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Shoes-on or shoes-off?

Posted by: under Improvement and repair, Weekend chores Updated: February 1, 2010 - 8:37 AM

This isn't some place in Japan, Korea or Norway. This is Minnesota. Just the same. many of us expect our guests to do what we do: doff the shoes at the door.

If it's the boots, it makes sense. But what's up with the no-shoes allowed indoors, even in summer? Isn't just plain rude to invite people into your homes and expect them to start undressing at the door?

Those defending the practice say shoes worn outdoors are filthy. Who knows where they've been. Mud, dirt, sand, salt, dog-doo, even bacteria from filthy public restrooms and more can be tracked into a home. Shoes can ruin carpets and mar hardwood floors. Those with crawling babies shudder to think about  what comes indoors on outdoor shoes. They contend that there are shoes for wearing outdoors, and shoes for the indoors. And forget about high heels, they can really damage the floors..

On the other side of the issue, however, is the rudeness of it all. Indeed, come to a party all dressed up only to have to walk around in stocking feet, or worse yet, bare feet. The message guests receive is: you, as you are, aren't good enough for my home.The indignity is coupled with discomfort; floors in winter are cold, and so will the feet!   And, is it my problem you have such delicate floors they can't  handle common women's footwear?

 

How you feel about the practice likely depends on where you live, or where your ancestors lived.

It's common practice in Scandinavian countries to leave the shoes at the door. Indeed, travel etiquette advisors warn travelers that if they visit a private home in Norway, Sweden, Finland or Denmark  to be ready to remove their shoes, and to have a clean pair of clean, indoor shoes to wear.

Yet, it's considered very bad form to ask guests to remove their shoes in Britain. Mexicans hesitate to go shoeless because they believe cold feet are unhealthy. 

I have aged family members from Vietnam who immediately remove their shoes upon entering my house. If I say "don't bother," they stand stock still and refuse to step off the entrance mat, until I let them take off their shoes. 

Where do you fall in the  shoes on or shoes off debate? And is there any middle ground between maintaining  a clean house and insulting your guests? 

Maybe: 

-- Practice that yourself, but exempt guests.

-- Notify guests before the party so they can be prepared with a pair of indoor shoes or slippers. 

-- Just  forget about it for large or special parties. The house will be dirty after all that traffic anyway; clean up afterward. Besides, who wants to look at, and deal with dozens of shoes at the door. 

-- Keep a box of socks or slippers of various sizes and colors for guests to wear who forget their shoes. Guests like  the colorful stripes and playful prints the best. . 

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