Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Culture Shock: Shoes off

I was somewhat prepared for the shoes-off policy in Korean homes from my time spent in Ukraine. In Ukraine, it is customary to have many "house shoes," or slippers available at the entrance for guests to wear after removing their outside shoes. After spending two weeks in Ukraine during February and March, I understood why it was custom to remove shoes upon entering a home. Below is what I wrote about that trip to Ukraine:
Your beautiful country of Ukraine has been transformed into a slushy winter wonderland. Everyday I've been here it has either rained, snowed, or something in between. They don't believe in cleaning off sidewalks I guess, so everywhere we walk there is about an inch of slush.
February 2005 e-mail to friends
I have yet to experience a Korean winter, although from most accounts, I hear it is pretty mild--especially here in the far south where I am. So, when we arrived, we were told to remove our shoes before entering our hotel rooms. Then, we were scolded by the "ajuma" or hotel mistress for not removing our shoes when we entered their computer/fax room. I was surprised however, when I found that everyone removes their shoes at school. They have a system of cubby cabinets with the students/teachers names to support the custom. Most students (and I) wear the cheap rubber sandals that slip on. However, some of the teachers wear nice shoes that I can't distinguish from "outside shoes."

At first, I thought that the shoes policy was for cleanliness--like Ukraine. However, students at Seong Po keep their "inside" sandals on when leaving the building and walking to the stand-alone cafeteria. There is also an outside staircase that is centrally located on the long building, so it is very convenient. So, the inside sandals are probably better described as school sandals. So why take off the shoes? I'll give you the answer I was given on each of my first days of school: "It is our custom." Can't argue with that.

Judgement: "Eh, its just different."

Thursday's Culture Shock: The Brooms


  1. That is also the case in Rangoon (Myanmar), HK (China) and in Tokyo (Japan). Note: I'm asian.
    The main reason is that you may have stepped on (could be anything!!) is confined to the shoe rack/area. Any you try to keep the inside cleaned and use a flipflop. And remember, everyone prep, eat and sleep very close to the floor in the main area. So keeping the living area seperated from all the stuff you may have stepped on is a good thing. At most homes there are no beds, just sleep on the floor. So you don't want to sleep on the floor if you walked all over it with your shoes which you stepped on a pile of !@#$ earlier that day, do you?

    I will enjoy more of what you find different than what you are used to which is US.
    What happens to the broom post?


  2. Removing shoes is an excellent custom.

    I have dedicated a whole blog to this subject.

    Shoes off at the door, please


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