If you are Asian or once-an-expat originating mainly from non-Asian countries who has lived part of your life in Asia before, you’d be very familiar with the cardinal rule of NO shoes allowed IN the house.
That means, walking in to other people’s home with your shoes on is a big NO-NO-NO. It is an spoken rule. It’s just not done. In fact, we learnt the rule as soon as we took our first steps and put on our very first walking shoes.
Should we break it every once in a while, even to retrieve a forgotten key that was less than a meter away, the elders would chase (or threatened to chase) us with a broom. A bunch of scoldings and nags would soon follow. We’d no sooner be anointed with curses.
Yeah. Really. No kidding.
Growing up, the no-shoes-indoor rule was strictly enforced as an expected behaviour at home as well as no matter whose house we visited. Having shoes on whilst in someone’s home would be considered extremely rude and not tolerated.
If however you choose to do it in your own house, then you are just courting trouble. But then again, we were taught well on that aspect of life. We knew the deal from the get-go; it’s always have been a part of my culture and it’s in my DNA.
Till today and many travels later, I still have very strong feelings about walking around at home with shoes on. That’s to say: NO shoes in the house. Period. As I have said, it is.not.done.
But you see, this is not just about culture.
On the practical side of things, this boils down to hygiene and cleanliness. Think about where those shoes have been. Day in, day out.
Add stepping on dog’s poo, human feces or other funky whatever on the street, you then with the same pair of shoes, walk right into your own home (or other people’s home). And if that is not enough, you’d continue to distribute more of the filth everywhere all around the house as you make your way to the fridge in the kitchen…walk back to the couch…and you get my drift.
Years ago when I got to know Silver Bullet, he thought that walking around at home without shoes on is such a weird concept. Coming from the Netherlands where people DO wear shoes in their own homes, he said that it was generally something that he (or other people in his shoes) would not consciously think about.
To him (then), it was absurd: No one takes off their shoes and he couldn’t understand the need for it to be off the feet. At home, it’s customary for them to wear the same footwear they go out with. Plus, asking people to take their off would likely be met with “Are you friggin’ insane!” kind of look.
Meanwhile on the other side of the fence, I was rolling my eyeballs. I cannot understand the concept of wearing shoes at home. Plus I can’t stand the thought of having filthy floors. Even if allowed, I would still take my shoes off without thinking; mostly out of habit, partly because it’s more comfortable to walk around bare feet.
Silver Bullet has certainly been indoctrinated to this cardinal no-shoes rule from his years of living in Asia and visiting many an Asian homes as well as having a wife who is a stickler for (not) wearing shoes at home. It’s now second nature to him and a habit he has come to appreciate.
Besides, what is there not to like about having a clean-er home and…and…and…! The fact that cleaning becomes less of an effort. That in itself is a winning formula!
Back in Asia, enforcing the no-shoes-in-the-house rule to our guests was easy. Everyone does it. You don’t even have to say it. No-brainer really.
Here in the Netherlands, my stress level goes up when I see people walking into our home with their shoes on. As soon as that happens, an electrified surge of annoyance rushes over me. My “floor-is-clean-and-I-have-no-idea-where-your-shoes-have-been!!!” antenna goes up.
That took some getting used to I must say. Especially when it comes to telling our guests that they need to take their shoes off when they walk into our home. It’s true that people tend not to think about it. Most times, people would respect our wishes.
But not everyone would comply when we request them to. The hideous rule-breakers tend to be those who come by to do the odd maintenance work of our home. With their hardy steel-toe work shoes, they trot around the house from the entrance to the back, into the bedrooms and all the way to the attic like they own it.
Their reason: Safety. Heavy objects could fall on their feet. That’s just hazardous.
Urgghhh! I mean, I understand. I geddit, geddit? Safety first. Completely understandable.
As much as I have no choice but to grit my teeth, I am secretly disliking hating their presence. I’ll be cringing away as I hear their heavy footsteps plodding all over our place; dreading the clean up I have to do the moment they leave our home with their disgustingly dirty shoes.
Cringe-worthy moments. Oh THOSE shoes! You’d see me seething. My OCD would kick in. Get.them.off.my.floor.
I can’t help it; I like my floors less dirty. It’s a personal preference for the cleanliness of our humble abode and we take pride in maintaining good hygiene. That way, we don’t have to waste food when they get dropped on the floor even if we found bits of them 24 hours later.
The thing is: I most definitely do not care less if people wish to wear the same shoes they wore outside in theirown home. It is their right and I have no right to judge. I’d still offer to take off my shoes when I come to yours.
That said, you are of course more than welcome to stop by our little hut for a visit. But please just leave your shoes by the door.
The rest of you can come in.
We’ll even take smelly feet and/or chipped, unpolished toenails.