silly is that when you call an ambulance, even if you are dying, they must take the time to take their shoes off before entering a house. By that time the person could die. If someone has a real emergency forget about taking your shoes off but they always have to take the time to take the shoes off and then put them back on. It is ridiculous.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

when you call an ambulance, even if you are dying, they must take the time to take their shoes off before entering a house.

Have you never heard of "slip-on" shoes ? Easy to slip on, easy to slip off...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I do it at home here in Scotland... I don't really see the need to trample things on the underside of my shoes all over the carpet. That's what we have slippers for :)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

FightingViking: "ave you never heard of "slip-on" shoes ? Easy to slip on, easy to slip off..."

I think you missed the point.

Anyway, the example mentioned is extreme, but it could and does happen. What's more ridiculous is what I mentioned earlier -- having to put on and take off several pairs of slippers within one house or building depending on the room you enter. In my office there are people who do this up to five times to get to the bathroom if they need to use the one on the second floor.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

When guys take their shoes off, they should immediately spray them with deodorant, and if they're visiting someone, spray their socks with the deodorant, or if they're home, take them off and put them in the washing machine and take a shower, lol.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In Canada everyone takes their shoes off upon entering a house. It is just a given. Any visitor (say from the UK) is quickly clued into that part of culture.

I have know some very rude people, but even they never fail to remove their shoes upon entering a house.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It makes complete sense not to traipse all the filth you have walked over during the day through the house. It can be awkward getting your shoes off in a narrow little space especially after a long run but I am cool with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is a very good custom and I definitely keep this custom if I ever lived in any foreign countries. There are two reasons for that. One is for sanitary reason. You might bring some dirt in house or you might step on dog's poop and I can't believe people sleep on bed which might get dirty by outside shoes. Another reason is wearing shoes after you get home isn't tiring? Being barefoot or wearing slippers are more relaxing and comfortable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mum would get angry if we didn't.

That was in England when I was a kid.

Visitors were different but they usually only came in the front room.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In NZ, as a visitor I would always start removing my shoes. Only at the point that the householder had said to leave them on would I even consider it... but usually I would still take them off.

Also... in NZ it's not that uncommon to see people walking around in bare feet when out in town, at the supermarket, the corner dairy, the bank, the post office... unfortunately we can't ask people to remove their feet... maybe we should be leaving a hose and bottle of liquid soap at the front door.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I had to buy a pair of trainers (sneakers to the US peeps) when I lived in Tokyo as I arrived wearing a pair of Lucky Stars that laced up to the ankle. What a pain in the butt that was taking them on and off all the time! I also stopped wearing slippers during the summer due to the pong! Humidity and cheap slippers = pooeee! hehe

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I like the idea of it in general, but some people have really sweaty/smelly feet, and the thought of those stinking plates of meat stomping around my place is a little nauseating. I'd have to bleach the floors after having guests around.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I just learned that bed bugs and beg bug eggs can be carried on someones shoes and socks and you never know where people have been so now that I know this I make it a rule to remove shoes and socks before entering my home.

makes sense to me

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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