Monday, March 15, 2010

Remove Your Shoes ... Please

The other day I went over to my friend's house for a meeting. I was the last one to arrive (as usual!). As I closed the front door behind me, I took off my shoes.

It's my habit. Growing up in Hong Kong and living in China, we always took off our shoes when we entered a house. I don't think this is necessarily a Mainland Chinese custom. It's a Hong Kong Chinese custom. I also know it's a Korean and Japanese custom. When we visited Chinese friends' homes in Tianjin, we'd sometimes keep our shoes on, sometimes take them off. It seemed to depend on the type of flooring they had down. If the floors were concrete they told us to leave our shoes on. If they had tile or wood laminate, they usually asked us to remove our shoes and provided us with slippers to wear. But I digress....

In our own home in China we always removed our shoes. There were three primary reasons for this:

(1) Dust (think: super dust, the kind of icky gray dust that seeps in everywhere and sticks to everything)
(2) People spit (imagine: green and yellow globs all over the roads and sidewalks)
(3) No clean-up-after-your-pet-or-child signs (read: lots of dog poop, people poop; yes, this is the country where our taxi drivers all peed on the same wall right next to the place where our children caught the bus ... "No, children!! Back! Back away from the wall!!)

Honestly, who wants the green and yellow loogie slime (or worse) tracked all over their living room floor? Not me.

So, back to the present day in Prosser, Washington. I kick off my shoes at my friend's house. One of my other friends comments, "Why has everyone taken off their shoes?" He looks over at my friend's husband. "Do you guys ask people to take off their shoes?"

"No," my friend's husband replies. "In fact, I think it's rude when people require people to take off their shoes when they come into a house."

That made me think. I like the habit I picked up in Asia. I really don't like the look of dusty footprints through my house any more than I liked them in China. They're easy to clean up here, though, and there's not the loogie/poop factor. So, really, I'm not going to insist my guests remove their shoes. But I'll be honest, when I was in China, it irritated me when people would leave their shoes on. I just kept imagining green loogie germs all over my baby's hands.

But, what do you think? Is it rude to ask guests to remove their shoes when they come into a house? Are you one of those people who has a cute sign by the door that says: "Get a clue and remove your shoe" (I made that up!) or are you one of those people who wears your shoes everywhere and only removes them when you climb in bed at night?

Just curious.


  1. Not rude to ask your guests to take off their shoes. Your house, your rules.

    No shoes inside a house it's not an exclusive Asian custom, Swedes always take their shoes off when entering a house. I do it all the time, and I've insisted on a "No shoes in the house" rule when we got our house and have over the last decade more-or-less trained the whole family of in-laws to do so (even in the new family beach house).

    I say enforce your no shoe rule (if people need a reason other than the grossness of trekking in all the street germs, just say you are more Chinese than they think...)

  2. Hi Amy,

    I grew up in southern eastern Michigan in a small town where most folks parents were transplants from the same Tennessee county. Almost everyone I know takes off their shoes when they enter a home. I think its from the mud and muck from farm country. All my siblings still practice this habit, even outside of Michigan. Now, the folks I know from Michigan who are NOT originally from some holler (read: hollow) in Tennessee do not practice this. So, I have deduced it's probably more common among country folk. It's no big deal to me to take off my shoes. I think it makes good sense. And, I really like the Chinese custom of providing your guests with slippers. We don't do that in Michigan, but I may bring the practice with me when I return to the US

  3. I always kick off my shoes, too. In my own home I keep a pair of flip-flops at the front door and a pair at the back door to go in or out of the house (getting mail,paper, etc). Most of my friends and family kick off their shoes when they come in or walk in their own homes. Interesting topic, I wonder what kind of responses a topic on Verla Kay would get.

  4. We wear shoes or slippers due to cold floors and the fact that our kitchen floor is often wet because our German Shepherd tends to get the water in her dish EVERYWHERE! Plus, we have to go out into the shed to let the dog in or out, and NO WAY is anyone walking out there without shoes.

    That being said, I don't mind if I'm asked to remove my shoes at someone's house. I'd feel worse if they didn't ask me to and I just walked around unknowingly in my shoes. I figure that if someone is kind enough to invite me into their home, that it would certainly be inconsiderate not to remove my shoes if they didn't like shoes being worn in the house!

  5. take them off! this is not due to upbringing or where in the world i've lived...everyone knows i'm a freak about germs!

  6. I hate wearing shoes in the house (Crocs are an exception) but in MN recently it's become a trend because of all the salt and crap on the sidewalks in the winter time. Perfectly ok either way!

  7. We take our shoes off at the door and require the kids friends to do the same. Red clay makes you funny that way;)

  8. You really should insist on people removing their shoes in your home. You have plenty of good reasons for it. Believe me, people will not be offended.

    I have an whole blog about removing shoes in homes: Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might like to take a look.