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Thread: Taking off shoes before entering a house: Apparently not a universal value

  1. #1
    Holy Defender of Nippon Male
    Join Date Aug 7, 2009
    Location Middle-class Neighborhood
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    Canada

    Taking off shoes before entering a house: Apparently not a universal value


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    This one has baffled me for a long time.

    In Japanese society (and not just Japan), it is common, even expected to take off your shoes before entering a home. The reason should be obvious: Walking around all day, you may unknowingly pick up dirt or dog poo so the keep the inside of your or anybody else's home clean, you would take off your shoes at the entrance before entering.

    I'm not even Japanese and even I take off my shoes before entering my home. I do so because I like the inside of my humble abode to be clean. It is simple common sense.

    But I guess common sense isn't very common these days.

    So the question I pose to you isn't the typical culture-shock "Why do Japanese people take off their shoes before entering a house"

    Merely my question is "Why don't Americans (and anybody else who doesn't do the same thing) do the same thing?"

    Surely, America, being one of the most religious 1st world countries in the world should be aware of the phrase "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and should have the highest rates of taking shoes off before entering homes.
  2. #2
    My dirty underwear 900¥!! Male
    Join Date Sep 20, 2003
    Location Tokyo
    Posts 1,762
    Japan-Tokyo
    So the question I pose to you isn't the typical culture-shock "Why do Japanese people take off their shoes before entering a house"
    Merely my question is "Why don't Americans (and anybody else who doesn't do the same thing) do the same thing?"
    I actually wonder this myself as well and never wear shoes in my house. I know numerous Chinese and Japanese American friends who do the same. We all kind of "just don't" for the obvious reasons you listed.

    As you said as well, it just kind of makes common sense that you don't want to track in tons of dirt in your house, especially if you have carpet. I don't think it has anything to do with religion, just look at the behavior and practices in Europe and all the insane superstitions that existed there, or heck anywhere, with religion. Common sense and religion don't exactly overlap too often, especially when it comes to social behavior.
    -Emoni
    "Been there, done that, came back, going again."
  3. #3
    Nostrum
    Guest
    Are you sure this is just a Japanese thing? Everyone I know takes there shoes off before walking around their house, and they are not all Asian.
  4. #4
    My dirty underwear 900¥!! Male
    Join Date Sep 20, 2003
    Location Tokyo
    Posts 1,762
    Japan-Tokyo
    In Japanese society (and not just Japan), it is common...
    Nostrum. Second sentence.
  5. #5
    後輩 Male
    Join Date May 20, 2009
    Posts 11
    Trinidad & Tobago
    I grew up in a Chinese household and we aswell took our shoes and slippers off before entering our home. Reason being that it keeps the evil out of the home from outside or so I was told by my father.
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  6. #6
    puzzled gaijin Male
    Join Date Jan 15, 2006
    Location Tokyo Japan
    Posts 540
    Japan
    I can perhaps give you a good reason why people might not do it; it's sometimes a pain in the *** (switching your shoes for slippers every time you go in and out, I mean). Most people wipe their shoes on a mat before they go in.

    My elderly parents who were visiting found it very difficult to take their shoes off and on (they find things like sandals or loafers don't give enough support) and needed a chair to do so. But I certainly agree with the other posters, it does make it easier to keep the floor cleaner inside the house, but the slipper mania and different rules for different rooms (tatami mat rooms, bathrooms, etc..), no thanx.
  7. #7
    先輩 Male
    Join Date Jul 17, 2007
    Location Sendai
    Posts 913
    Japan-Miyagi
    Merely my question is "Why don't Americans (and anybody else who doesn't do the same thing) do the same thing?"
    Surely, America, being one of the most religious 1st world countries in the world should be aware of the phrase "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and should have the highest rates of taking shoes off before entering homes.
    I find I always take off my shoes on a mat at the front door in my house before entering any carpeted area. My friends all do the same. This is especially so when I visit a friend's house out of politeness to not get the carpet dirty.

    I can't speak for every American, and I'm not sure if there are any studies on "rates of taking shoes off before entering homes," but it's certainly not uncommon or out of practice to do so.
    "If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error."

    -Excerpt from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  8. #8
    先輩 Male
    Join Date Aug 14, 2009
    Location South Wales
    Posts 33
    UK - Wales
    Well we take out shoes off in our house, as do most of my friends (and if we're over each other's houses, we take our shoes off as well) and we're all living in the UK. That said I know quite a few people that don't care either way (and if I'm at uni accommodation, we tend not to take our shoes off until we get to our rooms, because the communal floors are generally something you wouldn't want to walk on without shoes! Blegh!).

    To be fair although the Japanese see it as a cultural thing (I think so anyway?), I see it as common sense and something that should be done everywhere. I mean who wants people trampling their dirty shoes throughout the house especially if they've stepped in something?!
  9. #9
    JREF Resident Alien Male
    Join Date Jan 19, 2005
    Location Goodlettsville, Tennessee
    Posts 1,831
    USA - Tennessee
    From what I have learned:

    The Japanese take their shoes off before entering their homes because for hundreds of years they have had tatami mat flooring which they sit on and sleep on and, rather than tracking in mud and such from working in the fields, it made sense to take off ones footwear.

    Europeans and Americans on the other hand had dirt floors way back when in their homes and it made no sense to take off ones footwear as the feet would only get dirtier. Thus, they wore their footwear in the house and that "custom" seems to have endured even with the advent of carpets and wood flooring and such.

    Before living in Japan it was the norm to wear ones shoes in the house and I never gave it a second thought. Afterwards, I learned that it made common sense and do it religiously today. Also, I make all visitors remove their shoes before entering my home. It only makes common sense to me.

    It really bugs me when I see people sitting on a sofa or their bed with their outside shoes on and it seems so dirty and disgusting knowing that there is God knows what on their shoes that they will be sleeping and sitting on or what their little children, who play on the floor and are always putting their fingers in their mouth, are contracting.

    It may be disgusting to me, but it's not at all disgusting to my friends and other American people as, to them, like myself before, it's the norm.
    Do What You Love And You'll Never Work Another Day In Your Life!

  10. #10
    Horizon Rider Female
    Join Date May 8, 2005
    Location England
    Posts 8,321
    UK - England
    My mom always told me *not* to walk around the house without shoes on in case I was to step on something sharp! (I think she was freaked out by some story she heard about a boy who got hurt bad by something he stepped on.) But it would make more sense to at least *change* your shoes at the door, into e.g. thongs, so you wouldn't be walking around in *bare* feet exactly. (Also, we didn't have central heating, so in the winter the house was kinda cold, so it would make you pretty chilly to walk around in thongs or bare feet/socks... so maybe that had something to do with it as well... and maybe why north Europe doesn't have such a strong custom to take off one's shoes.)

    However, I was always used to take them off at a friend's house or when visiting people, because I understood that some people take a lot more pride in their flooring than my parents did (our carpets were just cheap and old things!).

    So I guess I had kinda a mixture. And even now I do a mixture, like I always wipe my shoes, but most often I'll change into my slippers when I come into the house, but if they aren't at the door, it's not a big deal. And also I go in and out from the house and outside a lot, so it's a pain to change your footwear every few minutes, so sometimes I'll wait until all outdoors stuff is done.
  11. #11
    puzzled gaijin Male
    Join Date Jan 15, 2006
    Location Tokyo Japan
    Posts 540
    Japan
    My parents did the same with carpeted areas, particularly the living room.

    As to protecting the floors, yes, but I do get tired of mats on everything in my current house (coverign tatami in one room, and also protecting the carpet in a few other rooms), as well as having to always worry about tripping on them (they are not well anchored mats). Sometimes taking my shoes off is cooler, but wearing slippers all the time is actually annoying. If outdoor shoes are already not worn in the house, how dirty can the floor be (and I know as I 'm the one who does the vacuuming!)?
  12. #12
    先輩 Male
    Join Date Feb 4, 2005
    Location .
    Posts 2,355
    Japan
    I know the dressing codes in your office are different from country to country or office to office. My office is quite liberal to allow me to wear cheap 980yen slippers, but if you need to be more professional, try "business slippers".

    Business Slippers, V.I.P.

    http://item.rakuten.co.jp/nagatayakuhin/c/0000000143/

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