In many parts of the world, it is an understood social custom to take off shoes before entering your own home or any other person’s residence. Many cultures participate in the tradition of taking off shoes upon entering a home or religious place such as mosque, church, and synagogue.
Mainly Asian cultures, most notably Japanese and Indian, adopt this etiquette. It became an important tradition for them to take shoes off inside the house. There is a clear line that is drawn between inside and outside. Also, outdoor shoes and indoor slippers are handled accordingly. Such lifestyle has been around for centuries so that it cannot be ignored.
Taking Off Shoes at Home in Russia
If you are invited to someone’s home in Russia, surely it is a very encouraging sign for your relationship. But, you must be prepared to take off your shoes when you enter their house. The roads in Russia are less clean, even a large part of Russia has clay soil or black soil to produce food products; hence, Russians adopt the culture of taking off their shoes to keep their houses clean.
The origin of the tradition is mysterious, but it occupies an important part of the Russian psyche. The pragmatic benefits are obvious−leaving outdoor shoes keeps the floors and rugs clean. But, the real benefit is actually more symbolic.
Here are several reasons of taking off shoes at home in Russia that may strike you as good ideas. Keep on reading!
1. Keeping the House Clean
Unbelievable it may sound; it is true that the bottom of your shoes contain more bacteria than an average toilet seat. Toilet seats generally have approximately 1,000 bacteria or less, while the soles of shoes typically play hosts to millions. As a result, walking around your house with the shoes on could just as well be the same as wiping poop all over your floors
Moreover, dust and dirt built up from your outdoor shoes can easily be carried into your living quarters, too. Even if it is not toxic, carrying dust and debris in from the outside is not ideal for Russian people. They even go as far as to install a doormat to catch anything they or their guests might track in before they undo their laces. That is why; you need to remove your shoes to keep things clean and tidy whenever you visit their house.
2. Giving the Feet Some Rest
Comfortable footwear is quite a thing for Russian consumers. I am not talking about Russian sneakers and other sport shoes. I am talking about comfortable shoes in general. Back in Soviet times, most shoes and boots produced by Soviet footwear industry were not as comfortable, so people wanted to get rid of them as soon as they got home to give their feet some rest. Even though it is not an issue anymore, it might be the power of habit. For girls, however, it still is an issue since high heels and other attributes worn daily are tiring.
Walking around the house barefoot also gives a lot more benefits. Your feet can breathe and have free range of movement. Also, using your feet to feel the floor allows you to improve muscle strength and flexibility.
3. Respecting the Hosts
The act of taking off shoes when visiting a house is not only for sanitary reasons. It is also a sign of respect. You are respecting the hosts, the environment or structure, and others that occupy the place. Many Russian homes have parquet floors, sometimes quite beautiful and expensive. Abrasive soles of shoes can cause them scratched and scraped. All in all, it is just impolite to walk on such a wonderful floor wearing dirty shoes and leaving a trace.
Also, know more about the etiquette of visiting Russian’s house here (5 important things to know when visiting a Russian house).
4. Slipper Culture
Tapochki or home slippers are one of those essential Russian cultural norms. Russian hosts usually provide slippers for their guests when they come to visit. Or else, if they have wood flooring, for example, you can safely stay in your socks even if you do not have a pair of changing shoes. Another alternative is to bring a pair of changing shoes according to the occasion. That is what Russians do. Even at home parties like birthday party, some women usually bring an extra pair of high heels for inside use. Such tradition has been going on for centuries.
5. Symbolic Meaning
There is a character of Russian famous novel about a Russian nobleman called Oblomov. A monument of Oblomov was built in the center Ulianovsk city. The monument features Oblomov’s couch with his slippers underneath it. In the novel, Oblomov spends most of his waking hours in his robe lying on a couch and doing nothing. Oblomov’s robe, couch, and slippers represent his indifference to life outside his home. But, they also symbolize the domestic space, the feeling of leaving the worries of the world at the door, and feign the safety and comfort inside the house. Many Russians believe that it may be the indication of a new custom taking hold: a custom of separating footwear into indoor and outdoor. Though, today, the attitudes towards taking off shoes indoors may vary, often by national culture.
This reason might seem minor, but when you live on a lower floor, the shuffling of your neighbors’ feet over the wooden floors—and even on the rug—is better muffled with socks or slippers than with outdoor boots.
Those 6 reasons you need to take off shoes at home in Russia are just as good as benefits. What do you think? As for me, my personal slippers always wait for me by the door. When I slip them on, my feet are much freer, my floors stay cleaner, and I always feel as if I have truly come home. Maybe, you can follow along. You risk nothing for trying, right?