To take your shoes off or not to take your shoes off?
That is the question.
The dilemma of the day!
Today I was attached to the Child and Family Nursing Care unit in Wallsend. I had never been there before and having to go there by bus, not knowing when to press the bell, was enough to give me a headache (I am exaggerating, of course. I just don’t like unfamiliarity, that’s all). I told the bus driver that I would like him to drop me off at Longworth Avenue, and the poor guy did not even know where that was. If a bus driver didn’t know it, what chance did I have of knowing it myself?
Luckily, last night just before I slept, I had googled the bus route and the map of that area…I could roughly remember the landmarks I was supposed to look at. It all ended up well and I arrived at Harker Building, Wallsend, safe and sound.
Because my map-reading skills is so pathetic, I consider my victory of finding the place on my own as worthy of a loud applause (before this, I always, always ask for someone’s help to google the map for me. Now, I am quite good at doing it myself, yeay! Alhamdulillah, for a skill newly acquired. heheh).
J and L (the nurses there) greeted me warmly and offered me a cup of coffee. I declined (would you believe it?) as I have already eaten my breakfast earlier (though that has never stopped me before. I think my tummy has shrunken pretty impressively after the Ramadhan month.)
J asked me to choose between staying in the clinic with L or going to home visits with her. I pondered for a second before choosing to do home visits (and at the same time feeling bad lest I offended L for not choosing to stay with her. I hope she knew that it was never my intention to imply that clinic is BORING like neraka and I am not one for self-inflicting pain).
Imagine my pleasant surprise after knowing that one of the three patients that I would be visiting is Kak Sya’s newborn baby. Aww…what a coincident! When we arrived there, I started taking off my shoes…J looked at me strangely.
She said, “You don’t have to take off your shoes. I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I am not going to take off my shoes”
This is a tricky situation, agree? But, I just told her that I prefer taking off my shoes.
Kak Sya greeted us in her very Malaysian-style kain batik and I greeted her Malaysian -style too (the salam and the air-kissing at each side of the cheeks). While Abang Insan was still in his kain pelikat, washing off the dishes. Inilah dia suami mithali yang patut dicontohi. heheh.
While Kak Sya was changing her baby’s diaper in the other room, J told me that it was a ‘rule’ that we should not take off our shoes when doing home visits because we want to avoid picking up germs from those houses that we’ve been to.
I shrugged my shoulder and I told her, “I prefer to take my shoes off because I know this family, personally. And that’s the practice in our culture.”
J was nice about it. She understood where I was coming from. I mean, it would have been the height of rudeness for me as a Malay, to visit another Malay, with my dirty shoes on. I mean, it’s okay for J because she’s not Malay, so people would be more forgiving about her not taking her shoes off.
I am not so westernized as to ignore the most basic rule of cleanliness regardless of who I was with at that time. I need to explain that.
J then proceeded to tell me “I have visited this family before, They are very nice and very modern and they don’t mind it if we don’t take our shoes off.”
I was like, what does being modern has anything to do with it? But whatever….I had already taken my shoes off and they were right outside the door. I was not about to wear them back, now that I was safely inside the house. Sheesh.
Honestly speaking, I think that rule is the most asinine thing I have ever heard! How does taking my shoes off can prevent me picking up germs from the house? I don’t get it! We pick up germs everywhere…we breathed germs when we inspire, we touched germs with our bare hands whenever we pick up our own pen to write (unless you regularly alcohol-swab your pen every other minute), you rest your body on germs whenever you lie in your own bed (unless you change and sterilize your sheets every other second). Come on! Am I going to care if my FEET pick up germs when my hands do it every nanosecond, considering I don’t even eat with my feet the way I do with my hands?
Not bloody likely!!
Besides, I think it makes much more sense for us to worry about bringing the germs from outside the house with our dirty shoes, into the relatively cleaner home environment. Right??
Sungguh, aku tak paham! I couldn’t relate with that kind of reasoning.
The next house we went to is an Australian house.
I happily did not take my shoes off since this house would, of course, practice the western culture. But I noticed that the owner of the house herself was wearing the fluffy slippers…not her outside shoes.
It just didn’t feel right to just barge into someone’s home in our dirty shoes. But hell, if that’s what they like to practice when they are receiving guest into their own home, I am more than happy to oblige.
The next house is the house of a Bangladeshi who could not speak English very well. And we could not get an interpreter in time for her session.
When she received us into her home, I followed J’s example by walking right in with my shoes on.
I noticed that the lady’s feet were shoe-less, naked, bare. But heck, I have become desensitized by my experience from the previous house.
I was, of course, deeply mortified when I found out that this sweet Bangladeshi lady was a Muslim. I have tarnished her home and her living room with my wanton imitation of a Western unhygienic practice. God! Probably her living room is her place of prayer too!
I felt so bad about myself. Ugh!
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, agree?
Well, to a certain extent.
I think that the Australians, who they claim to consist of many cultures and races, need to be aware about what is culturally acceptable in every respective culture. I mean, it’s so easy. All you need to do is look at the host’s feet and make a clever deduction of whether or not she prefers your shoes to be off! And it’s not even that hard to ask, “Would you prefer me taking my shoes off or you don’t mind either way?”
When you said you worried about germs, were you by any chance, making a joke? I have seen the Australians walking around OUTSIDE (at the beach, in the shopping complex, in the park) bare-footed without the slightest thought about the MACROscopic organism; let alone the micro ones.
Sunguh2 aku tak faham.
I would be really offended by people who come into my room with their shoes on without even asking me for my preference. I guess, it’s futile to hope that I will ever acclimatize to the Australian culture.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
But I say, when in Australia, use your common sense.