Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clash of Cultures: Please remove your shoes.

Martin: Hey, can you clear off the bench by the front door so people have a place to take their shoes on and off?

Me: Are we gonna' make people take their shoes off?

Martin: Sure, I mean, we can ask them nicely to remove their shoes. Right?

Me: Martin, I don't want to ask my grandmother to remove her shoes, it's awkward. How about, we can say something like "please feel free to remove your shoes if you want."

Martin: But what if people don't take their shoes off? Then they're walking all over the carpet and the floors with their shoes on. Besides, isn't it more comfortable to have your shoes off?

Me: Yeah, but I just don't think it's polite to make guests take their shoes off when they are here to celebrate a family event (Baptism) in their Church clothes, especially if they don't want to.

Martin: OK, ok. Fine, we'll ask them. Nobody *has* to take their shoes off.

Me: Thank you.

Aren't we civilized "discussers?" See how nicely we worked that out? How wonderfully considerate we were of listening to each others arguments and concerns and finally settling on a compromise? Yep, that's how it always goes. Always. (unless we're arguing about the best way to load the dishwasher... we are currently acting under a 'cease fire' agreement for that one...we'll see how long it lasts.)

It always goes like that, because I'm pretty sure, every time we have a party or reception at our house, we have that discussion... yep, every time.

Whether or not we will make people take off their shoes.

Isn't that silly?

But you know what, it's not so silly when you are trying to combine two cultures under one roof, and make everyone feel comfortable at the same time.

It was hard to get used to at first, it was not the way I was raised, and it is not a part of my culture.

But in Poland, that's what you do. You remove your shoes when you enter a home.

And I married a Pole, so that's what *we* do... for better or for worse.

I only ask that my 83 year old grandmother doesn't have to remove her shoes when she is at my house celebrating a Baptism or birthday and she is wearing her Sunday best.

So just remember, if you are planning on visiting me, break out that new pair of socks, without the holes in the heels, and take care to paint that pinky toe, because we're gonna' have to look at your feet and I'd like it to be as pleasant an experience as possible.


P.S. On a more practical note, as different as it may seem to require family to remove their shoes when they get home or come to visit...you never have to worry about where to find your shoes. They are never behind the bed, or under the kitchen table, or shoved in the deep recesses of a closet... nope, they are always right by whatever door you just entered. As a mother of four young ones, that is an 'always' that I can definitely live with.


  1. We have totally tried to implement that around here (shoe removal) but Tommy HATES to be barefoot and *refuses* to wear socks without shoes. It gives him goose bumps or something. Hates it. Refuses. Unless he is in the shower or in bed, he has on either flip flops or slippers depending on the season. So basically he is changing out of one pair of shoes and into another 10 times a day. Which results in shoes all over anyway. Lame!

  2. Removing shoes at the door is such an excellent custom. Glory to Poland for sticking with it!

    I have an whole blog about removing shoes in homes: Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might like to take a look.

  3. When I read comments like this it makes my sad how my culture is interpreted wrong especially by Polish people. According to Polish Culture and Etiquette (You can easily find books and literature about that) is very impolite to ask guest to take off the shoes. Unfortunately this habit came from lower class to many houses and people think that this is what they should do. Happily there are still many people who knows that it is just rude to ask that. Between my family and friends I never forced anyone to do so.