In my observation, Polish people are crazy about slippers. When you visit someone not only is it customary as a guest to remove your shoes, but it seems to be customary as a host to provide some slippers for your guest, often taken still warm from your feet. Maybe this stems from the idea that in Poland your guest is king or from the fact that your living room area rug has to last you a lifetime. Once a VP from a big leasing company invited me to have a lesson in his home. I think it was a holiday or something. Anyhow, it was snowing so I insisted on taking off my dirty shoes and he promptly presented me with slippers, the paputki kind which resembled something that Santa’s elves would wear. I felt strange enough sitting in this guy’s home but in these paputki I felt ridiculous. Then his wife came home and shouted, “Gdzie są moje paputki?!” Yikes!
Slippers not only play a major role at home, but also at work. I remember that I first became aware of the importance of slippers in Poland when I was working in a high school teaching English. I noticed that all administration staff and cleaning staff wore slippers at work (and let’s not forget the all too sexy fartuch) as well as some teachers. I remember exiting the school one day with an absent-minded teacher who had forgotten to change from his slippers back into his shoes. He discovered that just as he planted his foot in a big puddle. Ooops!
Once when starting a new contract in a software company, I stepped off the elevator and straight onto beautiful, lush wall-to-wall carpeting. Not the typical office carpeting but the kind that you sink into when you walk across it and the kind that leaves different colored paths when you run the vacuum across it. I noticed some IT guys walking around wearing their IT uniform, sweater, jeans, slippers. Nothing new. But then I saw the managers in suits, men and women alike, all in slippers. After they showed me the conference room, kitchen, bathroom, copy machine and introduced me to my students, I inquired if I should bring slippers. They looked at me strangely and said no, but c’mon I’m just saying…
On TVN Style, a TV channel with programs directed to ladies I think, I watched an interview/talk show program about child abuse vs spanking. A well-known politician (so well-known that I cannot remember who it was) admitted to having spanked his daughter because she once again was not wearing slippers at home. The interviewer asked him if those slippers were worth spanking his daughter. He replied that it had been worth it because not only had she disobeyed him, but also she had exposed her feet to the cold making her more susceptible to illness.
That brings us to the slipper-wearing customs in our family, or rather lack of. I started wearing slippers just a few years ago. I had to buy some kind of slippers (and a robe) when I went to the hospital. After that I just started wearing them I guess because I had them. My children don’t have slippers so it was a bit of a problem to introduce this habit to our daughter before going to Pre-school. We let her pick out her own pretty slippers and problem solved, except she wants to bring them back home from Pre-school each and every day. At least we found a use for her worek (school sack). Parents have to take off their shoes before entering classroom, too. It is a problem for me. Have you heard about my sock crisis?