There are some widely accepted German customs I’ve refused to accept:
– wearing a scarf around your neck when you have a sore throat (and the general overuse of scarves)
– waiting at the crosswalk for the light to turn green when there’s not a car in sight
– being extremely straightforward
– wearing house shoes
That is, until now.
The Freund purchased me some house shoes (Hausschuhe) for my birthday.
Question: Do we say house shoes in English? I can’t remember. I know there’s the term slippers, but I cannot remember if both are used in daily speech.
I will use the term house shoes throughout this post because slippers does not seem appropriate. Slippers are soft, cushy, colorful. House shoes are sturdy and neutral.
When you walk into any German household, you’re sure to see piles of shoes by the door. In fact, it’s never a matter of taking off your shoes when you get home in this country, but rather switching shoes. When you come home from work, you take off your work shoes and put on your house shoes. Then, if you want to go enjoy the garden, you put on your garden shoes. Then, when you go back inside, you slip back on your house shoes. There’s truly a pair of shoes for every thing and any good German has a solid pair of house shoes, along with some hiking boots and your other standard pairs.
This affinity for house shoes probably stems from the extreme concern I’ve realized many Germans possess about cold feet. I think I could even call it a fear? My au pair family’s home had had heated floors throughout, yet the parents, grandparents, and children alike were equally disturbed by my willingness to walk throughout the house barefoot. “Aren’t your feet cold?” “No…” This was a weekly exchange. It was not until I made German friends, moved out of my au pair home and into my own flat, and lived a more independent German life that I realized it was not just my host family who was bothered by my bare feet. It’s everyone!
When people inquire about my cold feet, my mind retorts, “I am not a child. If my feet are cold, I will put on socks.”
Then I started dating the Freund, and I was finally comfortable enough to voice this thought. He insisted that I not only wear socks, but shoes. “The floor is too cold!”
Stubborn Sally officially couldn’t take it anymore. I am an adult who moved overseas on my own. I can take care of myself. Surely, I can decide when my feet are at the appropriate temperature to go barefoot, wear only socks, etc. My insistence on not wearing house shoes became a running joke. The Freund particularly enjoys watching me steam up when others’ ask if my feet are cold.
The Anatomy of German House Shoes
– firm sole
– closed toes
– open back
– sturdy and shaped, not flimsy
Funny enough, a very common German house shoe is one that was très-“fashionable” in my high school days: the Birkenstock Boston Clog. We wore these with jeans and socks to school during winter time in Texas. Man, I really do love Texas winters (and the usual lack there of).
My Freund’s disturbance by my refusal to cover up my feet caused him to buy me my own house shoes photographed above. Since it was a gift, I feel obligated to use them (at least when he’s around). It is now day three in my house shoes. I may be a convert. It’s not even cold outside and I’m wearing the damn things. So maybe I don’t feel so obliged, maybe, just maybe I like my house shoes. Damnit.