You visit someone’s house – do you leave your shoes on or take them off?

It’s a strange question but actually it illustrates an interesting example about how when considering “localization” in any sense you need to think of so many factors regardless of how obscure they may seem.

Recently I was reading a thread of discussion on a message board that started out on the topic of “Do you Canadian’s really not lock your doors?” (started by someone a little late to the party who had only just seen Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” recently). As things are apt to do on a message board the topic strayed and somehow we ended up on the topic of whether or not you expect guests to remove their shoes when they come into your house.

Surprisingly the yes/no split was almost exclusively down the same line as the Canadian/American split of the posters. The Canadians (myself included), almost universally said “Yes” the expect someone to take their shoes off in most cases and vice versa, the Americans said “No” – some going so far as to say that they would consider it rude if someone came into their house and just removed their shoes.

I think what is important to note too is that in this case it’s not like the two countries that are perceived to have two radically different cultures. We’re close neighbours and have very similar outlooks and customs but it’s the minutiae that could make you stumble.

Had I gone to any of those poster’s houses before that conversation I likely would have removed my shoes, believing it to be rude not to, all the while offending them by coming across as presumptuous and making myself a little too comfortable for their liking.

What’s your policy on shoes? Leave a comment – don’t forget to mention which region you’re in.

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