You have no doubt been to a house where you are asked to remove your shoes at the door. Now you are traveling to an unfamiliar country to engage in critical negotiations for your business. How do you know what to do? Here are a few general rules for different regions.
- Most Arabic-speaking countries have a cultural inclination to believe that feet are unclean. You should remove your shoes when entering a Mosque, and usually most private houses. Do not show the soles of your shoes while crossing your legs and talking to a business partner, this can be taken as an insult. Don’t make jokes about hitting somebody with a shoe, unless you mean to upset them. Washing your feet a couple times a day is the norm, so if you know you will be somewhere without your shoes, you should bear this rule of hygiene in mind.
- You should remove your shoes in most public places (aside from commercial buildings) in Japan. You are not supposed to use your outdoor shoes inside a gym and should have a separate pair or plan to rent them if needed.
- In East-Central European countries like Poland and Bulgaria as well as Nordic countries like Norway, you will be expected to take off your shoes before you enter anyone’s home.
- You should not wear shoes into an Indian home, or a place of worship. You will sometimes be asked to take off your shoes at historical sites. Sikh places of worship will provide a station for washing your bare feet before entering.
- No matter where you are, you should take off your shoes if they are wet or dirty before you go into someone’s house.
Of course, when in doubt, ask your host, or look around.