Monday, March 31, 2008

No Shoes? Uh, wha?

[This will be the first in a series of posts regarding cultural differences between Canadians/North Americans and Kiwis, as perceived by me and Travis]

In Canada it is almost unheard of to walk around barefoot. Our climate, for one, ensures that we are sufficiently shod all year round.

Four years ago when I visited my sister in Auckland I made a startling discovery within an hour of arriving. In them mall, where Janci worked, I said to her, "Are the parents here neglectful? Why are those children not wearing any shoes in the mall!!!" She informed me that it was quite common to go around barefoot in New Zealand. "It's a beach culture," she said. I had never been anywhere that allowed people in public areas, such as malls or restaurants or grocery stores, to enter with no shoes. I thought, before I leave I have to try this "barefoot thing." I did. One day, after spending the afternoon on a soggy beach, my sandals were covered with so much sand I decided to leave them in the back of the car while I went grocery shopping. I have successfully made a trip to the supermarket and the beer store in bare feet. I don't recommend visiting a beer shop in bare feet... the walk-in coolers make standing very uncomfortable.

I'd love to be able to go around barefoot all the time. I believe living on a farm in rural Saskatchewan has made my feet really wussy. You NEED to wear shoes on the farm! You don't want to cut yourself or step on a nail. It could have detrimental effects to go barefoot on the farm. However, I have done it on a couple of occasions in Saskatoon: I attended 2 football practices with no cleats or shoes on (and it felt SO nice on my feet); and one day I had too many blisters on my feet from my sandals I was forced to walk along Meewasin trail barefoot (not as comfortable, and quite dangerous since there was broken glass everywhere).

I read an article today in the New Zealand Herald about kids wearing shoes for cross-country events. In a nutshell, the article discussed the possibility of making it mandatory for kids to wear shoes for phys ed classes and track and field events.

At first, this seems like a great idea! Make sure those little feet are protected! But, remembering how nice it felt to play football barefoot on grass I am not as inclined to be so "pro-shoe" as I have been in the past. People who have played sports with me, or have heard me complain about my feet, might find my change of perspective unusual. I would like to have the ability to feel comfortable barefoot... or at least in flat sandals, which are almost a uniform in this country.

One thing that barefootedness avoids is the need to be fashionable and spend money unnecessarily on expensive brand name shoes. Unfortunately, for me, I will still spend money on running shoes. :(

To read more about barefoot culture, here's a wiki article about "barefootedness."

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