Please come in, but take off your shoes first

My dear friend Patrick Maurer will really appreciate this post, I think.  He is one of my best friends – we have known each other since early high school.  And today is his birthday!

He used to always give me shit for taking off my shoes whenever I was at his place.  “We’re not Asian, Kenneth. No need to take off your shoes, just come in.”

Taking off my shoes was just a natural thing for me. I always did it at my parents home, I did it when I was in college, and I did it when I bought my first home.  I do it now in Sweden too.  It makes sense – you have been walking around in who-knows-what all day long, and the last thing you want to do when you get home is to track all that shit in and have to clean it up later.  I never really understood why most typical American families don’t take off their shoes.  And I still don’t.  But moving to Sweden where everyone naturally took off their shoes – that is an amazing thing.  (I swear, I was born Swedish in a different life).

My first large-scale experience with it was probably when I invited people to my housewarming party in 2008 (of course, I had taken off my shoes when I was invited to dinner parties and the like, but those were usually small groups of people and I didn’t know if that was the tradition or just one person’s preference).

I was wondering if I would have to ask everyone to take off their shoes when they came to the party.  If I remember correctly, it had been a damp day before so the roads were a little wet and mud was everywhere.  But hey, what do you know, everyone who came to the party gave me a hug first, took off their jackets, and then took off their shoes.  At one point I had to ask everyone to start moving their shoes to my bedroom because the hallway was starting to look like a Deichmann with all of the shoes!

Swedes used to ask me, “What is up with you guys not taking off your shoes? We watch American TV shows and everyone on those shoes are wearing their shoes inside the house.”  I wouldn’t know how to answer that.  I took off my shoes in the US too – it made natural sense. Just yesterday, my friends Tobias (@TBjorkgren) and Caroline (@c_aslund) invited me for dinner and this topic came up.  As Caroline so astutely put it, when you’ve been out for a long time and you get home, you kind of want to let your feet air out.  Well put, Carro.  (Check out her blog, it’s great.  Den är på svenska!)

I am glad to see that a country of 9 million people agree with me that it is gross to track mud and crap into the house.

What was your experience growing up?  Taking off your shoes?  Keeping them on?  Is it #TrulySwedish to take them off?  When you visit your friends in the US, do you take them off?

4 thoughts on “Please come in, but take off your shoes first

  1. Caroline

    Like that brings this up. Isn’t it more homely when you take your shoes off? Imagnine cuddlying up in a sofa with muddy shoes on. No thanks ;). This is one of the best trulyswedish /Asian stuff. Well done Kenneth!

  2. Patrick

    You’ll be happy to note I have a no shoes policy in my upstairs (downstairs is tile and not comfy in just socks).

    But Kenneth–do you remember my parents house? That carpet wasnt even clean when we first moved in–probably cleaner to wear shoes : )

  3. Scott

    I don’t find it to be so weird that you take your shoes off, because we’ve always done that at our house too. It was 50/50 at my house growing up. Some of us took our shoes off, some didn’t but it wasn’t a rule unless it was snowing out (which, in Buffalo, was a lot!).

    What struck me as a bit weird though is how some carry a second pair of shoes or a pair of slippers so that they can have indoor shoes when they get to the place. I was surprised to see that, though I totally understand it given the snow and general shit-storminess that you have to trudge through a lot in Stockholm.


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