Twin Citians consider it’s normal to shed shoes / boots / mukluks just inside anybody’s front door and to go around the house in bare feet, stocking feet, or slippers, in every month of the year.
Oddly enough, I didn’t encounter the shoeless preference at all back East, even in snowy locales such as Boston, Pittsburgh, or Buffalo.
I first became acquainted with the custom at my in-laws’ house a mile from here, when we would visit the Cities from back East. I didn’t know how widespread it was until we began touring real estate out here earlier this year. Our realtor would wordlessly model the local expectation by removing her shoes just inside each house we visited, except for the ones that were construction zones.
Easy for her to do: she was wearing slip-ons. In running shoes it’s not an ideal way to look through a house. I found it necessary to re-gird to tour basements, attics, and yards and garages. These tours weren’t always proffered in serial order.
One well-traveled American expat ran headlong into the shoeless custom in Sweden. She believes shoelessness to be the majority preference in most non-English-speaking European countries and many in the Far East. Anglophones and much of the New World wear shoes indoors, except in the snow belt.
Etiquette blogs (examples here and here) offer tips for both hosts and guests to make their preferences known in ways that are minimally impolite. The key is for no guest to be surprised when asked to descalzar, and for no host to be faced with a reflexive refusal to do so from a blindsided guest.
In Europe it is not uncommon, apparently, for the host to provide slippers in a variety of sizes laid out in the entryway. Ones from Ikea are favored in Scandanavian climes.
We just had 11 people over for Thanksgiving; they ranged in age from 28 to 92. Of those guests, five removed their footwear at the door without being asked. Four remained shoeless, apparently happily, for the afternoon; one had brought along indoor shoes.
As it turned out, my Minnesota-raised fashionista wife didn’t even notice guests removing their shoes. She is in the habit of carrying heels when we go calling in wintertime.
We always ask the host if they want us to take off our shoes regardless of the time of year. We usually bring our own slippers, which seems geeky but we hate having cold feet. Our guests usually ask if they should take off their shoes. If is is wet or snowy we say yes.
Julie, thanks for commenting here. There’s a lively conversation happening on Nextdoor.com where I linked this blog post; and a smaller-scale one among my Facebook friends. I’m getting it that a lot of Minnesotans just automatically bring along slippers or slipper-socks when visiting; and some suggest to their out-of-area guests that it’s a good idea to do so.
I’ve never run into anyone bringing slippers/slipper-socks to my house. Most of my buddies just automatically ask, I say yes. I take off my own shoes unless I’m only running in for a second. I’m pretty sure most Minnesotans own slippers and it’s not weird to wear them at like 3 pm, but not at someone else’s house. You may be confusing Birkenstock shoes for slippers, a kind of clog mysteriously always worn with long socks over yoga pants for the teenaged girl in her natural habitat. Just kidding- what is the deal with socks and sandals nowadays, though? Guys and girls.
I grew up in Erie, PA and my mom always insisted on removing shoes indoors. She grew up in Steubenville, OH. I never once thought it weird to remove shoes having lived in MN now for 15 years and having visited Minnesota for over 35. It’s a habit and a good one. As an interior designer, I am in people’s homes often and I will always remove shoes, no matter the season.
Everyone, if you find yourself in need of an interior decorator, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Brian.