Shoes on or off in the house?
October 13, 2014 12:32 PM   Subscribe

What's the more common practice in the U.S. and elsewhere? What particular locales, religions, ethnic backgrounds, etc. are associated with a preference for shoes off or shoes on inside the house? Are there any good maps showing where one or the other practice is more common across the world or in particular countries?

My wife and I both grew up in shoe-off families in the U.S. Midwest and had that habit strongly reinforced when we each studied in Russia. However, I've noticed that households in our area seem to vary wildly in their preferences, at least in the Summer and Fall (taking off snow or mud-covered shoes or boots is more common.) I'm trying to figure out what sorts of geographic, ethnic, and other patterns are at play with regard to this issue.
posted by Area Man to Society & Culture (94 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Toronto, shoes off.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:36 PM on October 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

There was a lot of discussion in this old AskMe.

I'm from NYC and shoes on is the norm. I personally hate taking off my shoes.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:37 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I never heard of anyone taking their shoes off inside the house until I started watching anime.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:37 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

NY, shoes off; we wear slippers in the house. It probably varies though-- Chinese people always take their shoes off, and I don't always take my shoes off when I visit some of my non-Asian friends friends.

In Germany people wear house shoes (Hausschuhe)... usually Birkenstocks or something like that.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 12:39 PM on October 13, 2014

Alaska= almost universally shoes-off.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:39 PM on October 13, 2014

Every Indian household (my included) has enforced a shoe-off policy in their house. I live in the US-- this is standard around the country as far as I can tell.

When I went to India it was obvious it was a way to keep the floors clean. In US this has been kept. I thought this was an Indian (and asian) thing, but I've met 'Westerners' who do it, but 10% versus 95%.
posted by sandmanwv at 12:40 PM on October 13, 2014

Previously and previously; big factors: local climate, type of flooring, type of shoes commonly worn, broad cultural attitudes towards "inside" and "outside", and whether there's continuity between them or separation.
posted by holgate at 12:40 PM on October 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

Shoes/boots off: Winnipeg.
Shoes on: Los Angeles
Portland, OR: You look to your hosts as to their preference.
posted by nanook at 12:40 PM on October 13, 2014

Pacific Northwest, shoes on. I only encountered the shoes off policy a couple times growing up.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:41 PM on October 13, 2014

California shoes off. Culturally very strong shoes off on both my Korean/American and Persian sides of the family.
posted by Swisstine at 12:41 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

West coast and shoes off was universal when I was growing up. I've met a few folks who keep their shoes on in the house and it horrifies me. You're just tracking the disgusting outside all over your house! Also, whose shoes are that comfortable? I can't wait to get home and take mine off.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2014 [17 favorites]

NYC and shoes on (slippers optional, but provided for guests). I encountered shoes on for the first time in college (outside of a formal party) and was horrified.

Floors are so much cleaner with shoes off, and it's soo much more comfortable!
posted by larthegreat at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2014

Japan: Shoes off and you always supply guests with slippers.
Georgia (US): shoes on unless covered in mud.

(shoes off heritage && shoes on heritage == a shoes off household unless you just need to grab that one thing and you're really fast)
posted by telepanda at 12:49 PM on October 13, 2014

Seattle, despite the rain and prevalence of carpet, is somehow shoes on. Like to the point that people regularly just have me stating my house is shoes off go in one ear and out the other, even though they just walked past the shoe rack and little chair in my entry way.

I rarely encounter a shoes off place here, and I don't get it. Everyone's entryway carpet is filthy because of this. Also, the only shoes off places seem to be ones where people's parents culturally did it, with few exceptions.
posted by emptythought at 12:51 PM on October 13, 2014

Minnesota: shoes off in the winter. In other seasons, YMMV.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:52 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Family's originally from Tennessee.

We were a shoes-on family until we moved into a white-carpeted house in red-dirt country (near Atlanta). I always wear slip ons and take them off in my own home and when visiting friends. I ask guests to remove their shoes when it looks like they'll be here more than a few minutes. If I'm wearing boots when visiting friends, I ask friends if I should take them off.

I keep my feets and socks very clean because they are often on display.
posted by mochapickle at 12:52 PM on October 13, 2014

Living in NYC, grew up in MA.

Growing up: Shoes on, unless it's bad weather and your boots/shoes are wet and muddy.

Now: Shoes off, although we don't hassle guests about it. It just seems so much more sanitary, as well as more comfortable.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:52 PM on October 13, 2014

NC, and either way is fine with me. I hate being barefoot in case I step on something awful (I live with cats), so I wear house shoes inside.

On the other hand, I don't think the outdoors is a disgusting place, and I always prefer to err on the side of being polite to a guest. Guests can wear their shoes or take them off as they please. I clean my floors. We have a doormat. I'd rather the floor take the hit, than make someone uncomfortable.
posted by Coatlicue at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sweden shoes off. Was new for me. Holland and Germany: Not so much.
posted by Namlit at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2014

Lived in Canada for many years (British Columbia & Ontario), shoes definitely off. In Seattle, mostly shoes on.
posted by lois1950 at 12:55 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

OMG such a holy war.

I visited friends in Brooklyn once and when I took my shoes off at the door they burst out laughing and asked if I wanted to borrow a bathrobe. My experience is it's shoes off in most of Canada, all of Asia and much of Europe. Shoes on in most of the United States, in New Zealand and Australia, and I believe also France. I don't know about Scandinavia but I would guess shoes off. I'd be curious about the Middle East which I could imagine going either way.

I think the reasons behind this are many, and include the messiness/wetness of the weather, the importance of cleanliness, and also level of formality of the culture. (That last one is complicated though: giving slippers to guests (sometimes) implies coziness and lack of formality, but contradictorily, in more-formal cultures you'd want to change out of e.g. galoshes into nicer shoes.) I think religion may play a role too sometimes, because cultures in which shoes are off for prayer seem likelier to have shoes off indoors in general.
posted by Susan PG at 12:57 PM on October 13, 2014

Toronto, shoes off.

I grew up here. My parents grew up elsewhere in Canada. We were a shoes on household until we went to school and made friends and all their houses were shoes off. Then my parents switched. That was about 40 years ago.
posted by TORunner at 12:58 PM on October 13, 2014

Quoting myself from previously: Some people think "shoes exist to protect my feet from gross things and are therefore gross," some people think "shoes exist to protect my feet from sharp hurty things and are therefore nothing to be disgusted by."

I am from North Carolina, but my parents are both from the Midwest. We never took off our shoes inside (I mean, unless we felt like it), and I always associated the practice with upper-middle-classness and, for some reason, Canadians.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:58 PM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

NYC and shoes off, but I definitely have friends who don't have a preference. However, I and most of my friends who were raised by parents who came from the Old Country (regardless of where that Old Country is) had "shoes off" drilled into them from birth and continue on the tradition.
posted by griphus at 12:58 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grew up in upstate NY - shoes off unless it's winter and the floor is freezing. EW shows on is so gross! You're walking around outside with god knows what on the street/ground and then you're going to track it inside? That's what a mudroom is for. Shoes off forever.

Now I live in NYC and I still take my shoes off, even though sometimes people tell me it's not necessary.
posted by silverstatue at 12:58 PM on October 13, 2014

I grew up in Virginia, with parents who grew up in Georgia and Alabama. We never took our shoes off.

I moved to Minnesota 15 years ago, and rarely come across a household who DOESN'T take their shoes off. Shoes are almost always off (the weather usually demands this).
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:00 PM on October 13, 2014

WI - I prefer shoes off, and usually take them off if I am visiting someone else's house for more than a few minutes. I don't enforce it for guests though, in general around here shoes on seems more common, although most people remove winter boots. I think it's really personal preference though, and how much of a clean freak you are. My sister's houseis strictly shoes off, sign and all, and she has a bunch of pairs of slippers by the door.
posted by catatethebird at 1:00 PM on October 13, 2014

Also, "should I take my shoes off?" is literally the first thing I ask when I step into someone's house.
posted by griphus at 1:01 PM on October 13, 2014 [16 favorites]

I've also noticed a correlation which may be entirely in my own head: if you wouldn't go outside without shoes on, you're more likely to insist on no shoes inside. Moving from NC to NYC, this was a huge change for me- back home I would regularly walk a mile to campus with no shoes on when it was nice outside, just because grass feels nice on your feet. Here, the idea of stepping outside your home without shoes on is considered as disgusting as just plunging your bare foot into a public urinal, and for good reason. And I know more people up here who are shoes-off-inside people.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:02 PM on October 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

Grew up in Delaware, now live in the PNW. My family was very much shoes on, as was everyone I knew growing up.

(Also - and I know this is a personal hangup - I think feet are pretty much gross, especially if they've been inside your shoes all day. I wouldn't take my shoes off in someone else space without express permission any more than I'd take my pants off. I understand and accept that some people think the opposite but I find it hard to fundamentally grok.)
posted by darchildre at 1:04 PM on October 13, 2014

Washington, DC, 1st/2nd gen American household (from a couple different Western European countries): shoes off. Everyone else does slippers or socks, I go barefoot.

I prefer when visitors remove their shoes, but would never explicitly ask, because I think that's inhospitable.
posted by rue72 at 1:04 PM on October 13, 2014

I grew up in Florida and don't remember wearing shoes indoors, although I do not think this is necessarily a common practice in Florida. I actually feel like I am doing something wrong if I wear shoes in someone's house. I have found that people have really strong feelings about this. I understand the harm in wearing shoes in a house where shoes are not allowed, but I find it harder to understand the harm in taking off shoes when one would prefer not to.

I understand that people think doormats are great, but I wouldn't consider my hand to be clean after touching a city sidewalk or the floor of a gas station bathroom just because I rubbed it on some bristles. Shoes, like gloves, are not unitaskers and can serve the multiple function of protection from sharp things, hot things, cold things, and gross things.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:06 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

NYC and shoes off, but I definitely have friends who don't have a preference. However, I and most of my friends who were raised by parents who came from the Old Country (regardless of where that Old Country is) had "shoes off" drilled into them from birth and continue on the tradition.

Yes, this is my experience, too, and "Old Country" basically means the family is 1st or 2nd gen immigrants to the US from anywhere in Europe, Asia, SE Asia, or Africa.
posted by rue72 at 1:07 PM on October 13, 2014

Pacific NW: Shoes-on households are more prevalent, but shoes-off people aren't so uncommon as to be met with confusion or horror. Usually the shoes-off directive is pretty low key; I can only recall a few times where guests were required to remove their shoes. In my experience, shoes-off people tend to be more aligned with non-Western cultural norms (Asian, Indian, "hippie") either by lineage or lifestyle.
posted by maniactown at 1:09 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I come from a totally shoes household (mid-atlantic - DC, PA, NY family).

This is for both formality (shoes are part of your outfit, not outerwear like a coat) and for warmth/protection from stubbing a toe, etc.

However, it is paired with the expectation that guests don't show up with muddy shoes or snowy boots, and that if that seems anticipated they'll bring other shoes to change into. (And that we would change out of muddy shoes and boots in the entry way.)
posted by mercredi at 1:12 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

New England born and raised. Shoes off inside (or you have like indoor slippers/crocs/something) but I don't hassle guests about it unless it's mud season. In the winter a lot of my friends have shoes-off household so you bring little slippers/shoes with you to change into.
posted by jessamyn at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2014

Shoes on is my experience growing up in a beach side country town in Australia. Chances are though most of us weren't actually wearing shoes but where in flip flops or bare feet. Since moving to the US I take my shoes/boots off in winter because tracking slush & snow through someones house just seems rude. Oh & farmers. People on farms seem to always take their boots off, getting in the back door of a farmers house over the piles of wellington/rubber boots is an acquired skill.

I suspect a lot of the shoe on/off is based was based on the relative dirtiness levels of where you are likely to have been walking, not all the world is paved. Now a days I suspect it ties more to the cost of the flooring.
posted by wwax at 1:14 PM on October 13, 2014

Former US Navy brat here, so I ran across a pretty wide variety of cultures growing up, but only one household (the mom was native Japanese) that required/requested shoes off.
posted by easily confused at 1:15 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Huh, interesting--my own experience runs counter to that of some others who've responded. I grew up in Minnesota and never even heard of people taking their shoes off in the house. (Snowy slushy boots yes, shoes no.) Of course, this practice was established by my parents, who both grew up in Kansas, which might well have a prevalent shoes-on tradition.

Now that I live in the Pacific NW, I've gotten into the habit of always taking my shoes off when I come inside, and most of the people I know here seem to do likewise. I'm not even sure why I made the change; it might well have been prompted, in fact, by some previous AskMe threads on the subject, along with the increasing fussiness of old age.
posted by Kat Allison at 1:17 PM on October 13, 2014

I grew up in a "shoes on" household in Louisiana. However, after having an Asian-American roommate for years, I converted to "shoes off", and that's what I prefer as an adult.

I don't ask guests to take off their shoes in my house, though.
posted by Sara C. at 1:17 PM on October 13, 2014

I grew up in urban/suburban Iowa/Illinois, of nondescript midwestern Anglo/Scottish-American stock whose ancestors had all been in the U.S. since the mid-19th century or earlier. Shoes were ok in the house in my family and it was vastly the norm among my friends' families, except for Asian families. Now, snow boots or wet shoes on a rainy day, or mucky farm boots would get taken off at the door before tracking all over the house, but just ordinary street shoes on a dry day did not need to come off.

Nowadays I often wear slippers rather than street shoes in the house, but I also wear my slippers for short jaunts outside the house, so it's not like they're particularly pure and undefiled.
posted by drlith at 1:33 PM on October 13, 2014

Shoes on. My husband recently floated the idea of switching to shoes off, but our 19-year-old cat has a delicate stomach and tends to leave little cat puke presents around the house, so I nixed the idea.
posted by mogget at 1:34 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

In Japan, 100% absolutely all of the time, in all instances, shoes off. You wound never even quickly step back into the house with your shoes on if you forgot something on the kitchen table. There is also, when you open the front door, a lower area or entrance where you take off your shoes and place them very neatly, and purposefully, to be aesthetically non-ugly. Then you step up into the main level of the house and slip into your slippers. There are separate slippers that you step into when going to the toilet. When I was 2 and came to Japan for the first time I ran right up into the house ( my grandparent's house) without taking my shoes off, because I was so excited and didn't know. My mom has told me that story 100 times. I'm sure that was the one and only time that ever happened though.

Neither me nor my mom can remotely understand the custom or occurrence of wearing shoes indoors in the US. If you were a farmer or something and had to enter and leave many times a day, maybe. But otherwise I don't get it at all. I would rather not have shoes on my feet by about a hundred times, and can't feel very comfortable with them on. It feels like you've not yet gotten home or relaxed with your feet still restricted in shoes. That and it's filthy dirty. And perhaps most importantly why do American's wear shoes when they have neighbors who live below them and can hear every footstep. You would think at least it would be a custom to never wear shoes when you live above people. Instead I get woken up by the woman above me going clunk, cluck, clunk with her shoes many mornings, or coming home at night, and sometimes she decides to clean her whole apartment for hours with her clunky shoes on. When I tell her what a great disturbance this is to my life, she just reduces it by a touch, apparently so inclined to believe that wearing shoes above a person's living space is no big deal. Absurd.
posted by Blitz at 1:34 PM on October 13, 2014 [11 favorites]

Midwest born and raised, by a Midwestern father and a southern mother. Shoes off immediately upon entry to the house but they never required guests to do so.

I live in Ohio now and my family takes shoes off right at the door but I, like my parents, don't require guests to remove theirs. But you'd best believe that I sweep and mop first chance I get (usually the next morning) if people have been walking around my house all night wearing their shoes.
posted by cooker girl at 1:39 PM on October 13, 2014

Grew up on Long Island.

My family didn't care; it was whatever you felt like doing. Typically, I took my shoes off in the house (unless it was cold) just because that felt more comfortable and "home" to me. Sometimes, if it was cold, I'd wear slippers instead.

My mom kept the house immaculately clean. I'm sure if that wasn't the case, I might have kept my shoes on.

I don't take my shoes off in *other people's* houses because I feel like it's rude, for some reason -- unless I am staying overnight there or something.
posted by tckma at 1:39 PM on October 13, 2014

California and Louisiana: shoes on*. However in California there is enough of an Asian population that I don't bat an eyelash if I have to take off my shoes at someone's house.
posted by radioamy at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2014

My anglo Australian household is generally shoes off, but we aren't militant about it and it's not really the norm here, with our cultural background. It's probably more that we have both had jobs that mean you really want to remove your dirty steelcaps right at the door. Households from more recent migrant backgrounds are more likely to be shoes off and we are multicultural enough that no one thinks anything of it either way.
posted by deadwax at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2014

Shoes on up until I have no more chores, no more work and no more errands. Shoes off in the house are symbolic of day is over (or has yet to begin). LI->Va->Chicago->NY
posted by 724A at 1:48 PM on October 13, 2014

Lynchburg, VA: shoes on
Chicago: shoes off
St. Louis: varies
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:02 PM on October 13, 2014

Southeastern US here

In my own house - our own family's shoes come off as soon as we walk back to our respective bedrooms, not to protect the floor but just to be more comfortable.

If walking into someone else's house, I would keep my shoes on unless a) our hosts indicated to us to take our shoes off or b) something had happened to make my shoes unusually dirty. Close friends/family exception applies, both at our house or if we're visiting someone else's. I suppose I'd define it as "if I would help you hide a body, or v/v, I'll take off my shoes here without being asked."

I live in an area with a lot of military and most people who ask us to take our shoes off (or ask us when entering our home if they should remove their shoes, or remove their shoes without being asked) are from a different culture where this is the norm or picked up the idea while living in such a place. We've known enough people like this that we don't find it odd, but my guess is that most southerners who aren't hip to this would be taken aback at first.

So I'm used to the idea, and can see the advantages (especially if you have carpet, which we do not), but would not ask my guests to take their shoes off unless they were unusually dirty. It's awkward unless you have chairs in the entrance way and provide house shoes/slippers because some people wear socks they don't want to be seen or don't have the dexterity to untie or re-tie shoes without sitting down.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2014

Seattle - I would say it's 1/2 and 1/2 with shoes on or shoes off. I'm a shoes off household, but not militant about. It's pretty clear from the bench full of shoes in the foyer that that's the custom and I never run into people who have a problem with it.
posted by brookeb at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2014

Grew up on Long Island with parents from NY and DC. Shoes on mostly, unless they were muddy or snowy or you were relaxing (like the same times you were wearing sweatpants). Never took shoes off at other people's houses. Moved to Arizona, rural: mostly shoes on, or barefoot in summer both indoors and out (this supports the idea above that places with less distinction between indoor-outdoor probably have less strict "shoes off" culture). As an adult I lived and roomed with several Middle Eastern people and got completely used to shoes off, and that's what I do at home, but I don't enforce it on guests.
posted by celtalitha at 2:22 PM on October 13, 2014

Toronto, British and NZ parents, shoes off at the door. My apartment now, shoes live in the hallway outside (all of us in the building do this), and I say "Shoes there please" to guests.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:22 PM on October 13, 2014

Also my knee-jerk reaction would be to find it kind of odd and overly familiar if someone who wasn't a close friend or family member took their shoes off in my house unprompted. This has only happened a couple times but it weirded me out a bit, sort of like it would weird you out if someone came in and took off their belt.
posted by celtalitha at 2:26 PM on October 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

I grew up shoes-on and think it's the norm where I live now, but in my circle there's a lot of shoes-off and thus I'm more sensitized to that. We (me, spouse, kid) mostly take ours off now just because we like it (I always preferred my socks); in contrast, my mother thinks that the Big City = lots of oil and pollution on the streets and sidewalks and has become a shoes-off person since moving here.
posted by acm at 2:26 PM on October 13, 2014

all over California but especially SoCal, in about 80% of homes I've visited through my life, shoes on unless you're settling in to hang out comfortably for a long while.
posted by changeling at 2:41 PM on October 13, 2014

I grew up in NJ, and it was shoes off. We're 3rd or 4th generation American, so it wasn't an immigrant thing with us, just a clean thing. I live in NYC, and it's the first thing I do when I get home. It keeps my floors and carpets clean, and my downstairs neighbor gets the benefit of no noise.

I ask guests to do the same, but only once, and if they don't, I don't push it (unless it's a snowy/muddy day). When I visit someone's home, I always ask.
posted by AMyNameIs at 2:47 PM on October 13, 2014

Do TV shows or movies from other countries show people taking their footwear off? (I can't think of examples). Because despite it being fairly normal among people I know to have a "no shoes" policy, I don't feel like I see it in American & British pop-culture. But I don't know if that's just one of those "it's inconvenient to have them say goodbye so just have them abruptly hang up" things or if it's indicative of how rare it is in the US/ UK.
posted by mdn at 2:50 PM on October 13, 2014

In the UK, you take a good look at the hallway when the front door opens. If it's carpeted in expensive-looking cream carpet, you take your shoes off. If it's a Victorian tiled hallway, you probably want to keep them on, so you don't get cold feet.

To complicate things, everyone in my house is shoes-off. Except me. I'm shoes-on from the moment I dress until about 20 minutes before bed-time. We're weird like that.
posted by pipeski at 2:56 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grew up in L.A., shoes always on, everywhere, as far as I recall. The last thread gave me lots to think about and now I mostly take my shoes off when I'm home but I would never, ever put someone on the spot and ask them to take off their shoes. Ever. Maybe I'd feel differently if we had weather, but I assume shoes off would be more a part of my culture anyway.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:57 PM on October 13, 2014

And as far as the demographics it was both financially and ethnically diverse.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:00 PM on October 13, 2014

Upstate NY, shoes off. Grew up with a couple hippie farmers for parents: no shoes. Lived in Russia: NO SHOES!! Lived in the US with a German: NONONO SHOES EVER! Kinda stuck.
posted by tippy at 3:28 PM on October 13, 2014

When we last discussed this, I put up a survey and it now has more than 980 results. You might want to try to map them.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:41 PM on October 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Some of my family did shoes-off to protect their carpet, others did shoes-on because seeing someone's stocking feet was something like seeing in them in their underwear.
posted by bleep at 3:42 PM on October 13, 2014

NJ-NYC, pretty much a straight 50/50 split between on and off. I've noticed people higher up on the social scale tended to be more shoes on, or it was tied to the nature of the visit ( visiting/hanging out with friends? Shoes off. At a cocktail party where you might not know everyone? Shoes on.)
posted by The Whelk at 4:08 PM on October 13, 2014

(I'm shoes off as much as possible cause ugh you've been stepping in the city all day don't bring that into the house.)
posted by The Whelk at 4:10 PM on October 13, 2014

Central California, but Asian household so shoes off but family members had indoor slippers. Husband is from Maryland and he is shoes on, all the damn time. I view it as one of his flaws, a squalor laden flaw. It was heavenly to enforce shoes off when we were in London just because of the delicate nature of the installed flooring of the flat we were renting. I do not ask guests take off shoes because it would be inhospitable though they usually do because they see the pile of shoes near the door. I live in midwest and definitely muddy shoes off during the winter.
posted by jadepearl at 4:16 PM on October 13, 2014

Do TV shows or movies from other countries show people taking their footwear off? (I can't think of examples). Because despite it being fairly normal among people I know to have a "no shoes" policy, I don't feel like I see it in American & British pop-culture.

Mr. Rogers always did it. He would take off his outdoor shoes and put on his house shoes/slippers at the beginning of every show. He'd also take off his outdoor sweater/coat and put on a cardigan for inside the house, too. Maybe because the show was for young children who were (maybe) still being taught to do those things? That was one of my favorite parts of the show, I remember it clearly, and I'm pushing thirty at this point, so obviously it stuck!
posted by rue72 at 4:18 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, "should I take my shoes off?" is literally the first thing I ask when I step into someone's house.

Hi me!

I live in the northwest now, but have lived in other parts of the US and in other countries. It was always shoes off in our house when I was a kid, and I still keep my own house that way. I don't force guests to take theirs off –if they ask (about half ask, the ones who don't ask are split between shoes on and shoes off) I say something like "I don't, but you should do whatever is comfortable for you." Not wearing shoes is more comfortable and keeps the house cleaner, especially in dusty/muddy/dirty places, but I'm not strongly dogmatic on it like a few people seem to be.

The funny places for me are the houses with small baskets of slippers for visitors, because they never have large sizes so I have to go around with these tiny things hanging off my toes.

The only thing I really get yucked out by is shoes on the bed -- I don't remember it ever being an issue as a kid, but somehow I acquired a strong visceral reaction to it. People in movies are always lounging on the bed with shoes on, and it grosses me out every time.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:37 PM on October 13, 2014

Shoes on in CA, please, which in my experience is generally the case unless someone's of a certain culture or a hippie. I take mine off WHEN I AM NOT LEAVING THE HOUSE AGAIN TONIGHT and not before. Seriously, I am not going to shuck shoes off and on at the door every time I bring in groceries, and I don't want to "take off my shoes and get comfortable" (they always says this!) at someone else's house for a few hours. Floors are meant to be walked on, food falls on 'em, floors are not going to be precious. Unless you live somewhere where it's perennially sandy or muddy, I don't get it. Also, I don't care so much in sandal season, but in winter I feel deeply uncomfortable having to walk around in stinky socks at someone's house, smelling everyone else's feet in winter.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:53 PM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

For me it's more of a thing about how well I know someone/they know me. One of the first things I do when I get home is to take my shoes off, though I have to walk to the bedroom to do it (no room in the hallway; wish there was). But if I'm over at someone else's house, especially someone I don't know well, I wouldn't take my shoes off unless they have obviously creamy carpet or I was asked to. But I wouldn't be offended by being asked to. So yeah, in general I prefer to have shoes off inside. I don't much care whether my visitors keep their shoes on or off, though I think again my closer friends are more likely to take their shoes off than people I don't know well. And I don't have carpets.

For me, the other thing is feet on furniture. No shoes on furniture ever. And I really only feel comfortable with close friends putting their unshod feet up on the couch or what have you. I'd be unlikely to tell someone to stop, because rude, but I'd feel icky and might think twice about inviting that person back. Makes no sense, but there it is.

Background: grew up NE US, now in Australia.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:56 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

East Coast Aussie - I am adamant shoes off, my partner and kid are now too, but except for farm boots at my mother's, our families are mostly shoes on/ambivalent. Most of them certainly wear shoes in my house.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:26 PM on October 13, 2014

Californian here, from a Chinese family. Definitely shoes off there, but we had indoor slippers (for guests too!) Growing up, my dad would yell at me to wear them, while I found them annoying - unless it was winter, in which case I sure as hell wasn't going to walk barefoot on some icy floor.

We also liked to joke about shoes-on people tracking dog shit in the house.

I've gone to many households with varying rules of indoor shoeness, though in my experience, Asians far prefer shoes-off, while white Americans keep them on. I try not to stare at their floors :/
posted by curagea at 7:42 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grew up with Indian immigrant parents in California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. Shoes were always off at the door. When we moved to the east coast, in winters we had fuzzy house slippers to maintain toasty toes indoors. People who didn't take the obvious cue (a sign, shoe rack, shoe tree, comfy chair all at the front door) to take off shoes in our house were gossiped about afterwards. Workmen always wore shoe covers without being prompted -- I have a feeling they knew the drill with Indian customers.

It was always a cleanliness/hygiene thing.

If it makes you feel better, we never gave a damn about what socks you were/weren't wearing or the state of your feet. They're still a hell of a lot cleaner than your shoes.
posted by krakus at 7:48 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Growing up in Newfoundland, it was always shoes off. It wasn't even something that was taught or thought about or expressed. Wearing shoes into a house was as rude as, I don't know, picking your nose without any attempt at subterfuge? Or farting really loudly? It would be very rude.

I really enjoy remembering the typical sea of footwear in the entryway of crowded undergraduate house parties. It was never a stated rule. Everyone just took their shoes off immediately upon entering. Always. Even if there were already 60 shoes clogging your path into the party.

I still find "you can leave your shoes on" houses a little strange-seeming.
posted by erlking at 8:00 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grew up in a split-level house (WASP, midwestern). My parents didn't care one way or another about shoes but most of us would wear ours up the stairs to the carpeted living room and then take them off there, where there was something to sit on. I think we just did this because it was more convenient and comfortable, especially in winter (our foyer wasn't sealed properly and it was too cold to be barefoot down there in the winter months.)

Actually, I think mom may have taken hers off in the foyer, and probably wished we would as well, but she never made too big a deal about it.
posted by urufu at 9:48 PM on October 13, 2014

Here in the Netherlands, shoes on is the norm in most houses. Unless you are in a rural area, where it may be rubber boots off / clogs off.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:05 AM on October 14, 2014

Romania data point: I (British) was informed that requiring your guests to take their shoes off meant that you valued your floors more than your guests. Even in the midst of winter, after walking through dirty slush, I have been urged to keep my shoes on when visiting someone.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is at least partly driven by local folklore that having cold, un-shod feet is a sure-fire way to an early grave.

(Personally, I have never been strongly on one side or the other of the debate; I will usually take into consideration the state of my shoes, the quality of the flooring and whether my host also has their shoes on when deciding whether to take my shoes off).
posted by teselecta at 1:23 AM on October 14, 2014

British: shoes off if you know the person, shoes on if it's more formal. So, going round to your friends house to watch tv - shoes off. Same friends having a big houseparty - shoes on. Visiting your boss - shoes on. Visiting your in-laws - shoes on until you know them, then shoes off. Tradesmen never take their shoes off in customers' houses - I'd be interested to know what the shoes off people do with complete strangers. It's a bit weird to make your builder take their shoes off isn't is?

Basically shoes off means you are making yourself feel at home. There are times when that's the right impression to give, and times when it is not.
posted by tinkletown at 4:18 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Born and raised in Ontario, lived all over Canada. Shoes off always, and I cannot recall that I have ever been in a shoes-on household unless it was unusual circumstances (the place is under huge renovations and the contractors are continually tracking mud in and out of the front hall anyway -- even then, shoes would be off once you got beyond the muddy zone). Even now in middle age, if I leave the house and realize I have forgotten my phone on my bedside table or something, it would feel transgressive and unsanitary to dash back in and run upstairs with shoes on.

The analogies people suggest above lead me to ponder an alternate world with belts-on/belts-off houses.

For the shoes-off types, the idea of someone walking around the house with outdoor shoes on is eccentric. Shoes are the clothing that interacts the most with the outside world and they bring along everything you walk in all day. The closest analogy I can think of to leaving shoes on would be coming in out of the rain and walking around the house with your raincoat on and umbrella open.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:56 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

My Ukrainian/Russian family and all our Eastern bloc friends, whether in countries of origin or in the US, all have shoes-off and slippers-provided households. (My grandmas are heavy on the slipper-insistence, but my mom tolerates my preference to go barefoot after a token four or five slipper offers.)

My own household, made up of my Houston, TX partner and I, is shoes-off. In our college- and grad-school-age group of friends, about two-thirds are shoes-neutral households, and the rest take their shoes off when entering their own house, which I take as a sign to follow suit. The vague pattern as far as I can tell is that people with roommates tend to leave shoes on around the house more. This is in Georgia, and also in NC.

teselecta mentioned being told that "requiring your guests to take their shoes off meant that you valued your floors more than your guests," but I think of it in the opposite direction -- not taking off my shoes means I care more about the time it takes me to do that than the time it takes my host to clean the floor after me.
posted by Pwoink at 6:50 AM on October 14, 2014

U.S. (New York, then Virginia): Shoes on or off, depending on what makes me more comfortable. Typically I don't put on my shoes first thing and while I'm hanging out in the house before going to work (I work an afternoon shift.) But it would not occur to me to ask someone else to copy me. It also would completely weird me out if someone other than me or my wife came in our house and immediately took off their shoes.

I suppose the exception to this would be wet, muddy, snowy boots. I'd kick those off outside our kitchen door and would hope that other people would have the sense not to track dirt/mud/snow into our house.

This is totally an ask vs. guess culture situation. It rubs me the wrong way when someone asks me to take off my shoes in their house, but I'm fine with picking up the habit in that house if that's what everyone does.
posted by emelenjr at 6:54 AM on October 14, 2014

New England: grew up in a shoes on household, but now that I've got my own place, it's shoes off. Indoor-use-only slippers in the winter and flipflops in the summer. Cannot stand the sand, mud, slush, leaves, etc. being tracked in. Yuck. Not super strict with guests, but some people ask. And I ask at friend's houses if I see them taking off/changing shoes.
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:26 AM on October 14, 2014

Albany, NY area here. The home I grew up in, and most of those I visited, has always been shoes-off, although when we had guests and it wasn't snowy or muddy sometimes shoes-on was tolerated.

I personally am a shoes-off person. I have a pair of slippers I wear in the house during the winter months (the floor is ground level wood-on-concrete, and is frigid in the colder months). I know several people - many young people with cheap apartments - who keep shoes on. In my experience, it seems like folks who care enough to clean their apartment (ever) typically have a shoes-off policy, while folks who never clean the floors are cool with shoes-on. My experience only.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:39 AM on October 14, 2014

I really enjoy remembering the typical sea of footwear in the entryway of crowded undergraduate house parties. It was never a stated rule. Everyone just took their shoes off immediately upon entering. Always. Even if there were already 60 shoes clogging your path into the party.

I still find "you can leave your shoes on" houses a little strange-seeming.

As a Canadian, this is pretty much it all over the country. We just do it, and I don't remember ever being told to do so. So entrenched that the cable guy took his shoes off at my door, and when sharing a hotel room with a fellow Canadian in Italy we both took our shoes off when we got in our room.

Leaving shoes on seems both rude and uncomfortable. Just too weird.
posted by aclevername at 8:51 AM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Shoes off or at least the decency to ask the host their preference before wearing something that has been in contact with god knows what all over your house where your children are on the floor, pillows drop and then come into contact with your face. Just imagine, dog shit and vomit residue on your face, nice.

If someone is uncomfortable taking their shoes off in someone else's home, even if they are not that close, they probably should understand that when in Rome do as the Romans do. It's just plain inconsiderate to assert your shoes in the house policy on your guest. This akin to a traveler to another country insisting that the locals behave like THEY do. If I go to someone's home, or country, wherever I am a guest, I ask questions so that I don't cause an awkward situation where I force my host to point out to me what I am doing that is offensive in their home or country.

Furthermore, if a contractor is entering your home to inspect it for a quote on replacing your bathtub faucet, it's hardly a safety matter. If they are there to actually work, clearly they wear their shoes for obvious reason, and then when the project is finished the home owner is free to spend several hundred dollars to clean up after them, although I have had contractors bring their own shoe covers out of courtesy and professionalism and to avoid making the home owner spend money on cleaning up after them.
posted by waving at 10:06 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in Toronto, Canada and am shoes off. I can't even think of a house I went to where shoes off wasn't the (unspoken) rule.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2014

For folks who have slippers for guests, do you really expect folks to put feet into some stranger's slippers? I can get your wish for me to take my shoes off, but nothing makes my skin crawl more than having somebody insist that I wear some slippers of unknown provenance? To me that is way worse than dirty shoes, or stinky socks: mystery slippers!
posted by dipolemoment at 5:00 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I believe I grew up shoes on in CO, but learned to shoe-off in SF. I continued to shoe off in Boston, which was definitely the norm, and in Michigan where it was still frequent but not universal. But now when I go home it is shoes off in CO too. Maybe it always was? Anyhow as a kid I don't remember feeling bad if I had to go back into the house to grab something; I just kept the shoes on. Now it feels weird to do that, but I am still lazy someyimes..

I have painful feet that need arch support, so I ordered myself some house shoes with support -- from a German company, I believe. I still take my shoes off at others' places unless there's a strong need not to. I just sit a lot at parties. I just moved (to Denmark) and getting a new pair of house shoes is high on my settling-in list.

In frequent shoe off places, many people have benches and a shoe rack, and people who really cared would also give slippers. I always find the slippers a courtesy- so the guest's feet stay warm, so they aren't embarrassed by holes in their socks, so they feel at home, so they don't have to touch the floor if it is icky. And for me, so my stupid feet aren't in pain in five minutes. I have never gotten around to owning slippers for guests but it always seemed polite to give the option, and a thing I'd like to do When I Grow Up.
posted by nat at 8:11 PM on October 14, 2014

Just to add to the anecdata: shoes off at home (in the southernish US), but we don't enforce that on guests and hosts don't enforce that on us when we're guests. Back at 'home home' in Britain, more or less shoes on, in a vague way, unless it's snowy/tipping down and you'd obviously be tracking stuff around the house so you're polite and take your shoes off.

and then when the project is finished the home owner is free to spend several hundred dollars to clean up after them

How many dollars? When we have guests or tradespeople in, then we usually have to sweep and mop and hoover a bit more than usual, but that's the cost of hosting people, which is fine, and more than offset by the fact that we don't traipse our own shoes around the house.
posted by holgate at 10:50 PM on October 14, 2014

I don't see the point of having a shoes off policy for residents of the home but not guests. It's not rude to ask someone to take their shoes off. Are their shoe crumbs, bactria and fungi somehow less disgusting than yours? Thinking that you are worried about offending someone by asking them to remove their shoes is a way to "prove" to yourself and others you are a kind person when in fact you are just worried about appearances. Get the shoes off whenever possible to protect your house from all that grime on the sidewalks. Why not just go lay on the sidewalk naked if you are so cool with it.
posted by waving at 6:07 AM on October 15, 2014

Shoes on because I have Reynaud's and if the floor is below body temp (and most people's are) my feet become so chilled that they lose circulation (yes, even with socks on). I will actively avoid houses that are shoes-off because having feet so cold that I lose feeling in them sucks.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:06 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Romanians and Hungarians I know all are "shoes off" people. What's more, not only do they have slippers near the front door to change into, they often have "guest" slippers.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2014

Oh, yes. I have an assortment of guest slippers, also. And my feet are ALWAYS cold, even in the summer, even with carpet, and most slippers are inadequate to the problem, so I either take slippers when I visit people or I've been known to gift guest slippers to friends I visit frequently who don't keep any. Seriously people, slippers are super cheap at Dollarama. Get some guest slippers for your cold footed friends. And not those stupid sock slippers or the little thin chinatown slippers (my parents' friends all have chinatown guest slippers...not warm!). Get warm guest slippers.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:50 AM on October 16, 2014

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