6 Reasons To Not Wear Shoes At Home

It’s customary to take your shoes off at home in many parts of the world.

For instance, in many Asian households it’s often shoes off at the door. There’s also a no shoes rule when walking around indoors at home.

Shoes | KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness (1)

Having grown up in a Chinese household, this is a habit that comes naturally to me. As a kid, I’d come home, take my shoes off and place them on the shoe rack by the door. Today this is still what I do every time I come home.

As I wrote in Hi I’m Asian. Come In, Leave Your Shoes On. Or Not seven years ago, there are hygiene, practical and logical reasons for not wearing shoes at home. It’s not only out of habit some people choose to go shoe-less at home, but it’s a conscientious choice as well.

Revisiting this topic in more depth, here are some reasons to go shoe-less at home, reasons based on cultural background and personal preferences.

1. Keeping a clean house

When you go about your day outside, your shoes tread on rough concrete paths, slippery public toilet floors, rain-soaked mud and greasy food court floor. You step on anything and everything in between when you’re out – no doubt your shoes pick up dirt, grime and bacteria.

Taking off your shoes at the door means you don’t drag the dirt, grime and bacteria underneath your footwear around the house. A study by microbiologist Charles Gerba found there is an average of 421,000 units of bacteria on the outsides of shoes. The bacteria e colli, which causes diarrhoea, is often found on the bottom of shoes.

More recently, a small study in China found traces of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the bottom of medical workers’ shoes. Similarly another study found the coronavirus can remain on surfaces for hours. So what you picked up from outside with your shoes can be contagious at home.

In households in Japan, eating on tatami floors and sleeping on futons is common. Naturally there is a need to keep floors at home as clean as possible. Naturally no shoes at home helps keep the house clean for longer, and less cleaning needed too.

KAWS

2. Respect

It’s a mark of respect in many Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cultures to take your shoes off at home. Many modern Asian houses are constructed slightly raised. Usually there is a step or two leading up to the main entrance, inviting one to physically and psychologically ‘(step) up to a different level’. Leaving your shoes at the door in Asian cultures signifies you are willing to honour the codes of someone’s private homely space.

It’s also customary to take shoes off before entering religious places such as temples and mosques. Hindus see wearing shoes in places of worship as impure and consider shoes off as a means of honouring a home’s cleanliness and purity.

In some Chinese homes you can find an altar where one pays respects to their ancestors or deities. It’s shoes off before praying be it at a temple or at home. It’s believed holy spaces channel cosmic energy and this energy is interchanged within the body and ‘earthed’ when one goes barefoot.

3. Comfort

Sometimes it’s more comfortable going barefoot at home. You might choose to wear uncomfortable footwear all day and go barefoot when you get home.

Many Asian countries above the equator experience tropical, humid weather most of the year. Hot climate leads to sweaty feet. So it makes sense to let your feet be free and relaxed at home in warm weather.

KAWS

4. Health benefits

There are some health benefits going barefoot at home. Feet tend to swell as the day goes on and shoes are usually a tighter fit in the evening. Shoes that are too tight can cause structural issues such as bunions and blisters.

Taking off shoes at home not only relaxes your feet but enhances its natural mobility. A study on going barefoot versus wearing common footwear found habitual barefoot walkers showed lower peak plantar pressure while the latter group exhibited reduced forefoot spreading.

In Chinese culture, reflexology has been practiced for over 5000 years and is believed to have health perks such as improving blood circulation. Some Chinese believe going barefoot stimulates the feet’s pressure points in line with reflexology.

5. Less damage

Some kind of footwear are more likely to cause damage to floorboards, tiles and carpet at home. High heels or stiletto heels are especially damaging to hardwood flooring, with a person’s weight concentrated on a small point of footwear – making permanent dents on the floor.

Grooves underneath sport shoes or runners often pick up lose gravel or mud, which can scrape your floors and leave stains on carpets. That can warrant replacing flooring which costs a fair bit, and many can’t afford replacing that every year or so.

6. Noise pollution

If you live in an apartment, wearing shoes at home might be annoying to your downstairs neighbours. It could sound like heavy stomping to those living below.

Poor insulation within the apartment building can sometimes be partly to blame. Perhaps it’s best to take off shoes in apartments.

KAWS

*  *  *

While you may choose not to wear outdoor footwear at home, that doesn’t mean you want to go barefoot all the time. You might choose to wear indoor footwear such as slippers during winter to keep your feet warm.

I can attest to that and wear socks when the nights get less than 10’C in Melbourne. On the coldest winter nights here, it’s biting cold. The winter chill hugging your feet as you stand on carpet is one thing, and the chill rising up your feet as you stand on tiles is another thing altogether.

If you have chronic foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, orthopaedic indoor footwear might be needed. No point in going barefoot if being barefoot hurts your feet – proper heel and arch support is always needed both outdoors and at home.

KAWS

Consequently not taking off shoes at home is arguably not all that bad. Food microbiologist Donald W. Schaffner suggests bacteria-caked shoes are low health hazards compared to other household hazards such as salmonella. Paediatrics professor Dr Aaron E. Carroll mentions we normally don’t wash our dog’s paws each time it comes home. Also, in his book Dirt Is Good, Jack Gilbert proposes exposure to dirt may help stimulate kids’ immune systems and make them stronger.

Occasionally I’ve been guilty of stepping around the house in shoes. I’d snooze a few too many times in the morning, get ready in record time and rush out the door for work…only to wonder if I turned off my hair straightener. Back indoors I go, wondering if I’ll be late for work, pause for a split second and then stampede over the carpet with shoes on to check on the heated hair straightener.

When tradespeople come over for household repairs, it makes sense for them to keep their footwear on. That’s because broken appliances, hammers and sharp tools lying around can be hazard zones – better to have feet protected than not for them to do their job. This I don’t mind.

KAWS

When it comes to having guests over at my place, it’s shoes off at the door. Who knows where their shoes have been and cleanliness keeps my allergies at bay. And definitely no wearing dirty shoes while sitting or lying in bed. Inviting people over to your house means opening up your private space to them, and your house rules should be respected.

At the end of the day, each to their own when it comes to wearing or not wearing shoes at home.

Do you take your shoes off at home?

72 thoughts on “6 Reasons To Not Wear Shoes At Home

  1. I am Asian-American, and I grew up my entire life taking shoes off at home. It was so second nature to me that I always felt uncomfortable whenever I was allowed to keep shoes on at other people’s home. Tradition is one reason, but I think hygiene matters more to me than anything else. And it definitely keeps the house cleaner than otherwise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I felt that same discomfort at first, but since leaving shoes on is more common than removing for me nowadays, I don’t mind it so much now. It can be situational – makes sense to remove for long stays, but perhaps more convenient to leave on if only staying a relatively short time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • As an Asian-Australian, looks like we share the same sentiments about shoes. Hygiene at home matters a lot to me too. I also feel awkward in other people’s homes when they insist I can keep my shoes on – which I respect because it’s the rules of their home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in a white household with shoes on inside. Once I started dating a Chinese-American, though, I instantly saw the merits of leaving one’s shoes at the door–especially when it comes to cleanliness. The less vacuuming, the better.

    However, I do wear some solid slippers inside our house; our big dogs constantly step on my feet. I need protection!

    I laughed over this sentence : “Paediatrics professor Dr Aaron E. Carroll mentions we normally don’t wash our dog’s paws each time it comes home.” Because I regularly wipe off my dogs’ paws before they come inside!

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  3. Glad to see you’re still around amidst the current restrictions.

    I also grew up with the take-shoes-off-indoors habit, but I find that it was stronger back then than it is now – mainly because most of the houses I visit allow for shoes to be left on. Often I will still ask if I am expected to take them off, just in case.

    I’m in favour of removing shoes indoors, especially for cleanliness reasons. Carpeted houses don’t seem to be as common in Aus but I quite like removing shoes in carpeted homes and having the soft surface beneath my (socked) feet. I didn’t think of the noise aspect but I remember a time when I was living with a (platonic) friend and the clomping of her work shoes as she left in the morning… well, I can only say it was just as well it was a ground-floor apartment!

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    • That is interesting to hear you say your take off shoes indoors habits was stronger back then. For some of us I guess people we hang out with later in life influences our habits, including habits at home.

      I am wondering why you say carpeted houses don’t seem to be common here! I actually think carpeted houses are common in Melbourne, and when I lived in Sydney the apartment had a carpet. Almost everyone I know here in Australia have carpeted homes, at least in the bedrooms.

      I think the kind of floorboards also play a part of in how noisy your shoes can sound.

      It’s a weird time the world is in. The thought of not posting for a long time did occur to me. But I also thought life also needs to go on as normal as can be.

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      • I was thinking from the perspective of memory/habit. Had a cousins’ lunch recently as two cousins were in Sydney from Qld (uncle – their dad – is not well) – and I initially forgot to remove my shoes, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to have family events, restrictions notwithstanding.

        Perhaps it’s just the places I’ve been in. In UK, of course carpeting is by far the most common – it keeps things warm. Warmer climate like Australia, not so necessary, and it’s also harder to clean. Incidentally, all the more reason to remove shoes in this case. Also I think it’s the expense – I grew up in a fully carpeted home at my parents’ place, but all the places I’ve been in on my own have been completely non-carpeted. For investment properties that are just rented out (such as in my experience), I imagine the owner wouldn’t care to go to the expense of carpeting a place and then having to replace it in case of damage/soiling. (My preference is carpet, even for summer climate.)

        Aye, timber floorboards over air is a heck of a lot noisier than over a solid foundation. I’ve learned to be feather-footed at night time for my father’s (previously) sensitive hearing but most people I know either don’t know or don’t care to do the same.

        Actually, I thought your reduced posting frequency was from your recent post about stopping or at least slowing down, rather than to do with the restrictions (although I know Melbourne is in a very dire situation right now with respect to that). Either way, still nice to hear from you again.

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        • Hope you enjoyed your lunch with your cousins, and hope their dad gets well. I am sure they didn’t really mind you forgo to remove your shoes as everyone makes mistakes or faux pas. Might be the last gatherings some of us can have in a while.

          That is a good point. Australia is indeed a warmer climate, so perhaps some states such as Sydney and even further north like Queensland lean towards less carpeted homes. That said I remember when I was in Queensland the hotel I stayed in was carpeted but I guess that is most hotels all over the world. Carpets are harder to clean in that they stain easily and some stubborn stains are too hard to remove. With floors more often than not its just sweeping or mopping up.

          I have heard many investors don’t care much whether their investment property is carpeted or not. Other factors such as location, layout and how old the property is probably is more of interest to them.

          That is nice of you to be light-footed at home so as to not disturb your dad. Not everyone appreciates noisy housemates just as not everyone wants to wear shoes at home (which is hard if you live in a share house and people have different preferences about this).

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          • Yes, it was good to see each other as even without restrictions I do not get to see them often, other than CNY. It was fine, I remembered once guest slippers were brought out – cold tiles and floorboards – no carpet in this house! I don’t know if there’s any real trend outside of my anecdotal experience but I just find that I prefer carpet and many houses I’ve been in Australia do not have them. As we discussed it could be a financial aspect too – I don’t recall any place I’ve been to in the Pilbara as having carpet. I’ve also noticed a trend in multi-storey places for the ground floor (living area) to be tiled and the upper floor/s to be carpeted (bedrooms). Perhaps this ties in with the culture of many homes to allow shoes on indoors for short-stay guests.

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  4. I’m definitely pointing all my white friends to this when they give me weird looks for taking shoes off in the house!

    “Paediatrics professor Dr Aaron E. Carroll mentions we normally don’t wash our dog’s paws each time it comes home.” – Ummmmm… in this house we do. 😛 So many other Asian families I know who wash/wipe down their pets’ paws each time they come back inside!

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  5. I am Swedish and grew up with the same tradition as you. We left the shoes on the shoe rack
    In the hall. I still keep the same tradition in my home in England and it is becoming more
    common among the young now.

    Miriam

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    • Sounds like we do have the same tradition with shoes, Miriam. There are so many kinds of shoe racks out there and it can be fun to find the shoe rack that works for you. Good to hear taking of shoes at home is becoming more common among the younger folk now.

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  6. Thanks for this Mabel. Good to read your work again. Growing up, we always left our shoes off at home. Mum would even make tradies take their boots off. It was hilarious when they’d protest. Mum would now be charged with WHS violations I’m sure.
    I loved being barefoot, so I’d leave home for school with shoes on and then take them off and go barefoot at school.

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    • Thanks, Gaz. That is funny your Mum always made the tradies take their boots off. She probably wanted to avoid cleaning.

      It sounds like you have strong soles to walk around barefoot at school. Good on you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice to see you again, Mabel. I hope you are safely tucked away from the coronavirus.
    I think the most important thing in your post is the need to respect your host’s house rules. I grew up in Queensland – barefoot indoors and out. We wear our shoes inside but take them off if we visit someone whose rules are different from ours. I would definitely take them off if I visited you. 🙂

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    • You hit the nail on the head when you say there is ‘the need to respect your host’s house rules’. By visiting we’re intruding on their privacy and comfort in some way, so respecting their house rules is the least we can do. So gracious of you to offer to take your shoes off if it’s someone else’s house rules. Not sure if I can go barefoot outdoors like you – but I like being barefoot on warm send.

      Things are challenging here but I’m alright over there. Hope you are doing alright up there and stay here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Mabel. I don’t go barefoot outside anymore. It’s what I did as a kid. Sand is about the limit for me too.
        I’ve just heard lockdown is becoming stricter for you down there. Stay safe.

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        • These days I can’t tolerate outdoor surfaces with bare feet. Sand is also the limit for me. The beaches up there in Queensland have wonderful soft sand.

          Lockdown has become much stricter now today. Best to stay home here. Stay safe too, Norah. Enjoy the warmth up there 🙂

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  8. You thought of more reasons to take shoes off than I could have! But I am a big believer in no shoes in the house (and I wipe my dog’s paws after a walk outside also). You are right that a lot of Americans wear their shoes indoors, but I think it’s a dirty habit and have no problem asking people to take them off in my house. (Most people see that I am barefoot or in socks, and they usually follow my example without my even saying anything.) Nowadays, a lot of workers have booties to put on over their shoes, and they are very good at putting them on and taking them off as they go in and out.

    Hope you are doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and Autumn have bot mentioned you wipe your dog’s paws after their walk outside. I didn’t know that is a thing but it makes sense if you want a clean house. Who knows where you dog has been digging around outside.

      That is a good observation, people seeing your barefoot at home and following your lead before coming in. Most of my visitors also take my lead or they have the courtesy to ask me if they need to take their shoes off.

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  9. In my case, either flip flop or sock are allowed to walk indoor. My mom doesn’t like seeing footprints on her floor. The only grey zone is the living room: tolerable for people who need to sit while wearing/taking off shoes. But no further than that, it’s a taboo. Glad to see you again, Mabel! Be safe and healthy 🙂

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    • Your mum has a good point about footprints on the floor. Footprints do show up quite prominently on tiled or marbled floors, and highly polished floors. Your living room sounds very welcoming to your visitors. Glad to see you again as well, Len. It’s been a while. You be safe and healthy too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great to see you Mabel! I grew up in Montreal with harsh winters so it was customary to take shoes/boots off and change into warm slippers inside. I guess this carried over into warmer months as I always took my shoes off when entering the house. The habit has continued wherever I live and even when I go to friends’ houses and they say “you can leave your shoes on” I feel better taking them off.

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    • Great to see you too, Caroline. Oh yes, warm slippers are needed indoors in really cold winters. You could be sitting in a heated room in winter barefoot, and your feet will be cold. That happens to me in Melbourne’s winters. Hope you are doing well and take care.

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  11. I usually take off my shoes and don a pair of house shoes with soft soles. At my brother’s house, I usually bring a pair of house shoes since they expect shoes to be left at the door.

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    • That is very considerate of you to bring your own house shoes to your brother’s house. It would feel weird wearing house shoes offered, and your own shoes are always the best fit and most comfortable

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  12. This is such an interesting discussion topic my friend! Lots of points I never even considered. It has always been a rule in my household growing up too as my mother was and still is a clean freak haha. Miss you and hope you’re well! Xx

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  13. You did a thorough job of addressing this topic, Mabel. I espec. like hearing about the cultural aspects. I’m one of those people with foot problems, and walking around in my bare feet or socks is painful. But I was entertained by your lovely post, and the illustrations gave me smiles. Lovely post, and good to “see” you.

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  14. I find all your points relevant even in India. Wearing shoes in the house is considered disrespectful in India as well. Also, it certainly brings dirt into the house. I guess most old cultures had evolved out of common sense. This explains why we have similar concepts. In most homes, people have a separate set of footwear for use in the house. And people also have a yet another footwear to use in bathrooms. I’m sure with the current situation of COVID a lot of people will consider banning shoes in the home. Thanks for writing another thought-provoking post from western perspective, Mabel.

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    • Thanks, Arv. It is so true shoes bring dirt into the house and it really is common sense to take shoes off at home. That is true some people have bathroom footwear, maybe non-slip slippers of some sort. In some apartments I’ve lived in, I have had a set of slippers to walk around the balcony – so I wouldn’t bring any dirt on the balcony back in and also to keep my feet clean. Good to see you, Arv. Hope you are doing well in these times.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Mabel in Canada it is very much the norm to take shoes off at the door. I think a great deal of that comes from our weather. With so much snow the footwear is often winter boots or boots of some fashion. I know in past when we have American visitors they are not used to it or will make some comment like’ Oh right we are in Canada.” it’s a fascinating subject that I have no thought about before.
    Lovely to see you back to the blog by the way. Hugs to you.

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    • I actually didn’t know in Canada people took their shoes off at the door. Thank you for enlightening me. Snow would make winter boots wet so it makes sense to take them off before going in. I am sure you are polite to your guests who walk right in with their shoes on – and good to hear your American visitors respect your house rules.

      It is lovely to see you on the blog too, Sue. You do a good job keeping up with your own blog. Hats off to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I thought you’d given up blogging. I take my shoes off. I recently bought some Fila pumps for slippers. My mum isn’t bothered about taking shoes off but I generally change mine. I’m mainly in socks but I have tried to be bare foot as much as possible for foot health.

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  17. Lovely post dearest Mabel and yes.. I am often barefoot and often forget especially in summer and walk out pegging out clothes on the lawn barefoot.. I also love to meditate barefoot outdoors.. It grounds you with Mother Earth.. And I always take off my shoes if visiting another home… As respect for not dirtying their carpets .
    loved the images you took also within your post Mabel.. ❤
    Sending Love and Hugs my friend ❤

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    • Lovely to hear you too like to go barefoot. I am not a barefoot-on-lawn kind of person as that feels a bit too cool for me…but you do you, Sue. So considerate of you to take your shoes off when visiting. I am sure your friends always love having you over.

      These images were from the KAWs exhibition I went to last year…seems so long ago and another era lol. Hugs across the miles to you my friend ❤

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  18. Since Hawaii is primarily and heavily influenced by Asian cultures, taking your shoes off is the norm, not the exception. In fact, it’s a running joke to not leave with better shoes than you arrived in. 😛

    I think the first time someone told me I could keep my shoes on was probably on the Mainland, and I hesitated. It was like she was giving me permission to pee in her pool or something.

    And as a result of all this footwear removal, most Asian households are CRAZY about keeping their floors cleaned. They love to sweep over here! But as I’ve gotten older, hard tiled surfaces have been too unforgiving for my feet, so now I sometimes where “room shoes” or indoor shoes – and I love them. They save my feet, and this is coming from a girl who used to run outside barefoot.

    In fact, it’s common for Thais to have shoes for the bathroom (because the floor gets wet from the shower or bucket bath) and flat slip-ons to putter around the house in, and surprisingly they help create warmth and comfort from cold tiles.

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    • Aaah. I thought people in Hawaii don’t mind taking their shoes off as there are many beaches to roam barefoot around 😛

      Haha, I can just imagine you hesitating to keep yours shoes home in their home. It feels almost like a sin – and there are times when I’ve taken my shoes off at the door and the hosts stared oddly at me.

      Oh yes. It is soo common to find many Asian households have a stickler for cleanliness. Definitely agree sweeping the house is a common thing in Asia, and I think you tend to see more brooms in Asian countries. Here in Australia vacuums are more common and many vacuum floorboards and tiles as opposed to sweep.

      I feel you about your feet. As I’m getting older, my feet feel more fragile on hard surfaces. Having non-slip shoes in that bathroom makes sense if you don’t want to lose your footing over water on the floor or don’t want to slip in the shower.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. What a fun post! I’m so glad to get back to wp. Your blog is one of the highlights of the whole experience, for me. We take our shoes Off. Learned to do so thirty years ago or so in Hawaii. Asian custom, absolutely. And for all the reasons you mention! Even workers there will unlace their boots when coming in the house. Totally respectful.

    Now we are in New Mexico, and we’ll see how people do when coming into the house. There will be places to take shoes off, and I hope they do so without having to remind them.

    I chuckled when I read you sometimes creep back into the house with shoes on. Ditto here! And I feel a bit guilty when doing so. 😉 ❤

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    • Thanks Bela. I did feel this was a fun post. You and Lani both say the same thing about Hawaii – take shoes off. It is also respectful of workers there to take shoes off before coming in. If they don’t you can always offer plastic bags to tie around their footwear (yes, this is a thing!).

      I am sure your friends in New Mexico won’t mind taking off their shoes when they come visit you 🙂 Sometimes putting shoes on can be a hassle, and not all of us like bending over twice or more to take shoes on and off. Hope you are doing alright over there. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do know plastic bags that way! Haha 😉

        We shall see about NM. Mainland country folk can be totally unfamiliar with that concept. It might feel really vulnerable to them, like having them disrobe. Funny and strange, but some people are like this.

        We are doing well, thanks. Just adjusting to the quirks of the house and the temperature swings. It was 45 this morning, but will quickly warm to 80 plus (fahrenheit), once the sun comes out. Which it does here, almost always and year-round. Makes for much easier winters than in Maine where we’re originally from. Those winters – yikes. Grey skies for days and snow and ice piling up in drifts. Here it’s dry and doesn’t last long on the ground.

        Take good care, Mabel. Glad to be back in touch! ❤

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  20. We do take our shoes off while entering home from outside. I’ve a different pair for indoors though, a very comfortable, soft, furry type slippers.
    The reasons which you’ve mentioned are more applicable in this pandemic time, especially the first one… 🙂

    The pictures are quite interesting!

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    • Your soft, furry type slippers sounds like they keep your feet warm. Hope you enjoy wearing them indoors. It’s so important to keep up hygiene these days. It was fun taking these pictures at the Kaws exhibition. Thanks, Mani. Lovely to see you again.

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  21. like you, it comes natural for us to leave our shoes by the door. during summer, our shoe rack is in the garage and during winter, we have a place for shoes just by the door. we use house slippers inside the house. you have taken on very good points and interesting cultural aspects. so glad to see you again. hope all is well. take care! 🙂 🙂

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  22. An interesting post, Mabel. Growing up, we didn’t have a shoe-less rule in our home, but of course if it was wet or muddy outside, it was common sense to leave our boots or shoes to dry in the porch. Pets were always inspected and wiped off before entering the house. I usually change to flip flops in the house as I find them more comfortable than closed-toe shoes. Of course, no shoes allowed on the furniture and when my family come to visit, I try to discourage them from walking outside in bare feet, then coming indoors and putting their soiled feet on the white sofas. Kids don’t think about such things if they’re not brought up that way. 😯 I always respect other people’s house rules and the traditions in various countries we’ve visited.

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