Anecdotes 3: The Question of Shoes

I’m at a lunchtime joshikai (a women-only party) with my colleagues. My mind is wandering due to all the Japanese being spoken around me, when suddenly my JTE translates a question that all my other female coworkers are apparently itching to know the answer to:

JTE: What do you do with your shoes?

Me: (snapping back to reality) Huh?

JTE: In your house in America, what do you do with your shoes?

Me: Oh. Well, in my house, the front door opens to a mudroom. It’s like a little hallway with a closet, where we put our shoes and hang up jackets.

*My JTE translates this, and the other women are fascinated*

Me: It’s not that different from Japan….

JTE: We are surprised! On all the American TV shows, people are always wearing their shoes in the house. So dirty! We thought Americans only take off their shoes to go to bed!

*The other women nod vigorously*

Me: (trying to clear up gross cultural misunderstandings thanks to television) We definitely take our shoes off when entering the house. Most people, at least. Most of the time. Anyways, way before bed!

JTE: You really aren’t that different from Japan! (All the other ladies nod, delighted).

Me: (internally) YES! FINALLY! A moment of bridging cultural divides! We AREN’T so different! SUCCESS!!

JTE: And you have indoor shoes?

Me: (this stops my celebration short) Uhhh….. no. We just wear socks in the house… or bare feet… sometimes slippers in the winter when it’s cold? (Thinking about it a little more) Indoor shoes aren’t really a common concept in America…

*My JTE translates this, and everyone is quiet for a bit*

Finally one of the other ladies throws in her two cents: Oh. Different.

End of conversation.


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