“Best of…” 1997-a

From: D.

Subject: Barefooters paradise

Date: Jan 1997

After being back home from sunny New Zealand, I would like to tell you more about bare feet down there on the other side of the world.

The Newzealanders have a total different lifestyle, specially in terms of bare feet. In every city there are lots of barefooters. Most of them do not care about weather conditions. It often rains and it is wonderful to see wet footprints on the sidewalk which you can compare with your own ones.  Was it a woman or a man, how old was he? You see people of all ages and races walking barefoot, men and women, and many children.  You can see families on their weekend shopping tour, father, mother, two children, all barefoot.

The natives of NZ are the Maoris, nice Polynesian people who have a tradition of going barefoot. Today they are a minority in the Society, but their cultural influence is alive. And I think it is because of them – being so natural – that the European Immigrants during the years developed a different attitude towards bare feet, which nowadays is visible in a barefoot lifestyle.

In Europe and also in America, the Society is against bare feet. Bare feet are only accepted at the beach or in bed, but not in the street or on trains.

In New Zealand it is different. You have two possibilities which are both accepted the same, either you go barefoot or you wear shoes, its total tolerance.

And also the fun to get nice black soles seems to be fun for a great range of people. I saw a lot of them, specially young people with fair hair and bright skin, which parents were immigrants from Ireland, England, and all over Europe.

It really hurts my heart to see, that some young Maori Boys start to wear sneakers only as a status symbol, influenced by the nike- and addidas-mafia, probably they even do not like to wear them.

The Maoris have more social pressure to be accepted in the white society.  Perhaps it is also because of that. Somehow similar to native Indians in the USA and Canada.

Many of the older Maoris look as they would never wear shoes wherever they go. Right they are.

In the city of Auckland I made an interesting observation. There is a lot of glass in all the streets and on the sidewalks, glass from broken bottles, broken car windows etc.

I myself looked carefully where to step. As you may know, not the big pieces are the problem, but the very small ones, which you do not see and which get between your toes. I had at least three of them in my soles, but they did not hurt me, they only stuck in my tough and rather thick sole and I could remove them without a problem.

I saw a lot of barefoot people in these streets, young students and teenagers.  And I also saw parents walking with their barefoot children in the same streets.  Nobody seems to be afraid of all this glass. They live with it as something which is normal, no reason to wear shoes because of that. One small irrelevant risk in their life, which even does not kill them, and a problem only for unconditioned soles, and people who do not look where they step.  Their soles must really be tough and callused.

The barefoot lifestyle  here exists. I was fascinated.  If children have the chance to grow up most of the time barefoot, they are not afraid when their own children later go barefoot, and most important, they do not develop negative feelings against bare feet. And the fact that there are no poisonous snakes around in the fields also could be important for the development of such a barefoot culture.

If you do not want to be recognized as a tourist in NZ, just go barefoot, and every body thinks you are a Newzealander, so happened to me, pleasant, is it not?

I have seen a lot of interesting things in terms of foot-culture.  Much more people than in Europe wear ankle-braclets or toe rings, and not a few of them are men. Once I have seen a student with tattoos on his  toes.

It seems, that also this kind of foot fashion is an influence of the Polynesian culture, where tattoos and piercings belong to the tradition as well as bare feet.  I myself normally only wear one toe ring on my left second toe. Now I have another one on my little toe, thats fun.

I have also noticed a few negative reactions against bare feet. All of them were argued with some kind of anti-barefoot (phantom?) law.

First time was in a bar in Christchurch, where the waiter told me that it is illegal to be barefoot in a bar or a restaurant.  Before and afterwards I visited many bars, restaurants and hotels without any comments. Then I had a another bar where they told me the same story. Of course I had no shoes with me and I stayed for another drink, they let me do it.

The third time was at the Airport when I passed the gate to a domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland. The officer forced me to wear my flips. Afterwards I left the plane barefoot without any reaction.

I have the feeling that specially in a country where a barefoot lifestyle is obvious, certain -very conservative thinking and narrow minded- people try to invent laws and regulations against bare feet. I was happy when I recognized that most of the Newzealanders do not care about.

I was barefoot during the whole vacation. Only wearing my flips when boarding the domestic flight to Auckland and at the customs immigration on arrival in NZ. All other flights I boarded barefoot, including the intercontinental flight with Air NewZealand from Frankfurt to Auckland. In Frankfurt I even had a little small talk about my bare feet with the woman at the gate. She asked me if it was more comfortable for me without shoes, and I asked her if it was allowed. She said yes no problem.

Now I am back home, and I started to dream of that lovely Barefoot-Paradise. When will I have the chance to go back?

It was about 10 degrees C below zero, when I arrived in Zurich, and I had some difficulties to explain the taxi driver that I was not cold, only wearing flips.