Have you ever been to somebody’s house and seen one of those signs saying, “please take your shoes off” or, even sometimes, “shoes off!” Well, Mister Manners says that is an incredibly rude message to send to your guests.
Before you get all huffy, let me make my case.
First, if you live in Japan or someplace where it is part of the general culture to take off shoes, then my complaint obviously doesn’t refer to you. I am talking about places like the United States, Latin America and most of Europe where the general culture is that people do not routinely take off their shoes before going into a house. If you live in some city in Italy where everybody takes off their shoes, again, Mister Manners gives you a pass.
Here is my argument:
- If I am your guest, and my shoes are dirty, I will take them off if they are dirty. If it’s raining or muddy outside, it’s obvious that my shoes might be dirty, and I’ll take them off before entering your abode. I know that sometimes people step in stuff, but the bottom line is that 99 percent of the time adults are aware if their shoes are dirty. The vast majority of the time, the person who is visiting you probably was on a clean floor then got in a clean car and then walked up to your house without stepping in anything. His or her shoes have nothing on them except the normal dust you would get anyway. So, your sign saying, “shoes off!” is an incredible insult to your guest. The message is: you are so stupid that you don’t know whether or not your own shoes are dirty. If you really think that the person coming to your house is that stupid, you should not invite them in at all.
- Your “shoes off!” sign is sending a very clear message to your guests that your floor is more important than they are. Yes, if you put up a sign like this you probably slave over your floor, vacuum the hall all the time and mop every other day. But at the end of the day, what you are saying is that your property, an inanimate object called your floor, is more important than the guests walking through your door. I’m sorry: you really need to get a life.
- This whole “slippers inside, shoes outside” thing is just ridiculous. Many people I know who have “shoes off!” signs for their guests will have slippers lined up on the inside and shoes on the outside. This is fine for people living there, but what about guests? This happens to me every time I visit somebody with a “shoes off!” sign at their house. I get there. I take off my shoes. I walk in and pad around in my socks. Then I have to go get something in my car (with five kids, one of the kids is always forgetting something, or I need a diaper, or a baby bottle). So I have to put my shoes back on, go to the car again, get the thing I forgot and then go to the house again and take my shoes off yet again. And while I am doing this I am looking at my shoes and confirming yet again that they are not dirty, not a bit of mud or dirt in sight.
I would estimate that about five percent of the people I visit have the “no shoes” rule, so it isn’t something I encounter all the time. But everytime I do I think to myself, “do these people know how incredibly rude it is to demand that their guests take off their shoes before entering their home?”
So, my advice is: take down the “please take off your shoes” signs. You are insulting all of your guests. If people are dirtying your floors all the time, you either need to stop inviting them to your house or you may want to consider that you are OCD and need therapy.
Mister Manners feels much better now.