20 October 2013

A Russian Feat About Feet

Gymnastics of switching between slippers and shoes.

We Americans were raised on flag worship, where it approaches a mortal sin to let the Stars and Stripes touch the ground.  Here in Russia there are serious concerns about feet.  Many people are aware that Russians never wear shoes at home, but switch to slippers at the door. 

We Americans blessed with Russian wives are stressed with a higher expectation... to balance so well that you can switch foot apparel without socks hitting the ground.  Heaven help you if you are spotted out of your shoes and taking the unnecessary step of standing in your stocking feet before donning your slippers...  or vice versa!  People here worry that the sock bottoms will get dirty... as if anyone back in the USA cares.

Now approaching age 71,  an attempt to gracefully move from shoes to slippers has become gradually more difficult for me... This performance anxiety in my creeping old age is something I wouldn’t have to manage in the States. To cope I’ve been known to use my head, putting it against a wall to maintain my balance during the Great Transition. 

Knowing that I am expected to at least attempt this footwear switch has encouraged moments of rank dishonesty, as I warily glance to see if I am being observed by a Russian before I cheat.  It also has inspired a new level of curmudgeonly expletives, most of which are fortunately not understood by the wife and neighbors. 

On asked about this phenomenon, Larissa suggested I find a seat when switching footwear, and observed that only Americans would think of putting socks or other clothes on the floor.

Footnotes about the foot towel, and the leg cross

Most Russian bathrooms have a hook low on the wall for a foot towel.  Whether you just finished a bath or shower, or follow the custom to at least wash your lower legs and feet before bedtime, this extra towel is waiting for you.  To dry your feet with a large bath towel is considered gross.

It’s very rare to see a man on TV crossing his legs as they do in America, wide open.  The main concern about the wide leg cross is that the sole of one shoe flashes out for all to see.  I’ve heard this is profoundly offensive to Arabs but why does it upset Russians?

My views...

There is still some residual prudishness more than 22 years after the end of the Moral Code of the Soviet Union.  Some American men esteem casual or sloppy behavior as Rough and Ready and are known to put their boots on chairs and railings.  Russian culture, less flexible, is quick to stop behavior that may threaten cultural norms.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. As someone who married to a Russian, I've learned to immediately remove my shoes upon entering our home. I now have a chair next to the front door so I can sit down and remove my shoes and put on my slippers. I also look around to see if I'm being watched, but I figure my wife sees everything I do and has eyes in the back of her head, so why bother.

    Thanks for the story, good to know I'm not alone.

    Yes, we are blessed to have Russian wives.


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