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To Remove Your Shoes or Not at the Door

Updated on November 21, 2016
elayne001 profile image

Ruth, aka Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian boy and has had amazing travel experiences

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Having been raised in Utah, we never even considered taking our shoes off at the front door when we enter someone else's or our own home. But, since having lived in the South Pacific (Tonga, Samoa and Hawaii) for most of my married life, I have become aware that it is customary for more people throughout the world to remove their footwear entering a home than not.

Where I currently live in Hawaii, it is the standard practice to take off your shoes when you enter a home and leave them off until you depart. Usually the owner of the home will have a shoe rack made of wood or metal on their front porch where you can leave your silipa or slippas (slippers), sandals, shoes or boots. It is pretty much a give away that you are not local if you leave your shoes on when you enter a home.

Most locals also understand that visitors or tourists are not aware of the custom, and have little signs at the door saying to leave your shoes off when you enter. Some say "no need" if they don't mind you leaving them on. Oftentimes, we look around at the various shoes left on the front porch to see if we like any other shoes better than our own, and joke around that we may take them. A couple of times, I have had my shoes taken, but figure they must have needed them more than I did!

My father came to stay with us a few months here in Hawaii. He is of Scottish ancestry, and has lived all his life in Utah. He has very tender feet, having worn shoes and socks his whole life from dawn to dusk. I told him not to worry about taking his shoes off when he is here in Hawaii. He doesn't even like the feel of the sand on his feet, so I don't force him. My feet have toughened up a bit over the years, so I actually prefer no shoes. Personally, I can hardly wait to take my shoes off for whatever reason.

Then there is my husband, who can't make up mind to leave them on or take them off. I find several pairs of his shoes in little corners stashed throughout the house wherever he decided to take them off!

Firewalking
Firewalking | Source

In Japan, shoes are removed so they do not tear the straw floor covering. Some housing contracts in Tokyo actually retain some of the deposit if it is found that the renters are not removing their shoes inside their apartments. Also, the word for outside shoes in Japanese is "dosoku" which means soiled feet . They have a saying which means to dishonor horribly (dosoku de fuminjiru ) translated - dishonorably stepping on with outdoor footwear.

In other parts of the world, many people cannot afford shoes, or it is their custom not to wear any shoes in or outside. Many people sit and sleep on their floors, so wearing shoes in the home would bring in mud or dirt from outside.

In Fiji, men in certain tribes like to show their bravery by walking on hot coals without any protection. To get them toughened up for this activity, they go without shoes and calluses form on their feet. Here, again, to wear shoes or not has a lot to do with where you were brought up.

In some parts of the world, people take of their outside shoes, and don or slip on some house slippers. It is also a show of respect to remove your shoes when entering a temple or mosque. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (otherwise known as Mormons), when we enter our temple, we are required to remove our regular shoes and put on a pair of white shoes.

In Exodus, in the Bible, it mentions that the Lord told Moses to remove his shoes because he was walking on Holy Ground. Shoes are tools used by man to get around in the imperfect world. But out of respect, submission and acceptance, we take off our shoes when entering sacred space.

A Hindu concept is that for chakra energy to work. When one goes barefoot, you can connect root chakra. For the earth to communicate with your chakra, you must remove your shoes.

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On a more practical level, taking your shoes off means that the oil on your feet can be absorbed into carpet or rugs. Guests are encouraged in some homes to leave their shoes on for this purpose.

For those that suffer from allergies or lung disease, it is best that people take their shoes off when entering so they do not bring along pathogens that would cause an allergic reaction.

Another opinion is that you bring in 80 percent of the dirt that is in your home on your shoes.

For whatever reason, if you prefer that your family and guests take their shoes off when entering your home, here is wording for signs which you could make:

This is an American Home With a Japanese Style. Please Remove Your Shoes.
Life is full of choices. Remove your shoes or scrub the floor.
Please remove your shoes. I hate to clean.
Family and friends are welcome, but the soil on your shoes is not. Please leave it at the door.
Please remove your shoes, and no switching to better ones on the way out.
or
Please remove your shoes...feel free to take a different pair when you leave.
At the request of the owners, please remove your shoes.
Please remove your dirty shoes.

Mahalo (thank you) for removing your shoes


As for me and my home, we live close to the beach, and sand is a very hard thing to get rid of once it gets in the home. So, I do prefer that you take your shoes off when you enter, especially if you have been to the beach. It would be fun to hear how you feel about this subject. Thanks for reading.

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  • brakel2 profile image

    Audrey Selig 

    3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Hi Elayne You are one of the first people I met on this site and still remember you. Unfortunately, I cannot remove my shoes, as I have foot problems. It is the custom in some homes in my area to remove shoes, and sometimes I wish I could do as others can do. It is a pleasure to visit this hub and get reacquainted. Blessings, Audrey

  • lucille12 profile image

    lucille12 

    3 years ago

    How a good deal bucks are you eager to invest on the shoe rack?

  • celeste inscribed profile image

    Celeste Wilson 

    5 years ago

    When I moved to the US for the first time I was embarrassed to take off my shoes. People would see my feet!! That has changed over the years and I gladly take them off now. I understand the logic and wonder why it was big deal for me in the first place. Great hub thank you.

  • ExpectGreatThings profile image

    ExpectGreatThings 

    5 years ago from Illinois

    "Life is full of choices. Remove your shoes or scrub the floor." Love this! You did a great job on this hub. When I was living in China, I noticed a teenage boy wearing my shoes on the street one day. He took one look at me and ran off! I had never seen him before and have no idea where how he ended up with my shoes. I didn't need the shoes, but I do hope that he didn't make a practice of stealing things! We don't wear shoes in our house; I love the custom :)

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I appreciate your contribution to my hub Vanadis, especially your personal experiences. You are lucky to be able to learn about other cultures, and I feel fortunate to have lived in different places also. Aloha.

  • Vanadis profile image

    Vanadis 

    7 years ago from Barcelona

    Great hub! I love learning about these kind of things from other cultures. I grew up in England and this custom varied depending on the household..and if the home is carpeted or not! When I lived in Norway everyone removed their shoes indoors. Most places there have wood flooring, and trailing dirt or snow into the house will ruin it, so its common sense and courtesy to remove outdoor shoes as you enter.

    Here in Spain I haven't noticed this custom as much, people seem to wear outdoor shoes indoors too. This could be because the floors here are more often stone or tile..and the general lack of rainfall here! Still, my husband and I always change to 'indoor shoes' inside as an old habit.

    It's really interesting to hear how these customs are in other parts the world. Thanks for sharing!

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks for your contribution to my article carol3san. I appreciate your interest.

  • carol3san profile image

    Carolyn Sands 

    7 years ago from Hollywood Florida

    Great article and a fun read. My grandson has a habit of taking off his shoes before he comes inside. No one does it but him. We live in South Florida, but he picked up that habit after visiting with his dad in Seatle Washington.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks China Tour - shoe covers work too. Whatever keeps rugs clean, I imagine for most people.

    Yes, Rob, I am sure it is vital for some guests to remove their shoes. Socks or not (be sure they are darned) to avoid embarrassment. Odor spray can also be beneficial. Thanks for your comments.

  • profile image

    Rob Kongaika 

    7 years ago

    Great Hub Mom. Even here in Egypt I have noticed it is customary to take one's shoes off when entering a home. Probably due to all the dust and dirt outside and the beautiful carpets and rugs that most people use in their homes. I had to laugh at Liana's comment though about making sure your socks don't have holes because that totally happened to me:). We must be related!

  • profile image

    China Tour 

    7 years ago

    We now prefer using the one-off shoe cover for guests at home, or we allows them not removing your shoes to keep the air clean, the master can mop the floor then...

    50% I guess,,, we do remove shoes sometimes.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks for sharing cameciob. I understand how you feel. Sometimes when you go in a person's home, the floor is less appealing than outside, so you want to protect yourself and still show respect for their home. Sorry to hear about your foot disease.

  • cameciob profile image

    cameciob 

    7 years ago

    Elayne, when I first came to US was shocked to have people telling me to take off my shoes. As today, I will take them off but I will make sure I have (or put) a pair of socks on because I got a bad foot disease at one time that cost me money and inconvenience to get rid of. But I do understand the reasons for taking them off ...

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    hehe CASE1WORKER. I can understand your feelings about new carpet. Hope no one gets ex-ed! thanks for the chuckle.

  • CASE1WORKER profile image

    CASE1WORKER 

    7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

    Great Hub! Voted up and interesting. We had a new lounge carpet at Christmas, anyone found with shoes on in the lounge is excommunicated!

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Sharyn's Slant. Glad you got a chuckle out of it.

  • Sharyn's Slant profile image

    Sharon Smith 

    7 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

    Elayne,

    This is such a well written and researched piece. I very much enjoyed the read. And I loved the extra "wording for signs." Made me laugh.

    Sharyn

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks for your comments, Jackie. The same goes here, but it was more of a cultural difference in our family since my husband is from the South Pacific and I am from the USA mainland.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 

    7 years ago from The Beautiful South

    Interesting hub. I took my shoes off at my in-laws because that was expected but at my parents home we never did and until now I don't guess I ever thought about the difference, lol. Good hub.

    Jackie

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Yes, HealthyHanna, I have heard about the oil from your feet getting into the carpet and attracting more dirt. But for those with no carpets, it makes sense to take the shoes off. Either way, they get dirtier and must be cleaned often. Thanks for your useful comments.

  • HealthyHanna profile image

    HealthyHanna 

    7 years ago from Utah

    What a fun hub!

    It seems it is becoming more and more common for people to remove shoes before coming indoors.

    I use to work at a carpet company, and part of that work was training in cleaning carpets. The cleaning companies said actually, removing the shoes and going barefoot on carpet makes the carpet get dirty and hold on to the dirt because of the body oil that rubs off on the carpet.

    It makes sense, but hasn't caught on. More and more are removing their shoes in the house... including me.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks tim-tim. You are so right that it makes sense, except in a very cold climate, I suppose where it would be quite a hassle trying to take boots and socks off every time. No one has mentioned that, yet.

    RedElf - yes, it does depend on the home owners preferences and there ought to be a little give and take on both parts. Otherwise, there might be hard feelings.

  • Rose West profile image

    Rose West 

    7 years ago from Michigan

    I kind of like wearing shoes indoors, but since I live in Hawaii too, I never do, unless I'm at my own house. It's important to respect cultural customs like this, plus it keeps all that red dirt outside where it belongs. It was fascinating reading about the other places where they take off their shoes.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, TheListLady. It is good to stand by your preferences by offering covers like your son. Most people won't be offended. I believe it is a cleaner way of living. It would be great to see a study on the pros and cons of taking your shoes off when entering the home with microscopic studies. I'll have to do some more searching.

  • RedElf profile image

    RedElf 

    7 years ago from Canada

    I grew up with both habits. In the city, we left our shoes on - on the farm, we took them off when entering a house.

    In the north, we mostly remove our shoes (except in the city) and carry a pair of "house shoes." Depends on the home-owner, really.

  • TheListLady profile image

    TheListLady 

    7 years ago from New York City

    It makes so much wonderful sense!

    During the time I lived in S. Korea it was a given, not only in the home, but I took separate shoes to school with me to wear in school, everyone did, and children would change into their school shoes and put their walking shoes in their backpacks. Going into a restaurant, again we left our shoes at the door.

    Back here in the US, yes, I and all my friends do it. My house proud son? When workmen come, they cannot tramp their dirty boots through his home - he gives them those covers to put over their shoes. If they don't like it, they can take their business elsewhere.

    I remember growing up we also had house shoes and bedroom slippers - that custom seems to have disappeared, although I have flip flops I change into when I come home.

    I so embrace, this healthy clean way of living.

    I enjoyed your hub - thanks - and rated up!

  • tim-tim profile image

    Priscilla Chan 

    7 years ago from Normal, Illinois

    Nice hub! Yes, it is a custom to Asian that they take off their shoes when they get into a house or someone's home. It makes sense not to bring all the dirt and germs in. Love the photos by the way!

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Good to hear from you Hello, hello, So glad you enjoyed it.

    It also took me a while to get used to it, PWalker281, but barely think about it when I go in a home here in Hawaii. When I go to Utah, I notice more people have started taking their shoes off too.

    That is good that you are taking care of your feet, dahoglund. My mother also had diabetes and had to be careful with her feet.

    Yes, who knew. I am glad so many have taken an interest in the topic, Cari Jean. In Hawaii, we rarely wear socks or nylons because it is so hot and humid, except in the winter, then I like to wear socks. I appreciate your comments.

  • Cari Jean profile image

    Cari Jean 

    7 years ago from Bismarck, ND

    Who would have thought that taking one's shoes off or not could be so interesting? I do it because I think it is the polite thing to do - sometimes tho when I'm taking off my shoes the homeowner tells me not to bother but I usually do anyway - I prefer no shoes and better yet no socks!

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    We usually don't wear shoes in the house,but I do wear slippers because of diabetes.

  • profile image

    PWalker281 

    7 years ago

    I've lived in Hawaii for over 4 years now, and I take off my shoes before entering a home without even thinking about it. When I first got here, I kept forgetting to do it. Sometimes people say, "Oh you don't have to," but I do anyway.

    I will say that I like to wear socks in my own home and am going to learn how to knit socks so I can have a nice supply of them to wear around the house.

    I enjoyed reading all of the "take off your shoes" customs that exist around the world. Didn't know so many people did it. I guess it's just here in the US and perhaps in other industrial nations (except Japan) that people leave their shoes on?

    Rated up and interesting!

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank yhou for this informative hub.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    That is great, randomcreative, that more people are becoming aware of an owner's preferences in their homes. I appreciate your comments.

  • randomcreative profile image

    Rose Clearfield 

    7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Interesting topic for a hub! For the most part, people have been really polite about asking if they should take off their shoes when they come in our house.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks, Silva. So true about where you might have walked, and what you might have picked up on either your shoes or your purse.

    Yes, b. Malin, slippers are so comfy, except in Hawaii, they are too hot, most of the time. It can be a tricky situation when you have guests and they are not used to removing their shoes. I usually say, don't worry, it is fine, but most opt to take them off.

    Glad you enjoyed it Patty. Thank you for the positive vibes.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish MS 

    7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    "Please remove your shoes, and no switching to better ones on the way out." -- I really like that one.

    Rated Up!

  • b. Malin profile image

    b. Malin 

    7 years ago

    We always remove our shoes when we come home since as far back as I can remember. We wear slipper type shoes in our home. When we have company, No we do not ask them to remove their shoes, though some do anyway. I enjoyed your Hub as usual Elayne.

  • Silva Hayes profile image

    Silva Hayes 

    7 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

    I grew up in Texas and no one removed their shoes when entering the home. However, I moved to Alaska and the custom there is to remove your boots and shoes at the door. I grew accustomed to this and kept it going when we moved back to Texas. Your house stays so much cleaner! It makes perfect sense when you think about it. So much better for crawling babies, too! If you start to really pay attention to what goes on around you, for example, when you are at the gas station/convenience store, you will never want anyone to wear their shoes into your house again. (Think spitting, cigarettes, etc.) I love this custom. Here's another sort of related comment. Ladies, think twice before you drop your handbag to the floor in a restaurant or bar. Think of the germs. I hang my bag on the back of my chair when possible.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I appreciate all the comments I woke up to this morning. It is quite an adjustment either taking off your shoes or leaving them one, if you are not used to it.

  • PETER LUMETTA profile image

    PETER LUMETTA 

    7 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

    Living in Thailand and having a Thai family I haven't worn shoes in my house for many years and don't think anything of it. Even when i lived in Alaska we did not wear shoes. Love it. Peter

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I think this is a great idea. So much dirt is tracked in on shoes anyway, Very interesting hub.

  • Paul Kuehn profile image

    Paul Richard Kuehn 

    7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

    I have lived in Taiwan and am presently in Thailand. Most people remove their shoes when entering homes. In the school where I am teaching, all students must remove their shoes before entering the school. In many government or private companies, people are also expected to remove their shoes before entering.

  • Brett.Tesol profile image

    Brett Caulton 

    7 years ago from Asia

    Great hub,

    This is common all over Asia and makes sense really. Saves on so much cleaning. Slippers would be needed in colder climates though!

    Voted up and useful

  • profile image

    Emma 

    7 years ago

    Being new to the Island... it is strange to me. I like to have my shoes on for the day and ready to go without having to stop and put on footwear. However my kids have adapted readily and go barefoot all the time.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    So true about the socks LianaK. I guess that could be a concern (if you wear socks, that is).

  • LianaK profile image

    LianaK 

    7 years ago

    I grew up with this custom and don't even really think about it anymore. Lol. Great hub. Just make sure your socks don't have holes in them.

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