I have just been to Myanmar, a country where you are expected to take your shoes off all the time. It is mostly a warm country, and most people wear flip flops, which they can just slip on and off as they enter and leave homes, temples and other places where footwear is frowned upon.
I used to love walking around bare footed. When I got home from school or work, the first thing I would do would be to take off my shoes and socks. Of course, in England, homes have fitted carpets and central heating, which so your toes don’t freeze. Then we would come to Spain on holiday in the summer and run about without our shoes on all the time, jumping in and out of the swimming pool. In recent years I have kept my shoes on because walking about barefoot makes my feet hurt, but I still love kicking off my shoes.
In Myanmar there were several reasons why we were not so keen on taking our shoes off, the main one being that everything was very dusty. We usually had to leave them on the steps outside the temple or whatever it was we happened to be visiting, and by the time we had to put them on again, our feet were usually quite dirty. I must have used a couple of packs of wet wipes, and I won’t even start to tell you how disgusted my Spanish travel companions were with this requirement, sometimes foregoing the opportunity to visit unique monuments because they weren’t inclined to expose their feet to the elements.
After donning and discarding my lace-up walking boots countless times on the first couple of days, I started wearing some shoes with Velcro fittings that were easier to deal with. Unfortunately, they are now revolting and dirty and I shall never wear then again.
I don’t expect people to take their shoes off in my home. The ceramic tiles on the floor are cold and I have three little dogs, so I am sure it would make people very uncomfortable, however, if I had a carpeted floor I might ask people to leave their trainers at the door. After all, shoes are covered with harmful bacteria picked up as we walk about in the world, which can multiply and spread on carpets on floors.
I also understand that some people are better off keeping their boots on. Smelly, sweaty feet can be a real problem, and for those who suffer from these conditions, baring their feet must be awful. Did you see the recent BBC news report on the man who got arrested for his smelly shoes and socks on a public bus? The man, Prakash Kumar, a 27-year-old, was on a Delhi bus when he removed the offending footwear. The horrified passengers asked him to put them in a bag or throw them out. A scuffle ensued, and the man was arrested, but later granted bail. How embarrassing!