There is a preference for removing shoes in Singapore, and I think it extends to most Asian cultures. I recall an article in The Good Weekend years ago about “Brothers” from the Mormons in Melbourne who were specifically targeting families of Asian heritage, and they would identify them by the pile of shoes outside the front door.
In the house we may or may not move into* there is a specially designed shoe cupboard inside the front door. Like a coat closet you see in cold climates, but for shoes. Even the housekeepers and concierge in this serviced apartment remove their shoes before entering an apartment, which must get annoying when you are in and out of apartments all day long!
At home I would take my shoes off inside and also remove them when asked if I went to someone’s house.
I’ve run foul of the ‘remove shoes’ rule in Singapore twice, that I know of. The first was in a clothing shop’s change room, where I was screeched at to take my shoes off before entering the cubicle. um…ok. So, I kicked them off and left them lying haphazardly. When I had finished trying on the dress (incidentally I am thrilled that maxi dresses here are the perfect length for me!) my shoes had been neatly lined up with the heels toward the change room, all ready for me to step in to. Kind of sweet, but I felt for the shop assistants who have to touch people’s sweaty shoes all day. Ick.
The other time was when I went for a pedicure and stepped up onto the little platform where the special pedicure chair up fully shod. Bless the lovely girl who was too polite to point out my cultural faux pas and quietly removed my shoes to the regular floor. Again, they were perfectly positioned for me to easily slip in to.
I’m not anti-shoe removal at all (although I am related to someone – by marriage – who is), I just find the little differences fascinating. I believe the expats mantra is “It’s not wrong, it’s just different”!
* that’s a story for another time, but I doubt I have the words to describe the hellish process we are undergoing trying to rent the house we picked out in April.