Taking shoes off etiquette

I recently visited a new friend’s home for the first time for an evening of playing games with several other people. They have a “shoes off” policy at their house, which I immediately deduced by the several pairs of shoes on the front porch, the rack of shoes by the front door, and everyone in socks inside. I took my shoes off just inside the front door and put them next to the shoe rack.

My friend’s wife is Chinese (I think actually born and raised there). I know that in some Asian cultures not wearing shoes in the home is standard. I had not met her before, and as the evening went on, I did not like her.

When I went to leave, I couldn’t find my shoes. I asked, and the wife said she had put them outside. So I was then annoyed about what seemed like an obvious lack of hospitality, and about having to put on cold shoes.

Now, I may have been the only guest who took off his shoes inside. Was I wrong to do so? Is there a culture in which that was a presumptuous or gauche move? I’ve been to several other houses where shoes are not worn inside, but they’re still kept inside.

It seems to me that keeping someone’s outerwear inside where it’s warm is pretty basic hospitality, but maybe my reaction is colored by my general dislike.

I think it may be a matter of how much room there is for shoes at the entrance, and how messy it makes the room look.

In Japanese homes (including apartments and condos) there is always an entrance alcove (small or large) where you step in from the outside (on the same level as the outside), and then take off your shoes before stepping up onto the floor of the residence. If you are polite and neat, you then reach down and turn your shoes facing out, so you can step into them when you leave. This entrance alcove is indoors, so it is warm, but it is kind of an intermediate space. It is considered as much “not clean” as the street or corridor outside, and you would not walk there in your stocking feet, for example.

Western homes, unfortunately for those who have a shoes-off policy, don’t have such spaces. So the owner has to make this decision, and maybe the shoes only stay outside for larger groups of visitors. A couple of times when I have been in homes in the US where Chinese people lived, however, all the shoes including the residents shoes were outside.

We are a ‘no shoes’ household. Before we have lots of people over, we make sure there is a lot of room for all the shoes on the inside.

Mind you, I have never been to a ‘shoes on’ house (I live in Canada, maybe we are different here).

Cold shoes might not be the only reason it is bad. Depending on where you live, you may have dogs that roam the neighborhood. Nothing nicer to them to carry away than nice smelly leather shoes!

Are you trying to tell the SDMB that you have never worn a pair of shoes inside of a single private home in your entire life?

My family is a shoes off house, but we keep our shoes inside. I’ve actually never encountered one that makes people keep shoes outside, so it’s a little weird to hear that people do this. But, I think she did her hostess duty just fine, because what is she supposed to do? Ask you to pick up your own shoes and put them back outside? That’s not very hospitable. And if everyone else took their shoes off outside, maybe she just wanted to make sure that when everyone leaves, there isn’t a clusterfuck of people going “My shoes are inside. No wait, here they are out here. No wait, I think they’re back inside. Or maybe those are your husbands shoes that I have the same style of at home” She made sure everyone who didn’t live in the house went to one place to retrieve them.

This is a good point.

Except for the rare cases when I am just running in to pick something up and the homeowner specifically says it’s OK to leave my shoes on, I can say yes.

Every house I have spent any time in, I have done shoeless.

Why didn’t you look for them outside, where you had noticed everyone else’s shoes? I think two things are at play here - your dislike of your hostess, and your discomfort with a tradition that is new to you.

For the record, though, even though nearly all western Canadian households are shoes off households, we don’t put the shoes outside. Damn, you’d seriously freeze your feet - it’s been around -30ºC at night lately! Not to mention expecting guests to go get their feet all wet walking in the snow to get their shoes.

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada. I grew up in a ‘shoes on’ house, but all my friends seemed to live in ‘shoes off’ houses. I wonder if it was because I grew up in a rural area and friends all lived in town? My ancestry is British - if that lends any thing to this discussion.

My own home is ‘shoes off’. I think it makes more sense from a cleaning perspective. YMMV.

This is not specifically about your shoes-outside, but just a side note to the shoes on vs shoes off.

One of the conclusions that some of these discussions have reached before is that areas that have long/frequent periods of snow tend to be shoes off. The snow leads to a lot of water or mud on your shoes. If this is the case for months out of the year, this can mean a lot of nastiness inside.

Is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that the onus of responsibility for educating guests on the shoe policy would be, I dunno, maybe on the hosts?

If I have a particular thing I like to happen: like I expect my guests to remove their shoes, I do not expect them to just read my goddamn mind and know where to put their shoes. “Oh, welcome, come on in! Let me take your coat, and you can take your shoes off and put them over there points. Can I get you a drink? We have [insert list of beverages].”

Frankly, I think it is rude of the hostess to not explain to people what she wants them to do the first time they show up at her house.

But I also wonder if perhaps the OP’s shoes were particularly stinky and the hostess decided to take them outside rather than allow footstank to permeate the entryway.

OP. You’re in Santa Barbara and you’re upset that your shoes went outside into the cold?

Because I hadn’t left them outside? I looked for them where I had left them, and when they weren’t there, I asked where they were. Obviously someone had moved them.

To clarify: there were shoes outside and inside. I was the last to arrive, so I didn’t see anyone else take their shoes off; I had no idea (until mine were moved outside) that the split might have been between residents and guests.

I don’t think that’s the case. But I suppose you can’t really trust my judgment on that sort of thing.

Fair cop. In my defense, it was down in the 40s that night, and, well, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I was cold! People dress for the weather they expect. I get colder in SB than I do visiting family in North Dakota because I wear warm clothes in North Dakota.

Many Asians provide slippers for strangers/guests. I never wear shoes in the homes of others. Sometimes I bring my own slippers. I keep a grated mat at my front entrance. The crud that I clean out of that mat is outrageous. All that dirt would be on my carpet and floors. I pick up enough when I vacuum. By the way, a carpet lasts almost forever when shoes are not worn on it. Plus, I don’t have to worry about walking on duck or dog poop in my bare feet.

Yes, I too have received the porch shoe treatment. I understand and prepare for the next visit.

Although I’ve never had people put my shoes outside proper before, it doesn’t surprise me, especially if there were lots and lots of people over. Sometimes it’s just easier than having everyone sorting through a huge shoe pile at the end of the night.

Shit, my dentist’s office asks people to take off their shoes and boots in the alcove before coming in. They have slippers or those blue foot-cover things to wear if you want. This is because if they have people tracking in slush, water, mud, salt, sand/grit, and rocks, the cleaning staff would spend all damn day cleaning the floors and the carpet. And of all the places I’d like to slip and fall on a wet floor, the dentist’s office is pretty well at the bottom of the list. If I’m at the dentist, my day is already bad enough.

I think this is a good script. Shame the hostess in question probably doesn’t lurk here.

Either the shoes stay inside and are protected, or I’d wear them.


The best house I visited with a shoes off policy had a pair of benches that were built on little cubbys for the pairs of shoes, and there were assorted sized slippers available in one of those over the back of the door shoe racks. Very civilized. You could actually sit down and get back into your shoes/boots.

You say there were several shoes “on the front porch”, is this where you later found your shoes?

American buildings aren’t built to accommodate a shoes-off policy, and I don’t think there are universal rules. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people chose to keep their guests’ shoes outside, especially if the “outside” area is a porch.

(Now, if you were in Japan, for example, there would be no ambiguity. It will be very clear where the “no shoes” area starts.)