Thursday, August 31, 2006

Give them a low-down beat

Stu mentioned in passing in his blog that it’s conventional, when entering an apartment in Finland, to remove one’s shoes. I’m sure Finland is a lovely country with delightful people, but the shoe-thing crosses it off my list of places to visit. No offence intended to anyone, but you see, I simply can’t bear the habit of removing shoes in other people’s houses. When did it start? Perhaps it’s a generation thing, but when I was a child we were taught to wipe our feet on the doormat before we went into a house – the mat wasn’t just there for show! If you were going to curl up on the sofa to watch TV or read a book, then you took your shoes off, but put them on again to walk about the house. Perhaps it started when central heating became more common – the houses tended to be too darned cold to go without shoes! Elderly people especially find socks on hard floors slippery and dangerous, and those of us who have trouble with our feet often find walking without shoes is actually painful too, so apart from feeling compelled to be impolite (on a par with being invited to fart or pick one’s nose in public) there’s physical discomfort as well. And bare feet mean everyone spreads their athlete’s foot and verrucae. Eeeewwwww! Maybe I’m foot-phobic and it’s entirely my own problem, but I simply hate having to do it and it makes me miserable. So I won’t, unless not doing so would cause a scene, which would be even worse manners.

In my own home I certainly don’t want other people’s stinky socks all over my carpets, and I don’t want to risk doing the same to other people. I won’t tell you to put your shoes on again if you do take them off – the laws of hospitality forbid making guests feel uncomfortable. It’s highly unlikely that visitors have just washed and powdered their feet and put on clean socks before they come to the door, so visitors, please simply wipe your feet on the doormat to leave the dirt outside. If necessary I’ll hoover after you’ve gone!