Wearing shoes in the house in the Netherlands
I have already written about, for me, rather interesting habits of Dutch people but since we have now bought a house in the Netherlands ourselves this special discussion came up when talking about visitors. Will we have an Austrian household or a Dutch one? And how do we make Dutch guests understand my strange urgent need that they have to take off their shoes in the hallway? Here’s an article about wearing shoes in the house in the Netherlands.
Cultural differences: Austria
Every time I enter a house I take off my shoes immediately at the front door. I never thought about it that other people don’t do that or why I am really doing it, but it is in my system and has been a habit ever since I can remember. My mom was especially nitpicky about it since we always had a wooden floor and she never liked it when there were dirty shoeprints on the floor. That’s why my brother and I always took off our shoes, in winter even in front of the front door to not drag any dirt or snow inside the house. The reasons were that we neither wanted to make our mom mad nor clean the floor afterwards.
So, when coming to the Netherlands and visiting Dutch households I always automatically took off my shoes until my boyfriend told me that it is not common here. At first, I was a bit confused, but it was summer, warm weather and I wore sandals, so I just listened. Looking around I noticed that nobody else was walking on socks or barefoot either. People even wore high heels in the living room, walking on tiny stilettos, for my feeling pinching holes in the wooden floor.
So, why do Dutch people wear shoes in the house?
Afterwards, I couldn’t help it but had to talk about it with my boyfriend. He explained it to me and I started being more aware of this phenomenon. Especially when I started to work here I noticed that all the students ran around in their shoes too. In Austria that would never happen. From kindergarten on every kid wears slippers. You come to school, take off your shoes and walk on slippers all day long.
Our teachers and parents always told us that it would be healthier for our feet and especially cleaning personnel was happy because we dragged less dirt inside. Only the teachers were allowed to walk on their normal shoes and once I became a teacher myself I was a little bit proud to have that privilege. But seeing Dutch students coming to school, completely soaked from cycling through the rain and then walking around on a carpeted floor left me quite surprised.
So pretty obviously we have a cultural difference here! Still not feeling completely at ease with this topic I started to google it, why do Dutch people wear shoes in the house? So good old Wikipedia gave me a rather funny answer: “In Northern Europe and Austria it is considered rude and unhygienic to wear shoes in the house” – I like how Austria even got its special position in this sentence. “In the Netherlands people don’t usually wear shoes in the house” – meaning that it is not usual but quite common, especially for visitors.
I grew older, I grew wiser and to be honest I inherited weirdly many characteristics of my mom… therefore I know that I don’t want to have people walk around in my house in shoes. I love walking around in socks, I love having it cleaned up and tidy and I simply have this “no shoe attitude” deeply anchored in my Austrian heart.
So, when it comes to having our own house in the Netherlands I am probably a pretty annoying host. My boyfriend at least stands behind my rule, but guess his main reason is that “a happy wife means a happy life”.
Now I do wonder, what is your opinion on wearing shoes in the house? Let us know in the comments!