Saturday, November 7, 2009

The curious case of Polish slippers

kapcie 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 kierpceof 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 kapcie2kind 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 klapkibecause 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 Image017 (640x480) 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?

20 comments:

szczygielka said...

I just can't get in to the habit of wearing slippers at home - so now everyone thinks I don't have any, and I now have three pairs just from the last two months! When I ask why, they normally say the same as what you said - the floor is cold and you can get sick. Personally, I always thought if you don't want my feet to be cold, let me keep my shoes on!
I now have those little travel slippers you can buy for visiting friends' houses - so much easier than trying to refuse another pair of slippers! If only I ever remembered to take them...

Ewa said...

You know what really drives me crazy? When I get all dressed up,with shoes matching my outfit and then i go to my friend's house where I have to take my fancy shoes off! My outfit is ruined and I don't look so hot anymore because I'm 5 inches shorter.
But I like wearing slippers at home and I always bring a pair home from Poland. I love Zakopianki, the warm ones, with fur all around them. So pretty and cosy.

Chris said...

Szczygielka, I was thinking the same thing about the travel slippers-the ones that look like little ballet slippers-esp. for my brief visits to Pre-school. Maybe I should put them in the car? My m-i-l just bought me a spare pair of slippers for when I visit her. She cannot stand the thought that anyone in her home could be cold...or hungry.

Ewa, if I had your style (and your shoe collection) I too would be angry about my perfect outfit ruined. Once a very elegant lady came to my home for a lesson and insisted on taking off her oficerki only to reveal Tweety Bird ankle socks. You never know...
Have you converted your hubbie to your Polish ways of slipper-wearing?

Ewa said...

No way, he refuses to wear Zakopianki, not sexy enough for him!

Chris said...

Mmmmm, Zakopianki and black socks on a man...so hot!

b. said...

Don't worry Chris, the tradition continues outside Poland as well. I like wearing my own at home, but I will not consciously put on a pair that someone else wore. I am a freak in this way and my imagination runs wild. so I always stay in my socks. even on the stone cold floor :)))

and - my son (almost 14 now) doesn't even own a pair. all attempts failed...

Kasia said...

I don't like to wear shoes at home, and my feet get cold without slippers - even in the hot state of Texas. So - yes I have them, and I wear them!! My husband and my son do not.
You have brought back a memory of visits to the family, and my aunts/uncles/cousins pulling out slippers for everybody:)
I only worked in Poland for a year but I don't remember anyone wearing slippers.
I did see it at an office here - women wearing those ballet type slippers.
Who else is familiar with the word "laczki"? I wonder if this is only from Poznan area, or maybe just my family? Hopefully not!!

The Twisted Red LadyBug / Anda Alexandra said...

It's not that bad and it's not the only country that has this custom ;) the point is for everyone to feel very much at home :)

Suzie said...

Kasia, I grew up wearing laczki! Started to think we were the only ones who called slippers that, because everyone else calls them kapcie. My family was from Olsztyn.

Suzie said...

The intent isn't too ruin your outfit by having you put on slippers. It is respectful (on your part) not to track outside dirt and germs through the home where you are a guest by leaving your shoes on when you visit. Hence, your host offers you slippers to wear instead of shoes, so your feet will not be cold while keeping their home clean.

Suzie said...

The intent isn't too ruin your outfit by having you put on slippers. It is respectful (on your part) not to track outside dirt and germs through the home where you are a guest by leaving your shoes on when you visit. Hence, your host offers you slippers to wear instead of shoes, so your feet will not be cold while keeping their home clean.

Suzie said...

Kasia, I grew up wearing laczki! Started to think we were the only ones who called slippers that, because everyone else calls them kapcie. My family was from Olsztyn.

Julita Urban said...

I would love a pair of those slippers kapcie

wojobeada said...

We always wore slippers at home. My grandma had knit everyone multiple pairs. I miss my Polish grandma so much and wish I had her slipper knitting pattern in remembrance!

Chris said...

Kasia and Susie - I had never heard laczki before. Thanks for adding to my vocabulary! Google tells me that the word laczki is regional and is still commonly in use. Laczki should be without any coverage on the heel if I understand correctly. Is that right?

Ladybug- Yes, it's not just a Polish thing, but it's the first place I encountered such a strong slipper lobby. I saw a huge slipper-shaped bag for hanging on the wall to hold guest slippers. I'll snap a pic next time I see it 🙂

Julita- Where are you located? Perhaps I can help you find them on-line?

wojobeada- I often pass some older ladies selling their knitted wares, including slippers, on the street. If you're handy at knitting, Google this - kapcie na szydełku wzór. It's knitted slipper pattern in Polish, and hopefully you'll find something like your Grandma made. It'll be in Polish of course, but I think knitters understand each other without words 🙂

Kasia said...

Yes - laczki have no coverage on the heel:)

Julita Urban said...

I am near Chicago, I live in the northwest suburbs

Chris said...

Hmm, they must be available somewhere in the Chicago area. I will see what I can come up with.

Me said...

Laczki = lacie. Gdzie są twoje lacie? Górnośląski regionalizm?

Anonymous said...

My Polish aunt used to knit a slipper that covered the entire foot and give them out each Christmas. Does anyone know what they are called? I used to call them "butch-koodies" because I couldn't pronounce them right.