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Yesterday I watched the following video on Facebook: America Vs: Shoes At Home. In that video, it's argued that wearing shoes inside the house is inappropriate, mainly because it's not hygienic, but it's also mentioned that in cultures outside the United States, taking off one's shoes when entering a home is a sign of respect.

One of the arguments the video uses against wearing shoes inside a house (at 1:34) is that "the U.S. is actually one of the few countries where shoes don't come off at the door." However, the video only explicitly mentions (at 1:43) Japan, India, Denmark, Germany and China. Even their source for the claim (25 common American customs that are considered offensive in other countries) only says that "in most Asian and Caribbean cultures it is expected that you take your shoes off when entering someone's home."

I also found this link on Quora: Do people wear shoes indoors in countries other than the US?, where people mention (seemingly from personal experience) some countries/cities where wearing shoes inside is normal (Australia, the UK, Spain, Paris, Amsterdam) and others where it's the opposite (Canada, Syria, Turkey, Singapore, India, Korea, the Scandinavian countries).

From my own personal experience living my whole life in Chile, it's perfectly normal here to wear shoes inside. I've been in Argentina and Mexico, and I was never asked or even suggested to take off my shoes inside the houses I entered while in those countries, either. Also, I've never heard about any country in South America where taking off one's shoes is the norm.

How many is few?

Regarding the meaning of few, Merriam-Webster says that "from the very beginning, few was used of a comparatively small number." However, I understand that few is commonly perceived as a small number in general. Personally, I wouldn't consider few anything more than a third when comparing to a known total amount, but I see that the definition is vague.

The question

Using the commonly perceived meaning of few in the United States of America (whatever it might be), can it truly be said that, in few countries, taking off one's shoes when entering a home is not normal behaviour?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Oddthinking Apr 29 '18 at 12:36

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  • Is the claim specifically asking about houses, specifically about homes, or about either? Gers count as homes but not probably not as houses. For a description of the difference between a house and a home, see this blog post – Andrew Grimm Apr 29 '18 at 2:18
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    Actually, in many households in Minnesota, North Dakota, and likely points west (ie, snow country) it is normal to remove your shoes on entry to the house. (This was not the norm when I lived in Kentucky and New Jersey.) – Daniel R Hicks Apr 29 '18 at 2:29
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    How is this question supposed to be answered? Are we going to collect personal anecdotes from as many different countries as possible (as it is done in the first two answers), and then take a census? This would be a quite unusual procedure for skeptics.SE, which usually does not invite personal anecdotes to pass them off as evidence for anything. – Schmuddi Apr 29 '18 at 6:48
  • From the "Ask a Question" page: "Is your question about scientific skepticism? We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed." This question does not appear to be about scientific skepticism and I rather doubt that any research has been done on the topic of a quality which would meet this stack's standards for an answer. – Dave Sherohman Apr 29 '18 at 9:02
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    I note that country isn't a great unit for "culture". It seems there isn't a single monolithic culture in the USA, Australia, or Germany with regards to shoes in the house. So the claim simply doesn't make much sense. – Oddthinking Apr 29 '18 at 12:46
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Mongolia

Mongolia is a counter-example to the claim, being Asian and in certain circumstances it's acceptable to wear shoes inside a home. (Gers are not a fixed structure, so I don't think it's necessarily a house, but they definitely are homes)

Mongolia is an Asian country:

Mongolia /mɒŋˈɡoʊliə/ (Monggol Ulus in Mongolian; Монгол Улс in Mongolian Cyrillic) is a landlocked unitary sovereign state in East Asia.

In that country, it's acceptable to wear shoes in gers (Mongolian yurts), though maybe not in building-based housing:

Mongoliatravels.com:

When you visit a Mongolian family living in a ger/yurt, you do not have to take off your shoes. But you must take of your shoes if you visit a family living in an apartment or a house, especially in Ulaanbaatar City.

It being acceptable in gers is also supported here.

Lonely Planet’s online guide to etiquette doesn’t mention shoes being a problem. The most recent edition of their English guidebook (written largely in Australian English) to Mongolia mentions a few different pages about etiquette. One of them is etiquette at gers, and shoes are not mentioned there, nor is it mentioned on the other pages listed.

Wikivoyage is a wiki, so I wouldn’t rely solely on that as a source for anything that’s likely to be disputed, but for the sake of completeness, as of now, it doesn’t mention footwear being an issue in gers.

  • If anyone wants to add specific countries to my answer, feel free to do so. Or create your own answer if you want. – Andrew Grimm Apr 29 '18 at 2:20
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    Are your links reliable sources? How does a single counterexample answer the question? Are you really suggesting that we should answer the question by collecting data from as many specific countries as possible, and then having a count? – Schmuddi Apr 29 '18 at 6:51
  • @Schmuddi I’ve added information about Lonely Planet and Wikivoyage having guides to etiquette in Mongolia, even a guide to etiquette in Mongolian gers, and that they do not mention shoes. Is that sufficient, or do you want further references for Mongolia? – Andrew Grimm Apr 29 '18 at 9:06
  • @Scmuddi regarding your other point, I’d say that if sufficient counter-examples are provided, the claim that most Asian countries have such a restriction can be refuted. – Andrew Grimm Apr 29 '18 at 9:08
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    Removing shoes before entering a house/apartment is standard throughout Russia, as it was in most, if not all, of the USSR. – ESultanik Apr 30 '18 at 12:36

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