Please Remove Your…

Please Remove your shoes

Yes, it’s true, we like to be barefoot in Hawaii. Especially in the house. This tradition has its roots in many of the Asian cultures that created our collective Hawaiian community. Shoes are left at the door. Make sure you leave with your own pair!

Personally, I like being barefoot in my home, and as an added bonus, it encourages me to keep my floors clean. During my time living on the mainland, I found it horribly uncomfortable to enter someone’s home with my shoes on. Even if they said, “no, really, it’s ok, we always wear our shoes in the house!” In my mind, I was tracking a horrible, viral, cancerous, greasy, grimy crud across their floors that would leave a permanent track and make everyone sick with a fatal disease. At least that’s what I imagined was happening when someone wore their shoes in MY house! I think I can honestly say I’d rather someone lose their lunch on my brand new carpet than walk across it with their outside shoes on. Yes, it’s that deeply engrained. Weird? Maybe.

While this is practiced in many Asian cultures, I found this information from The Japan Forum Website:

Japanese Culture and Daily Life:
Kutsu O Nugu – Removing Shoes
In the mid-nineteenth century, first American consul to Japan Townsend Harris shocked Japanese by walking straight into the shogun’s presence in Edo Castle without removing his shoes. Foreign visitors unfamiliar with Japanese customs even today can just as easily startle or even anger their hosts by walking into a home without taking off their shoes at the door. One of the peculiarities of the Japanese home, in fact, is that outdoor footwear are left at the door, and most Japanese cannot imagine wearing shoes in the house. The custom is deep-rooted and has not changed despite the widespread shift in the typical lifestyle from that centering around tatami-mat floored rooms to Western-style interiors furnished with tables, chairs, and beds.

I love this etiquette gem:

Genkan – Etiquette
Learning the proper way of leaving one’s shoes in the genkan is part of the manners every child learns. When visiting someone else’s house, it is proper to turn around after stepping up into the hallway, and align your shoes, placing them to one side. Before you leave, you will find they have been turned around and placed in the center, where you can slip into them easily as you depart.

This probably discourages guests from trying to take a better pair when they leave!

Now many “mainlanders” have shared with me that it makes them uncomfortable to take of their shoes at someone’s house, and frankly, there are lots of houses they’ve visited where they don’t want their bare feet on the floor (probably because the occupants wear their shoes in the house!) I guess it’s all in the way you were brought up. We are the products of our cultures, family, and environment. But I promise you – come to my house, take off your shoes, and you’ll have a clean floor to walk on. I’ll even loan you some house shoes if you’d like.

Were you raised wearing shoes inside or not?
Have your habits changed?
If so, why?


19 thoughts on “Please Remove Your…

  1. I’m definitely a barefoot girl, too. I grew up in Austria, where it was considered good manners to provide houseshoes for your guests. It was common to have a basket near the front door with various sized slippers (not Hawaiian slippahs, mind you) for your guests. Probably because the floors were often cold.

  2. I grew up in New York where everyone wears shoes all the time. I wear slippers (not slippahs) in the house and don’t expect people to take there shoes off, but if they do my floors are kept really clean which can be a real challenge in Kihei.

  3. Raised on Oahu without wearing shoes inside. At first, it was weird to know others would wear them indoors… I guess those that do, think the same about those who don’t. It’s all perspective. Great topic!

  4. It is quite customary here in Wisconsin too, but mostly that is because for many months out of the year, outside shoes are wet and/or snowy. I admit in the summertime, I am more likely to leave my shoes/sandals on when I go into someone’s house, however in the winter I carry a pair of Crocs in the car to wear inside after I leave my outside shoes at the door. I love the idea of the shoes being lined up and then turned when the guest gets ready to leave. Customs are so very interesting and a lovely part of culture.

  5. I have a pair of house slippers that I like to wear in the house, especially when I’m cooking in the kitchen. Little bit of heel, helps the back. But, yes… I feel the same way about taking off outdoor shoes before coming in, because… eww… yuck… who knows what you stepped on out there.

  6. In our ohana, you definitely left the outdoor shoes at the door. With six boys, a trail of dirt and mud always followed us. We were hosed down in the yard before we could step inside my mother’s clean house.

  7. I’m originally from West Virginia.Though there were some houses you were asked to take your shoes off, but my parents preferred us to wear shoes indoors. So moving to O’ahu was quite the change. It’s been an adjustment, but I’m better at it. For a long time, I was at least trying to get by with wearing socks. lol.

  8. My Okinawan grandma and her sisters didn’t go barefoot in the house but they did have special indoor tabis to wear. I used to be barefoot but now I wear an “indoor” rubba slippas (I actually change my slippas when I go outside and come back inside). I have hardwood floors so I feel much more comfy with a cushiony slippa. Also, no matter how hard I try to keep the floors clean, that afternoon makai to mauka wind from Wailea to upcountry blows dirt in my house every afternoon, even with the windows closed.

    There was once a long argument in the comments on Apartment Therapy for a post on whether it was polite to ask your guests to take their shoes off. People were so rude about it (as AT commenters often are), very little knowledge or respect of practices of different cultures. When you are a guest in someone’s home, you respect their wishes on shoes as far as I’m concerned.

    I know people who have had really nice sandals stolen at house parties. It’s one of the many reasons I have a slippas in my car and the BF’s car. If we suddenly end up at someone’s house (or catch rain) I pull out my slippas and leave my nice shoes in the car.

  9. This only makes sense. Why drag in the crud of the road into your home? The floors get dirty enough with the constant Maui wind blowing in dust and debris, why add to it? I love this tradition. It keeps our floors clean and our feet clean too. Very cozy.

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