leave your shoes at the door


What it looks like when repairmen come to your house in Abu Dhabi:


Everybody’s shoes get left at the door–whether it’s friends stopping by for a visit or workers coming to see why the dishwasher spews water all over the kitchen floor.

And even if I say to the repairmen, “no, it’s okay, please keep your shoes on,” the guys nod and smile and leave their shoes at the door.  It’s not just repair crews, either–furniture delivery people pause at the doorstep to kick off their shoes, no matter what they’re carrying and no matter what I say; my cleaning lady does the chores barefoot.

Bare feet seem less intimate, somehow, than stocking feet.  Sometimes one of the maintenance guys will have a hole in his sock, sometimes the socks don’t match; it’s like a tiny glimpse into their lives.  It’s an oddly vulnerable thing, isn’t it, that toe poking out of a worn sock?

Seeing the shoes lined up outside a door–or just inside the door, next to the rack that holds the “inside shoes” (flip-flops, slippers, slides) is one of those small moments when I realize I’m very far from “home.”






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12 Responses to leave your shoes at the door

  1. Jake November 6, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    Wow, I never really thought about it. I always notice people’s socks, because unlike underwear (hopefully), you only see it sometimes and you’re right, it’s like a glimpse into their lives. I love that you brought this up, haha.
    Jake recently posted..A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of ThatMy Profile

  2. Michelle Longo November 6, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    I had a repair man recently come to the house and he insisted upon taking his shoes off. My carpet is gross because of my kid and my late dog, and I assured him he could not make it worse. He laughed and took his shoes off anyway. This reminded me of him.
    Michelle Longo recently posted..Phoning It In.My Profile

  3. Stacie November 6, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    This is funny because it makes me feel close to home. We all take our shoes off. Not out of cleanliness but b/c we prefer being barefoot. When the repair guys come, they take them off too. NJ must be exactly like Abu Dhabi 😉

  4. that cynking feeling November 6, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    You’re right-there does seem to be something more personal about seeing someone’s socks rather than their bare feet. Lovely little post.
    that cynking feeling recently posted..Free for all!My Profile

  5. Schmutzie November 6, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    For the most part, Canadians take their shoes off in houses, too, but I’m with you on the socks front. They do seem more intimate than bare feet, and I am very aware of the state of my socks when I am in someone else’s house. Funny thing, isn’t it?
    Schmutzie recently posted..Self-Publishing, Writing Style Ire, Barney Stinson, a Foot Massage, and Tech WoesMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn November 6, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      Thank you for stopping by! And why *is* it that covered feet seem more private than uncovered feet? It’s not like that with bodies in general, so is it that things usually covered look intimate when they’re revealed, and viceyversey?

  6. Grace @ Sandier Pastures November 6, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    This custom actually makes us happy! We previously lived in Japan where it’s normal for guests or non-guests to leave shoes outside or put on ‘inside shoes’. 🙂
    Grace @ Sandier Pastures recently posted..Pool time in NovemberMy Profile

  7. Arnebya November 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    I tend to purposely wear mismatched socks when I wear high boots because 1) my socks are usually mismatched upon the terror of the dryer and 2) no one can see. But then if I’m unexpectedly expected to remove said boots…eh. It’s fun to show that under it all I’m just as mismatched as everyone else. We take off our shoes only because we like to be barefoot.
    Arnebya recently posted..WWDLDMy Profile

  8. Robbie November 7, 2013 at 12:42 am #

    I would not do well with this tradition/cultural expectation. I am very uncomfortable going barefoot or sock footed. Even in my own home I must wear shoes or slippers.
    Robbie recently posted..I WorryMy Profile

  9. Kristin November 8, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    I’m always hugely embarrassed when caught unprepared in shoe-taking-off situations. If they are white socks (usually borrowed from my husband’s drawer), they are probably dirty from walking around my house. And because I hate shopping, others often are worn at the heel or revealing a partially manicured big toe.

    And now I know that anyone who sees all this think they know me by my socks. GREAT.
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  10. Erica M November 9, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    My cousin and his wife just moved back to Texas from Hawaii. I knew I should have painted my toes before visiting. My kids kicked off their shoes like they knew what was up right away. Anyway, we now know some Hawaiian things we didn’t know before. One, the shoes. Two, they do not let people go home until all the food in the house has been eaten and the ice cream is gone.
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  11. Mark November 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    We are a shoes off house. But we do wear slippers and when we visit we take our slippers with us. Maybe this is an English thing to do.

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