Tips&TricksPeasant origins to party faux pas: The divisive custom of removing shoes indoors

Peasant origins to party faux pas: The divisive custom of removing shoes indoors

Taking off shoes when visiting has a long tradition.
Taking off shoes when visiting has a long tradition.
Images source: © Getty Images | invizbk

4:16 PM EST, January 5, 2024

Upon entering someone's home, we almost instinctively remove our shoes, subsequently spending the next few hours in socks. We often justify this by not wanting to spread dirt throughout someone else's house, dragging in sand and other impurities from outside.

The host usually responds with a wave of the hand, claiming that their house isn't clean anyway, even though they cleaned prior to our arrival. This typical scene frequently occurs. Another common scenario includes the offer of guest slippers, which some people keep on hand for such occasions.

Origins of the custom about removing shoes

Surprisingly, the enduring tradition of taking off shoes during visits originated from the lifestyle of ancient peasants. They spent most of their time working hard in the fields and often owned only one or two pairs of shoes. Hence, they habitually removed their shoes when visiting someone. In those days, with no sidewalks or asphalt roads, shoes were often covered in mud and sand.

In Asian countries, Central and Eastern Europe, and Canada, taking off shoes when entering someone's home is customary. In Japan and Arab countries, entering living rooms in shoes can be seen as an affront, causing outrage among the hosts. At the same time, inhabitants of Western Europe, Australia, and both Americas do not practice this custom.

Is it always necessary to remove our shoes?

The question has undoubtedly crossed your mind a few times and the answer is: it depends. Factors such as weather conditions, which significantly vary depending on the season in our country, are important considerations. This weather variation makes it hard to keep shoes clean thus the preference for removing them when visiting someone.

As mentioned earlier, some hosts provide special guest slippers. Nonetheless, bringing your own pair to change into wouldn't be a faux pas. Different etiquette rules apply if you are attending an elegant party or a formal gathering. In such cases, it would be considered tactless to remove your shoes. However, in the event of rainy or snowy weather, you should ensure your shoes are pristine before entering, usually by thoroughly cleaning them.

Remember, every home has its own customs. That's why it might be a good idea to ask the host whether you should remove your shoes soon after arriving. Sometimes, the host will ask you to do so, and in other cases, they might suggest you stay in your shoes. It's always a good idea to adapt to their preferences.

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