The very first thing I did on entering my apartment in Stockholm for the first time was to take my shoes off. My husband Robert made me. “You need to get in the habit of taking your shoes off and leaving them at the door. That’s how it’s done here.” This was my first encounter with the”that’s how it’s done here” syndrome. As I’ve since discovered in my time here, this list of cultural dos and don’ts is quite long.
Amazingly, the shoes-off tradition is quite widespread. I even have to take my shoes off when I enter the gym, when I go to the dentist, the gyno, you name it. Some offices will also have you take your shoes off. There’s typically a rack for you to put your shoes on by the door and depending on the place (the gyno and the dentist, for instance), there may also be a pair of slippers for you to put on. I’ve gotten used to the drill so much that I even like it, at times. My flat stays cleaner, for one. In the winter, gravel is put on the sidewalks to help provide a grip for pedestrians. This dirty, gritty stuff gets all over your shoes and does make a mess. Also, most homes here have hardwood floors, not wall-to-wall carpets. So all those stones will also scratch that beautiful, polished hardwood.
I don’t like the shoe rule so much when I go to someone’s house in a nice outfit and have to take my shoes off, however. So I’ve learned the Swedish way and now bring a separate pair of indoor party shoes along in a bag when I want to look nice. Robert doesn’t bring party shoes (most guys don’t). But he has learned to always check his socks to make sure he does not have a hole in one of his toes. And I am so well trained now that I even take my shoes off when I enter someone’s home in the US.