If you grew up Asian, you probably got used to leaving your shoes outside before entering the house or going up to your room. A lot of Westerners find this practice weird, but it does make sense in retrospect: Do we really want to track in all those germs and dirt from outside into where we eat and sleep?
That being said, there are a few instances wherein it’s better for you to keep your shoes on even when you’ll be entering a space for eating and/or sleeping. I’m talking about airplanes, of course.
And in case you’re wondering why taking your shoes off inside a plane will merit the stink-eye (among other things) from your fellow passengers, here are two highly compelling reasons:
Personal Hygiene and Safety
Padding around barefoot inside your home is fine, especially if your floors are painstakingly kept clean. Aircraft floors are a whole nother story.
For starters, those carpets are crawling with all sorts of bacteria from all the passengers’ shoes that have stomped upon them. Sure, they might be soft on your soles, but don’t forget that they don’t exactly get vacuumed or thoroughly cleaned on the regular, so there’s no telling what sort of microbes have made those cozy digs their home.
Secondly, footwear is crucial during an inflight emergency. In the event of a crash landing, God forbid, your way out of the aircraft would likely be littered with all sorts of debris (e.g., broken glass, metal scraps, etc.), to say nothing of the terrain outside the plane. If you lose your shoes in the chaos or neglected to put them on in the first place, you could very well end up severely injuring your feet in the race to survival.
Taking your shoes off amidst strangers within an enclosed space is just plain rude. Airplane air is stuffy enough without your foot odor permeating it. The same goes for stinky shoes too. Eww.
Even if you do keep your feet clean or odor-free, no one wants to lay eyes on your gnarly toenails either, and don’t even think about propping your bare feet up on the seat in front of you.
Feeling cramped? Get up every once in a while to go to the toilet for a stretch if you have to, or pay a little extra for exit row seats if you really need that added legroom.
We’ve already talked about how you can make long-haul flights more bearable for yourself, but it’s also important to consider the comfort and personal space of your fellow passengers. Social courtesies exist not to make life harder, but so that we don’t cause any unnecessary and undue stress for those around us, as well as vice versa.
If you really have to remove your shoes upon boarding a plane, do have the decency to store them in a plastic bag and at least use those cheap slippers that you probably nicked from your last hotel in the meantime.
And for the love of all that is good and holy, please, please, please make sure that your tootsies are clean and odor-free if they’ll be out on display.
Live, but let live, guys.