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So back in the mid 2000s, I was an international student at a US university. I had the assumption that everyone in America wore shoes or slippers indoors, an assumption that was created from hearsay, so I bought a pair of flip flops that cost a dollar, and wore them each semester.

The thing is, is that I never got to be barefoot. I was always and everywhere barefoot when I grew up so going for months without the opportunity of being barefoot was in hindsight a small but real stressor (I would at least take showers barefoot in the shower stalls, where on average five or six people would share two stalls; they were relieving).

The funny thing is that I went to US and UK schools when I was young, but not in the US or the UK -- I lived in countries that had schools for American or UK nationals that also accepted international students, and thus never expected a culture transition to happen. I had not realized that back then I never encountered a house that wore shoes indoors; my parents wiped the floor clean before going in so that the dirt never touched our feet, and my friend's house that I visited never wore shoes either.

In other words, when I first stepped foot in the US mainland, it came as a culture shock that wearing something indoors could be so darn uncomfortable.

My question is : in the case of dorm rooms, is it inevitable that unless you want your feet to pick up diseases, your feet will have to be wearing something? Or can you still attempt a major clean up of floors or carpets in your dorm room such that you could free your feet? What if you have roommates who don't share the same custom?

My other question is : I found that school custodians deep clean carpets in dorm rooms during the summer, but does that mean I can go barefoot on carpets? Could someone enter the room after that deep clean wearing shoes such that the deep clean is rendered meaningless if you were to aspire going barefoot?

Last but not least : Should you give up trying to go barefoot if you are in college dorm rooms, and only try something like that out in your own house?

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In the United States it is very common for people to wear their outdoor shoes indoors. It is quite a shock to many from Asian countries, but it is very common. I recommend wearing your shoes when going into other people's homes if they are wearing shoes indoors. The floors can be quite dirty. In your own living space it is difficult to ensure that others will take their shoes off even if slippers are provided. Good luck!

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If you go barefoot indoors, your feet will probably get dirty (the soles will turn black). However it is very unlikely that you will acquire diseases from doing this. The common diseases that people worry about is verucas (plantar warts) and athletes foot (fungal infection), but in fact the wart virus and athletes foot fungus are present all over the place. Wearing shoes is very unlikely to significantly decrease your exposure to them. On the other hand, going barefoot is very good for the health of your feet (human feet are designed to run barefoot over the African savanna).

What you may find is that some people will be uncomfortable about you being barefoot (they may be worried about you spreading infections from your feet). You will have to decide for yourself how important this is to you.

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If your feet are cold, then you may wish to wear something on your feet to keep warm, for example

  • shoes

  • slippers

  • socks

  • if you're worried about slipping and falling while walking on bare floors wearing socks, then you might prefer non-skid socks

If your feet aren't cold, there is nothing at all to keep you from going barefoot in your own dorm room.

I have occasionally seen someone walking around inside a campus building without shoes, but this is unusual. An easy way to blend in in the U.S. would be to buy a pair of slip-on shoes, and slip them back on for walking around. Here's a picture of one type of slip-ons:

slip-ons

However, while you are sitting in a lecture, it's perfectly all right to slip your shoes off if you wish. You can also do this if you're sitting in the library studying, or if you're relaxing in a café or sitting outside on campus with friends. And if you are visiting a friend's dorm room, you can put your shoes on to go from your dorm room to your friend's room, and then slip them off once you get there. However, in many college dorms, it's not uncommon for people to walk down the hall barefoot if they're not going very far to get to a friend's room.

It is common in the US for people to take their shoes off when they're playing volleyball or frisbee on a nice lawn, or when they're hanging out at a swimming pool, lake or beach.

If you have any concerns about contagious conditions, you could

  • Talk your concern over with a doctor.

  • Wash your feet (and hands) a little bit more often, perhaps three times a day.

  • Wash your slip-ons once a week (since it sounds like you would like to wear them without socks)

  • Inspect between your toes once a week, and use an over-the-counter anti-fungal (sold without a prescription at the pharmacy) if you start to see signs of the fungus called "Athlete's Foot."

  • Ask your guests to take off their shoes when entering your home or dorm room. If you have a roommate, you might need to negotiate to arrive at a shared shoe policy for the room, since your roommate might not be comfortable with a no-shoes-in-the-room policy. In some colleges and universities, roommate assignments would take cultural customs of this type into account. Note, it can be helpful to let a guest know ahead of time that you'd prefer that they take off their shoes when visiting your room.

  • When visiting a friend, take a look at the general state of cleanliness of the house. Most houses and dorm rooms in the U.S. range from pretty clean to very clean.

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in the case of dorm rooms, is it inevitable that unless you want your feet to pick up diseases, your feet will have to be wearing something? Or can you still attempt a major clean up of floors or carpets in your dorm room such that you could free your feet? What if you have roommates who don't share the same custom?

It is not inevitable, but if you invite people and/or have roommates who do not share this habit, it will get dirty fast, and you probably do not want to dirty your feet all the time, or clean all the time. You can still ask and talk to your roommates, or ask people you invite into your dorm room, but then be prepared to at least have slippers to give. From what I know, it is not that uncommon in the US to go barefoot indoors.

I found that school custodians deep clean carpets in dorm rooms during the summer, but does that mean I can go barefoot on carpets? Could someone enter the room after that deep clean wearing shoes such that the deep clean is rendered meaningless if you were to aspire going barefoot?

In this case you are probably safe right after the deep clean, depending on who has access to the room.

Should you give up trying to go barefoot if you are in college dorm rooms, and only try something like that out in your own house?

Similar to the questions above, it depends. You can try to influence others. Some people are probably wearing shoes just because others are wearing shoes indoors, and would love to go barefoot. Some people may feel it is inappropriate and straight out refuse

  • In an addendum to this reply I would now like to ask : where do you change your clothes then? – economics Feb 27 at 3:56
  • Of course as is for most students if you live with a roommate, changing in a dorm is a little embarassing, so you change in the bathroom -- which means you either change in the toilet booths or the shower booths, and I'm guessing more people choose the shower booths instead, and I did the same -- is this ideal? I mean if you have to change in the shower booths after taking a shower you need to 1. roll up your pants and 2. fold your legs so that your feet come in towards your body, super uncomfortable. – economics Feb 27 at 4:06

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