Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kick in the head

When next in Thailand be sure not to insult your host by touching their head with your foot, socks, or shoes. For to place a shoe over the head of another or touch their head with the offending appendage would be a complete insult. Some Muay Thai boxers will show disdain for an opponent by "kicking" their head with their foot. It is usually the shin that the Muay Thai boxer kicks with. It is also customary to remove shoes when entering a house in Asia, Eastern Europe, parts of the Middle East and Africa, much of Northern Europe, Canada, and Alaska. The reason does vary form place to place but the overwhelming similarity is shies are considered dirty (physically as well as metaphorically). In the Midwest of the US, home visitors are expected to remove their shoes unless the host specifically invites them to leave their shoes on. For some societies, including those in Asia, indoor footwear may be provided for guests. In the Middle East, parts of Africa, Korea and Thailand, it is considered rude to show the soles of the feet to others. Shoes have been around for a very long time and Spanish cave drawings from more than 15,000 years ago show humans with animal skins wrapped around their feet and the well-preserved "ice-man" (dated to 3,000 BC) wore leather foot coverings stuffed with straw for insulation. The evolution of the humble foot cover, from thong to the present-day specialized footwear reflects the amalgam of invention, craft, engineering, and style. In that time however the surprising thing is the shoe has changed little from the moccasins that started the whole movement. Absolutely true we can traverse more hostile terrain for longer periods thanks to our shoes but in truth a shoe is a shoe is a shoe. Comparisons between cultures defy Kipling’s description that “East is east, and west is west,” and the similarities in shoe styles are just so apparent.

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