Cultural Differences: Not Wearing Street Shoes in the House

I remember the first time my husband, Ferdinand, then just a friend, asked me to take my shoes off after we had entered his house. I just looked at him in amazement as to why I should remove my amazing pair of adorable, red, ½ inch heeled, slip on, Italian pumps. They completed my outfit, made me feel accessorized, they were red, my favourite color for shoes because they stated “here I am.”

After some seconds of staring at him, watching him change into house slippers, and then noticing other shoes in the entryway, I asked him to clarify. He’s not a man of words or details so he just said, “ya”. Not really understanding or wanting to take my shoes off, I just started inside with my shoes on. He stopped me and repeated, “you take your shoes off.” Can you believe we ended up marrying??? I again asked for more details. He then explained, “because you leave your shoes here.” Very German with his short and direct imperative sentences, isn’t he! My son & husband above, cuties, eh! 

 

Germans, along with other countries such as Japan, Russia, Korea, Turkey, Thailand, India, and other Eastern countries have the custom of removing shoes in homes. The no shoe policy also carries over to Scandinavian countries, most European countries, some African countries, and a majority of the Middle East. In Germany, every party or gathering, meant leaving a pile of shoes at the entry way. Even our gym enforced taking your street shoes off and wearing different sneakers while working out.

Imagine having such a love of shoes that you own some 68 pairs (that’s 136 shoes), then you move to a country that hasn’t any real appreciation of shoes, only treating their shoes as a sole means of comfort and even exiling them from homes. Hello culture shock!

For the health of your children and family, especially babies or toddlers;

why you shouldn’t wear shoes in the house

  1. Shoes pick up and carry into your home toxins and chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, traces of petrol fumes, industrial pollution, human and animal waste.
  2. Bacteria brought in from shoes can cause stomach and lung infections
  3. EPA conducted a “door mat study” showing that 60% less lead dust and other chemicals were brought into the home by removing shoes and using a front door mat. There was also a reduction in allergens and bacteria tracked into the home.

Further lovely reasons why to go shoeless in the home

    1. Better for the growing feet of children
    2. Your feet can breathe, healthier for your feet and more comfortable
    3. Can create a more relaxed atmosphere in the home
    4. You have to sweep and dust your home less
    5. Psychologically, helps everyone to enter a frame of mind where home is comfortable and troubles are left at the door
    6. By removing their shoes, guests even might feel more welcome, comfortable and a part of the family.
    7. An easy and cheap way to go green, invest in a pair of slippers for you and your guests and leave shoes at the front door

Also, when I attended my mother-in-law’s classroom, in Germany, she is an elementary school teacher, I observed a no shoe policy at her school. All the children entered the school, and before entering classrooms or walking around the school, they immediately change into slippers which are stored in their lockers.

It took me nearly a year to understand this cultural difference. In the end, I not only understood it, appreciated it, but more than accepted it. Now that we live in the states, I have implemented the rule of no shoe wearing in our home. I even became fanatic about it after having my son. I’m a big believer in adopting different cultural practices when they are better than your own cultural norm. Personally, we love to not wear shoes around in our home. Everyone has “inside” Birks or house slippers to wear. However, while we have the no-shoe (or rather no “street shoe”) policy in the home, we don’t ask guests to take their shoes off when visiting, unless they are coming over often…(In 2012, with the birth of my twins and observing my 2 yr old playing all over the floors, we changed this policy and do ask all guests to take their shoes off before walking in our home)

 

Thanks to my German family for opening up this cultural awareness and the Stoops for giving me this idea to write about. Still not convinced? Then, check this reference out, Good Morning America

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15 thoughts on “Cultural Differences: Not Wearing Street Shoes in the House”

  1. :sigh:
    I’m with this in theory. However, the neighbor kids run in and out, my husband tromps in with his combat boots and it hurts my feet and back to stand on the tile very long without my Birks.

  2. Hi Christine,

    Actually, did you know that Birks were invented in Germany? Germans wear Birks as inside house slippers.Then they have another pair for wearing outside the home.

    I also agree that you can’t stop the neighborhood kids from running in and out with shoes on their feet….or the hubby. We don’t ask our friends or neighbors take their shoes off when they come over, here in the States…in Germany, everyone just did. However, most of my friends, and their children, have started taking their shoes off when they come over. Some have said that they do feel more at home.

    Just as a family, we all have house slippers for inside. Your husband doesn’t wear his combat boots insdie the home, does he? I would think he would be more comfortable slipping into a pair of house slippers as well.

    Thanks for your feedback. It’s nice to hear that you are with this idea in theory. It took me awhile to adapt to my husband’s culture difference, but now I love it! 🙂

  3. I grew up in the states, but in an area highly influenced by the Dutch…and we ALWAYS took our shoes off! To me it’s weird not to do so! Up here in Alaska we always take our shoes off…even in the summer…I guess I never realized that it’s not the cultural norm in the states! Love the article and love that you’re promoting leaving the shoes at the door! 😀

  4. Hi Sarah,

    I was wondering if maybe more up North, where it is colder, it might be more common to leave shoes at the door/mud room? Here in the south, it just isn’t.

    I’m so used to taking my shoes off now, that I could never do it any other way. Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you like the post, that means a lot to me! Wisemommies

  5. Dear wisemommies, I am dutch by decent and we have always taken off our shoes at the door. We have our slipper waiting there. It is awesome to read this and be affirmed in what we have always done instinctively. There is much less cleaning and we don’t track in germs from public restrooms and pets. Yay! thanks for such a great post!

  6. Hi Jacqueline, I love to hear of others already doing this! Thank you for sharing. I also love that there is not as much cleaning to do and yes the thought of not tracking in germs from certain places makes me even more comfortable in my home. Especially when I am rolling around and playing on the floor with my toddler. Thanks for your feedback! Wisemommies

  7. Beth, I am featuring your post tomorrow on the ‘EOA’ link-up. Cute story about your first experience. LOL I would love you to be a regular contributor…good stuff here!

  8. Theory is grand, unless one has a medical reason to wear shoes full time. Visitors should be allowed to wear shoes regardless of the “home” policy unless you have given them warring and asked them to bring indoor shoes only. Be respectful to others, they may have needs you are unaware of.

  9. I am an American married to a Turk, and we have a no shoe policy. Not only is it just plain cleaner- I don’t worry about my daughers crawling around on the floor, for us it is also more comfortable. The women in his family buy fancy shoes that are only for wear in the house- they wear a pair of shoes as they walk to a friends house, then when they get there they change into a pair of home only high heels. I keep four or five pairs of slippers for guests to wear as well. Shoe free is the way to be!

  10. A very interesting post! I hadn’t thought about little ones playing on the floor. I have thought about the cleaning less aspects. 🙂
    I have noticed a few comments that include being sensitive to others.
    Now that my parents are in their 70’s and my Mom’s feet swell, I can appreciate the need to bend the rule for some people. She has a hard time actually getting her shoes on and will have a very difficult time removing them and then putting them on again when she leaves. I appreciate your ideas and practice, but I think it can’t be a hard and fast rule for us. I would not be honoring and loving my Mom if I required it.

  11. We have practiced a no shoe policy for 24 years of our married life now! We had moved into a house that needed new flooring throughout and (silly us) we picked out carpet that was very light in color. After looking at it and at our then just 2 children (we now have 6) we said, ‘OK, no shoes!’ And, it has stuck ever since. Now I have to wear Birks because of foot problems, but they are my ‘inside Birks’ and everyone else leaves shoes off. I actually miss going barefoot, esp. in the hot climate we now live in! Floors do stay much cleaner btw. Also, someone mentioned older folks who have trouble getting shoes off and on…we honor that and just let it go.

  12. Thank you to all for the recent comments and feedback. Many have mentioned honoring and respecting people who have trouble getting shoes on and off or for those who aren’t comfortable taking their shoes off and putting slippers on as a guest in the home. As mentioned in several comments earlier on, we do not ask guests to abide by our no-shoe policy in our home. If they observe, notice, ask, or offer, then great 😆 otherwise we just abide by the no-shoe policy as our own family unit.
    Wisemommies

  13. [b]Dear Karen,[/b]See my reply below to Sue. I understand the situation with your mom. We’ve actually taken my mom in and we’ve found her slippers to wear at home that actually help with her swelling. Once she’s taken her shoes off, and walked in some birks or other nice slippers, her swelling goes down, and she feels better. If not, well, I’m usually around to help put her slippers back on 😉 I can understand how this would not work for everyone, maybe not your parents but maybe something for you?
    Wisemommies

    [b]Dear Sue,[/b]Birks originated in Germany for the reason of creating shoes that were comfortable, “healthy” for the feet to wear (meeting needs for those who have to or want to always wear shoes), and also good for wearing as a slipper inside the home. That is what we do in our home. I agree with you that guests should always feel respected, and guests in my home always feel welcomed. As mentioned in earlier comments, we actually only do the no-shoe wearing as a family, and we never ask our guests to take their shoes off. We are on the same page with you, a grand theory for the family, but not necessarily respectful asking guests not culturally used to the idea. You can maybe see by the start of my story, I was also, at one time, uncomfortable with the idea.
    Wisemommies

    [b]Dear Angela,[/b]It’s nice to see other Americans doing the same. I’ve thought about providing slippers for guests but haven’t because we still aren’t sure that all guests would be comfortable with this? Nice to see that it is working out for you. What or how do you ask guests to change into your slippers provided?

    Wisemommies

  14. I live in Canada, We always take our shoes off when entering a house. Here it would be rude not to. Very rarely wold someone say ” oh don’t worry just leave your shoes on.” If they do it makes me uncomfortable. I always worry that there may be someting on the bottom of my shoes that will mark their floors or make their carpets dirty.

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