Japan: Going Shoeless at Work
We've heard about the habit in Asia of taking off shoes before entering the home, but in Japan, it's also common for professionals to kick off their stilettos when arriving at the office. They store their "outside shoes" in a vestibule, cubby or locker and change into inexpensive slippers to pad around the office and settle in at their desks. Being comfortable not only helps people to better focus on their work (and not the throbbing pain in their big toe), but, for women, it also helps eliminate calf and ankle cramps from wearing high heels. When you consider the amount of time we spend at the office, comfortable, under-desk slippers seem like a worthwhile investment. While Japanese and Americans are both infamous for their workaholic tendencies, Japan, like most other industrialized nations, has a law requiring employers to provide paid holidays—20, plus the country's 16 public holidays. In the U.S., where there's no law mandating vacation time (the consulting firm Mercer has found that the average tends to be 15 days), we enjoy only 10 public holidays—and only a few fall during months warm enough to go barefoot.