There is a weird article in the Sunday Star Times about a US lecturer missing out on a job because she objected to “the Kiwi habit of going barefoot”.
This has been on my mind since summer started. At work the minority of kiwis, immediately shucked the shoes that we’d been wearing during winter and shifted to jandals. Since the work rules said that we were to leave shoes at the door, that meant that we were barefoot inside. The imports and recent immigrants continue to wander around in shoes outside, and socks inside. They were a bit disconcerted at the kiwis.
As an academic who writes about ethnicity, she said the debacle showed how cultural misunderstandings could occur.
But she still thinks walking around barefoot does have public health implications. “That’s why God created flip-flops or jandals.”
Yeah right. I realize that I’m extreme in the amount that I wear bare feet by preference. But there are some good reasons for it.
Personally I’d say that my wearing of shoes is a public health risk. For some reason my feet radiate heat and sweat far more than any other part of my body. Consequently in the humid Auckland summer, my socks become sopping wet and outright disgusting within a few hours. They constitute a public health risk, and a personal health risk to myself. It is a sure way to get fungal infections to wander around in wet enclosed feet.
Jandals aren’t much better. I have permanent calluses on the top of my feet from when I wear jandals. So given a choice, I seldom even wear those. Mostly I wear jandals where there is a possibility of getting slivers of glass penetrating my exceptionally thick soles. This is a pity because the increasing amount of broken bottles around K Rd finally forced me to start wearing jandals. It was getting to be too much of a pain getting rid of those annoying slivers of glass that got stuck in my foot soles.
Of course naturally wearing bare feet most of the time has artificial problems. Trying to find shoes wide enough to fit my feet is a problem. Most of the shoe-wear manufacturers targeting countries like the US with strange fetishes about bare feet or European nations with lousy weather. So we get far too many shoes here that are designed for the crippled narrow feet that the North American children carry into adulthood after wearing the uncomfortable bindings as kids.
You’d think that a academic writing about ethnicity would have realized that cultural behavior is usually based on some kind of practical need. Kiwis of many generations tend to prefer bare feet. There are reasons for it. What is less clear is why parents in some countries like the US feel the need to partially cripple their children by forcing them to wear constraining shoes.