Fringe Benefit Of TEFL No. 8: Fairly Meaningless Insights That Throw You For A Loop

I’ve learned a lot in my TEFL time abroad, such as some neat local legends, how TEFL can be like psychotherapy, and that some places serve imposter Mexican food. I’ve learned some crazy facts about, you know, defining and non-defining relative clauses, diacritical marks in Slavic languages, and a special rule connected solely to the verb patterns for “regret”. But even more interesting to me is when I realize that the way I looked at something before was some kind of culturally subjective…thingy…

(I know. Bear with me and keep reading)

For example, in guidebooks about Bosnia, I’ve read: “It’s a Muslim tradition to take off your shoes inside.” I can accept that this is done in many or maybe even all countries considered Muslim. But does it really have to be attributed to people’s nominal religion, or some deep-rooted historical tradition? I think people do this in Bosnia because, along with nearly everyone else in Eastern Europe, they realize shoes are dirty and tracking street juice onto your pretty carpet is not desirable.

Yes, some people may also happen to be Muslim. It has also occurred to me that people in Japan and, I presume, at least a few other Asian countries take off their shoes inside too. Given all this, it just makes sense to me that the reason is more along the lines of “keeping your home clean” than “keeping alive an ancient tradition.”

I can certainly understand the value of informing visitors to a country that taking off your shoes inside is the thing to…but I’ve reached a personal conclusion that it’s just kind of the normal, clean thing to do, following my experience gained through TEFL. I now wonder why there is no cultural explanation for why people keep their shoes on inside!