Not only Japanese people remove their shoes when they walk into a home: Finnish people do so too.
To everyone who isn’t used to remove their shoes at the entrances of the houses – like me – this is quite shocking.
I went to Finland at the end of a summer, and it was then when I learned about this tradition. I must admit that in summer it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, but in winter you truly understand why Finns do what they do.
And not doing it is truly a faux-pas in Finland.
My shoes in the corridor. Now I am used to do this.
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The polite way: leave your shoes at the entrance of a home
Winter is the longest season of the year in Finland, especially in the north of the country.
Everything is covered in snow outside and the snow lasts for months at a time. When you walk around, since you can’t stay indoors for months, snow gets stuck to the soles of your boots. That snow, when you arrive at someone’s home – which will be heated appropriately – will start its melting process. And if if you don’t remove your shoes, soon the whole house will have little puddles everywhere, something extremely annoying for the people who did remove their shoes.
That’s why in Finland, unlike in Japan (as far as I know), there is a very practical reason behind removing the shoes at the entrance – in winter anyways. So when you go to Finland, show your politeness by removing your shoes at the entrance of the houses. The interesting thing, of course, is when many people arrive at a house simultaneously and there are a thousand pairs of shoes by the door. But that’s a small price to pay for respecting the house owner.
Pretty please? Source (CC: by)
What about in public places, workplaces and schools?
If you are wondering, kids in Finnish schools also remove their shoes at the entrance before going to class. (By the way, it seems that the Finnish Baby Box is on sale now).
In universities and some public buildings there is a place at the entrance to leave your belongings, where you can leave your outdoor shoes if you want and use some others that you can take with you (this, of course, is more common for university buildings than for public ones).
In the case of office buildings, you can bring some sandal-like shoes for walking around indoors, if you want. Some people do that if their work doesn’t require a very formal attire.
Shoes outside an office, for a meeting. Or so it says the caption of the photo. Source (CC: by-sa)
How to effectively remove as much snow as possible from the shoes
Finnish people are prepared for winter like no one I’ve seen before. If you want to know which clothes to wear for a trip to Finland in winter, here is our list of recommendations.
At the entrance of each building you can see a gigantic brush designed to remove the snow from your shoes. You can then be confident that you’ll be behaving as politely as possible when entering any building.
Some pictures of this Finnish invention:
Have you ever forgot to remove your shoes while entering someone’s home? What’s the biggest faux-pas in Finland in your opinion?