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Topic: Living room etiquette for different cultures
Message: Posted by: Jay Ward (Oct 22, 2009 06:25PM)
Just curious how other magicians cater to different cultural norms when performing at someone's house for birthdays and such. For example, in Indian culture, everyone takes off their shoes before entering the house. What are your opinions on whether we as performers should also remove our shoes, etc.?
My answer is No, I don't. I always perform my show in shoes. I've done lots of Indian parties, many booked from previous parties. I've worn my shoes for every one except 1 (my first). It has never bothered anyone as far as I know. I don't intend to change my policy, but I'd love to hear other opinions and experiences.
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Oct 22, 2009 07:03PM)
You are a guest in their home. If you know anything about the Indian or a lot of other Asian cultures, you would know that it would be a huge insult not to take the shoes off.
They may not say anything out of politeness, but trust me they notice.
I live in a very multi-cultural city and I try to be aware of and follow those cultural norms.
Message: Posted by: magicone (Oct 22, 2009 07:55PM)
I do a lot of parties for families from India and I always take my shoes off. I make my three trips from the car and pile everything on the front steps then climb over the mountain of shoes :) while trying not to break my neck as I've got my large lefler case in one hand and my free standing case in the other.

I do this out of respect for the home owner and their culture. The way I see it, if their other guests are taking their shoes off it's the least I can do as the hired help.

People from these cultures mentioned are always overly friendly toward me and often offer me food of which I politely decline citing I have already eaten. Truth is I'm a picky eater (which you wouldn't be able to tell if you saw me!) I've heard that this can be an insult also.I'm not quite sure but I hate to take food if I'm not going to eat it.

Any feedback on the food decline question would be helpful :)
Message: Posted by: lin (Oct 22, 2009 08:42PM)
I can't speak to the question about food. But, as to the shoes, trust me, it is noticed if you do not remove your shoes in a house where it is the custom, and it is definitely not appreciated no matter what may be said.
Message: Posted by: Ryan Price (Oct 22, 2009 08:49PM)
I take my shoes off 90% of the time no matter what culture. Half the year we are covered with a thick layer snow (ask Ken Scott) so of course the only option is to either pack another pair of shoes or to take them off. The other half of the year I follow what the other guests do. If the shoes are off mine come off too.
Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (Oct 22, 2009 10:22PM)
Yo eva left ol Bama there Jay? I'm guessin not!

I lived in Asia for almost 20 years and everyone takes their shoes off when entering homes. Mainly because they don't want to drag in the dirt and germs that are picked up outside from people spitting on the ground and the trash they walked through.

As the others have already mentioned, they may not say anything, but they sure do notice.

Message: Posted by: Jay Ward (Oct 22, 2009 10:46PM)
Great to hear the feedback so far. Very valid points. No need to be mean there JoJo. I don't live in 'Bama btw. And not a lot of spit and trash in my clients' yards I'm pretty sure. But what if the shoes are a part of the costume, such as clown shoes? Does that change anything?
Message: Posted by: MrGreggy (Oct 22, 2009 11:28PM)
I think it's best to just wear regular slip on shoes when booked for an indian party, so it's easier to take them off at the door. As for eating the food that WILL be offered... eat it. Not to is very insulting to them. Even if it's a small serving, eat. I enjoy doing the indian parties because I love indian food, and there are always vegetarian choices.

On another point regarding cultures, in this case india, my experience has been that when they say there will be 15 kids, expect at least 40. That culture loves BIG parties and events, so plan for that.

One odd occurrence happened in the basement of an indian home. It was VERY hot down where I was setting up my show, and I noticed a strong smell in the air, that wasn't curry. In the room next to me were a dozen or more large pans of food with multiple flaming sterno warmers under each on, sending nasty fumes into the air. Then I noticed all the windows & doors were closed. This could be very bad, so I opened some windows which helped tremendously. In this case I felt no hesitation in adjusting the environment.

Also, be prepared for women holding food in their hands and "forcing" it into their children's mouths. When I first saw this, I was quite surprised and must have showed it, because many of the women laughed at my reaction and explained to me this was common in their culture.
Message: Posted by: Jay Ward (Oct 22, 2009 11:29PM)
I've been thinking this over further, and I think I finally know the right answer to this. The main reason I don't like removing my shoes is that they make my show safer. If on carpet, it's fine. But on hardwood floors, as a large man in socks with a very active show, I'm concerned about slipping and hurting myself.
So the answer is to specifically address that concern with the client when booking the show to make sure everyone's expectations are met. They can provide an area I'm comfortable being shoeless, or understand why I'm wearing them. Addressing it upfront would show that I am familiar with the culture and should eliminate any chance of insult.
Message: Posted by: lin (Oct 22, 2009 11:49PM)
Dude, nobody should be insulted if you're not familiar with their culture. Just addressing your concerns and showing that you want to respect people's traditions in their homes should be just fine.

Some families have special slippers they wear indoors, some wear socks, and some wear designated, indoor-only, shoes. If you want to cover all the bases, get yourself a new pair of shoes, and when the occasion comes up again, ask if it's ok if you bring your own indoor-only shoes. Worst case scenario: when you need a new pair of shoes, you've already got 'em. Then, go buy another ;) --Oh, and always wear clean, hole-less socks.
Message: Posted by: Jay Ward (Oct 23, 2009 12:00AM)
Thanks lin. Excellent advice! Having options and being prepared definitely shows professionalism. And you had me at Dude!
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Oct 23, 2009 05:36AM)
I carry a pair of soft sole slippers in my balloon bag because I perform for a lot of Asian and Indian families in my area. I also perform for many upper income families with very expensive carpets who often will not ask me to remove my shoes, but clearly prefer it. Their grateful smiles are a great compliment when they see me switching shoes and the positive word-of-mouth compliments are worth the slight trouble. The soles are a soft rubber slip-resistant material that leaves no marks and keeps me from sliding. They pack small and look good. They have a well-known brand name, but it slips my mind at the moment.

As for the food, I personally do not like curry and Indian cuisine. I learned long ago that refusing to eat can be a major insult in some cultures. I generally beg off citing time restraints for my next party - whether I have one or not. If they insist (and the nearly always do) I will graciously accept a plate to go and, frankly, dispose of it at my earliest convenience. I hope that the act of cheerfully accepting their offer is sufficient.

In my thank you note, I always express how delicious everything was and thank them for their generosity as hosts. Word-of-Mouth is huge in these cultural groups and we must be careful not to offend if we hope to keep their business.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Oct 23, 2009 06:06AM)
Because of the "smell" of a super clean, all non-smokers, culturally different than I am accustomed, I did not do my Wiz-Kote. I felt the smoke might be received as a "questionable" act in their house. This is why I have extra tricks in my cases. By the way, the "spinning wheel" was well received by the adults.
Message: Posted by: Jay Ward (Oct 23, 2009 11:59AM)
The extra pair of shoes that you and lin suggest is really a brilliant idea. I'm so glad I posted this now. It was so worth being called a country bumpkin. Now I kin git-r-dun! Yeah Skip, I don't like Indian food much either, and it doesn't like me either-at all. I usually say I have a restricted diet which is true, or that my girlfriend is expecting me to take her out to a restaurant tonight.
Message: Posted by: alexa (Oct 23, 2009 12:06PM)
I like the idea of a second pair of shoes as well. I cannot perform in a dress without my heels, it's custom made and tailored to the height with shoes on. But I could have an indoor-only pair.
Message: Posted by: jackturk (Oct 23, 2009 02:46PM)
Every time I arrive at the party and see a huge pile of shoes by the door, I just ask the host/hostess how they would like me to proceed -- should I take off my shoes
or is it okay to leave them on?

I prefer to remain shod, but I'll always respect their wishes.

Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Oct 23, 2009 03:18PM)
I do the exact same thing as Jack. I ask, and listen.

When it is snowing, I don't wear my tuxedo shoes when travelling, but I wear boots. I change my footwear at the door, in that case.

- Donald
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Oct 23, 2009 04:06PM)
I agree, it is noticed whether you take off your shoes or not. They will look kindly upon you if you honor their customs…and just maybe show their appreciation with a tip.

However, I cannot bring myself to stay and eat their food for several reasons. By the way my client almost insists I eat, I suspect this may even be worse than not taking off my shoes.
Message: Posted by: Jay Ward (Oct 23, 2009 05:51PM)
Jack and Donald -when you ask about shoes, what are the usual responses? Is it about 50/50?

Ken, I received tips from the last 2 parties for Indian families without removing my shoes. Granted, both shows were in basements which I entered from the basement door never entering the main part of the house.
Message: Posted by: jackturk (Oct 23, 2009 07:05PM)
Actually, in cases where there is a pile of shoes... and if I see the adults without shoes, it's pretty much 70/30 take mine off too.

And if I ate all the food I've been offered I would have gained far more weight than I have... !!! I do accept a bottled water or bottle of juice when it's pushed, mainly
because I think people genuinely want to be gracious.

Message: Posted by: A Birthday Magician (Nov 21, 2009 04:53AM)
Yes I have done shows and been asked to remove my shoes..it is totally odd to me but I do it out of respect for the host...not to do so could be classed as an insult to them.
Message: Posted by: magicone (Nov 21, 2009 10:51PM)
Just did a party for a family that was from the Philippines. Pile of shoes at the door, no one wearing shoes at all including the guests.

Took mine off a usual and not only was the family very gracious offering food and drink but they also tipped me $50

The tip may not have been the direct result of me taking my shoes off but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
Message: Posted by: Wes Holly (Nov 22, 2009 05:00PM)
I really don't like eating in front of the clients and their guests. Most westerners are usually offering food out of politeness and will accept a polite decline. You/I have to learn which cultures/peoples will be taken aback if you refuse an offering of food. They might be used to it and not hold it against you, but it is easier & better to accept a small portion.

So, just like the shoes, you are a guest in their home. It is best all around to make an attempt to accommodate their customs. They will appreciate it. I am not Jewish, but will wear a hat when the party is in a temple.

-Wes Holly-
Message: Posted by: devlinn (Nov 22, 2009 05:33PM)
My Tux shoes are never worn outdoors.
When I arrive, I ask the host if I change my shoes and explain that I only wear them inside. I feel they "finish" my outfit.
I bought a shoe bag from a local golf outlet to store and transport them in (along with shoe trees and lint bags).

I can't imagine wearing my everyday shoes in someones home.

So far, no one has objected.
Message: Posted by: Joy Company (Nov 28, 2009 03:03PM)
Being an indian entertainer myself...here are my thoughts:

a) Take of your shoes, as the host will not ask you but expect you..they are sometimes relying on the non indian entertainer or even guest to comply with the cultural norms....also please note taking out of shoes has no religious connotations but is just for the sake of cleanliness. When I entertain at Indian homes, I wear colorful socks and something comfortable that can slip of easily.

b) many indian hosts find it cuturally offensive if you decline offer of food. I genrally donot like to eat at a function, so I accept a drink to satisfy the customer.

c) You would find at Indian functions that the adults have as much funas the children, so sometimes it would be great just to involve an adult or two.. this has got me many glowing comments from hosts.

finally if you make a good impression with and Indian family, you will be booked by the entire clan, so be sure to have a new repertoire as often you find many of the same guests attending.
Message: Posted by: Red Shadow (Nov 28, 2009 04:41PM)
I take of my shoes if requested by the client.

In regards to the food, this is a tough one, because I too hate most foreign foods. I also feel uncomfortable eating in front of the guests. In some ways, I see myself as a superhero - the magic man who can do the impossible. When the children see me doing 'normal' things, it ruins that image of me. I like to do everything possible so that the children see me as super-human.
I am also worried that the food they will give me will get knocked onto my costume and ruin it for the next show. If I do eat in costume, I often put my coat on to stop any spillage ruining it. But this isn't an option at the show.

In most circumstances, I ask that they wrap a plate up for me so that I can take it away at the end. I am always busy during my parties, even while the children are eating so I have no problem with looking out-of-place because I am always performing. There have been occasions when I've done 3 shows that day, without anything to eat and I wanted them to offer me food, but didn't. I'm also too polite to ask.

Message: Posted by: under6 (Nov 29, 2009 07:56AM)
Thanks to the posters here. I had my first show where I passed a pile of shoes at the door. I felt very uncomfortable about it, but I knew what to do - I took those shoes off. I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't seen this post. BTW, I did get a tip. Thanks!