I was very amused by Arwa Mahdawi’s article (I put my foot down – only barbarians wear shoes inside, February 16) because it touched on one of the biggest culture shocks I have have had since arriving in the UK from Hong Kong last summer. Being the typical Hong Konger obsessed with cleanliness, I Googled a cleaning company upon arriving at our rented accommodation, hoping for a thorough cleaning. My jaw dropped as the crew entered the house in their dress shoes and carried on with work like it was the most usual thing to do.
I was wondering if anyone else saw the irony of vacuuming and mopping carpets and floors while walking on them in dress shoes. I was traumatized. My second experience was the following month when I was lucky enough to visit a local’s house and was told I didn’t need to take my shoes off – it was a deeply disturbing to step in and cross the rug into someone’s life bedroom wearing shoes. It would have been unimaginable at home.
I posted the question online with other Hong Kong newcomers and one guy said, “Nothing so surprising, don’t you remember Mr. Bean laying down in his dress shoes?” And so I came to accept that as a cultural difference and just how things are done here – until I read Arwa’s article.
Regarding Arwa Mahdawi’s article, I must admit that I wear shoes inside. I thought picky acquaintances considered their magnolia rugs when they cast pained glances at my soiled shoes, not at our hygiene. How did I survive to be 80 with this dirty habit? It is sad that in these troubled times we worry about such trivialities.