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

Discussion in 'All Things Japanese' started by InvisibleSkyMagician, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. InvisibleSkyMagician

    InvisibleSkyMagician Holy Defender of Nippon

    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.
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  2. Emoni

    Emoni 先輩

    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.
  3. Nostrum

    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. Emoni

    Emoni 先輩

    Nostrum. Second sentence.
  5. master-ling

    master-ling 後輩

    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.
  6. gaijinalways

    gaijinalways puzzled gaijin

    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. Half-n-Half

    Half-n-Half 先輩

    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.
  8. Saradus

    Saradus 先輩

    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. Pachipro

    Pachipro JREF Resident Alien

    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.
  10. Kinsao

    Kinsao Horizon Rider

    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. gaijinalways

    gaijinalways puzzled gaijin

    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. pipokun

    pipokun 先輩


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