Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Barefoot in Sydney

Whether or not pedestrians in any given nation/area wear shoes usually depends on wealth. Residents of rich countries generally wear shoes in public whereas those in poor nations often don't. Until very recently, Mickey and I believed that we had only lived in countries belonging to the former, shoe-wearing subset of nations.

But I've come to realize that Sydneysiders buck the shoe-wearing-in-developed-nations trend. Indeed, Australians are a rugged, adventurous sort of people who simply will not be bound by conventional foot protection.

Sure walking around barefoot in public makes a bit of sense in beach suburbs; you've just emerged from the surf and sand, forgetting the flip flops is okay. But what going barefoot further inland? What about going barefoot outside a beach suburb in a season that isn't summer? I've witnessed women going barefoot in precisely these circumstances and I must say I found the lack of shoes not charming, but alarming.

One woman emerged from a train barefoot at about 8:15am. Though I might describe her hairstyle as 'free' or 'untamed,' she certainly wasn't homeless. Likewise, I recently spied a woman walking barefoot to the post office near my office. I was shocked because a) my office is nowhere near a beach, b) my office is in fact clustered among other highrises in what you could call a corporate suburb and c) it's winter here! What letter needed posting with the sort of urgency that would cause one to leave her shoes at the office?

On another note, Mickey and I recently slipped on a type of footwear that we never imagined we'd need in Sydney: ice skates! Margaret, our circle of friends' own little Kristi Yamaguchi, organised an outing to what has to be one of Sydney's only rinks. Though we couldn't mimic her spins, we did get into the spirit of winter.