I grew up in Hawaii where it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home. Many people in Hawaii don’t even wear shoes outside, so it really doesn’t stand to reason that they would inside, but that’s not the reason the tradition stands. Rather, the custom stems from the Japanese tradition of removing ones shoes before entering a person’s home. (Hawaii has a large Asian population.)
In Japan, the genkan – or the entranceway just inside the front door where shoes are removed – is slightly lower than the hallway and the rooms of the house. To prevent their feet from getting cold, most Japanese change into slippers after taking their shoes off. Japanese refer to outdoor shoes as “dosoku” which literally means “soil feet.” My Japanese grandmother taught us that in Japan there is a saying: “dosoku de fuminijiru (dishonorably step on with outdoor footwear)” which means “a terrible dishonor.” To step on something with shoes where you’re not supposed to is equivalent to putting mud on someone’s face.
Needless to say, I grew up in a home where shoes were not permitted inside. When I moved to the “mainland” I stuck with tradition and had visitors remove their shoes upon entering my home. No one seemed to mind. In fact, I married a German man whose mother doesn’t allow shoes to be worn in her home, so this was non-issue in our relationship. I later learned that many people in Germany take their street shoes off and change into house slippers in the entrance room often referred to as ‘Flur’ or ‘Diele.’
Interestingly, I have found that many people (regardless of their nationality) living in this part of the country (Great Lakes Region) don’t wear shoes in their homes. I am part of a playgroup, which consists of nine other families. (We rotate hosting playgroup on a weekly basis.) Of the ten moms involved, only one allows shoes to be worn indoors—though in the winter she does make us take off our snowy boots. But as a whole, I think around here the reason many families have a no shoe policy in their homes has a lot more to do with cleanliness than custom. And, I don’t blame anyone for doing so. Why not try to preserve your carpets, hardwood floors and sanity (who wants to constantly clean mud, leaves, snow and dirt from floors)?
What do you think? Do you allow shoes to be worn in your home?