More What Not to Do - Do Not Forget the Finken

The Swiss and their Finken (house shoes). A foreign concept. Let me shine a light on our confusion.

What causes Very Integrated People to shake their heads in astonishment? The Swiss and their Finken - alias house shoes. Let me be more precise. We foreigners are familiar with the concept of slippers; we simply wear them at home, hence the name "house shoes". Not the Swiss, they take tthem with them - everywhere.

On my first day at the bank, my boss, dressed in a pinstriped suit, greeted me. He stood with one hand on my desk, leaned against the corner, and took off his shoes as if it was perfectly normal. He casually fished something from a cloth bag – his house shoes. He chatted as he changed his shoes. I was dumbfounded. I thought to myself: "Does he come to the office to sleep?" You see, we Americans put on our slippers at the same time as our pajamas. If I had done the same thing in America, I would have been sent home or to a clinic.

Finken travel. They go to work, visit friends' houses for dinner, and tag along to ski huts, hotels, and even to schools. Why? I'm not sure, but I can imagine how this all started. The floors in the old houses were freezing. But today, most homes and buildings have the most gorgeous floor heating. Walking sock footed is like a home spa. I believe the main culprit is the threat to Swiss cleanliness.

Apparently, it is not possible to go outside without getting dirty shoes. How do we manage in the United States? We clean our shoes on the mat before going into the house, and the floor does not get dirty. If our shoes are filthy, we take them off and walk, aghast, in sock feet!



I want to warn parents of school-age kids; do not send your child to school without their Finken. This ranks relatively close to a crime. I know this because I have committed this offense. I made matters worse by asking, "Why do the children have to take off their shoes at school and put on Finken?"

"Because their shoes are dirty," the Hauswart explained.

"Yes, but if they clean their shoes on the mat outside the door, they're not dirty. And anyway, you clean the floor every day."

"Yes, but just imagine, their feet would get dirty."

I was perplexed. Are these the same kids that walk barefoot in the corral or run around the house in the snow barefoot? But I took pride in the fact that for once I could hold my tongue and simply said,

"Not if they would wear shoes."

She stared at me with a frustrated, stern look.

My tongue escaped its jailer. "What do I know, I come from a country with only 400 million people, and we do it differently."

"Exactly," she said confidently, "All of you have no idea, and besides - you live here now!"

Now, what could I say to that? If you have had a similar experience, we would love to hear it. Misery does love company.

 © Copyright Vicki Gabathuler March 2017



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