Confessions: I make people take their shoes off at home

Dear Jim,

I know it might seem weird, but I really don’t like people walking around my house in shoes. Now, I know in some cultures this is really normal (from what I understand it is the norm in places like Russia and Eastern Europe), but in Spain almost no one I know does it, making me stick out as a guiri. Almost all my Spanish friends wear their shoes in the house! But I am trying to change that, at least in my own home.Therefore, I have enforced the idea that no shoes are allowed in my house—beyond the entryway that is. My Spanish friends (and some of the non-Spanish ones too) think I am pretty weird, but I do have my reasons.


Not exactly my entryway when I have guests over, but not that off either...The streets aren’t very clean:

This probably has to do (a lot) with the next item, but I truly don’t believe that the streets in Granada—or necessarily anywhere—are very clean. While the people who work to clean the street do a good job picking up the trash that seems to lie around abundantly, it is not always easy to clean up the large quantity of dog poop and (smell of) pee that is always around. I understand that it is every person’s legal obligation to be responsible, but sometimes I think that people here either feel little connection to their surroundings or they think they are making sure the street cleaners have work*.

No matter the reason why, the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day the streets only get a deep clean when it pours for a month, something that has only happened once or twice since my family moved here nine years ago. Therefore it is logical in my mind to ask people to take their shoes off—I don’t really want all the dog poop particles spread all over my floor. And this is mainly because…


I am a little bit of a germ-a-phobe:

Even though I am not the kind of person who is constantly cleaning my house—another reason why I don’t want shoes inside—I am that person who washes her hands extra well before eating if I’ve been petting a dog (something I love to do) or after I catch the bus and have been holding onto the hand rail. I would like to think I am not extremely neurotic in my behavior, but I do recognise that sometimes I am a little bit weird about it.

This is another reason why I like people to take their shoes off when they are in my home as I don’t especially want all the yummy little particles I walk through on the streets to be spread across my private sanctuary. And I especially don’t want to be worried about cleaning up after myself every time I get home or head out, making a no-shoe policy a logical next step.

If I had to go out on a limb, the sociologist in me would say that this has to do with my upbringings—my father is a little bit of a clean freak (in a totally disorganised way). In addition, I spent a lot of time with a beautiful family in Brasil who, at the time, had very young children in the house and left the shoes at the door as a way to stay clean and organised. Both of these events have impacted how I look at this.


I like to walk around barefoot or in socks:

Although it might seem odd that I am both a slight germ-a-phobe and I don’t actually like to sweep or mop (or clean in general) that often, I cannot change this about me. Add in the fact that I prefer to walk around barefoot or wearing socks and you might start to understand why it is just easier for me to ask people to take their shoes off when they come in the door. This way I can deal with all my quirks—when it comes to shoes—in one swoop.

Bare feet surrounded by magazines. Photo by Wokandpix.At the same time, I would like to note that I also go out of my way to offer house flip flops in the summer and slippers in the winter for those people who just don’t feel comfortable without them. I understand that sometimes people don’t like walking around barefoot, so I do try and come up with a viable solution for everyone, especially as the floors can be cold in the winter.

And, despite the fact that I have had some funny looks (and have actually started warning people before the come that it is a requirement), most of my friends have gotten used to it and take their shoes off without being asked. At the end of the day, I am lucky that the people in my life accept my quirks and only occasionally make fun of me.

Do you do anything that is seen as socially weird? Don’t be surprised if, when moving abroad, some of the things that you do are perceived as weird—cultural differences will be around you all the time. Check out our post on an introduction to cultural competences if you want to understand better how to thrive in these situations!



*This is something that actually really bothers me, but I will go into it in another post.

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