“This was an honest mistake on an early morning… never, ever would I intentionally try to offend anyone like that. I am so sorry ..”
Bella had posted photos to her Instagram Story showing off her shoe at the airport. In the background of the photo, airplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with the countries’ flags could be seen.
From the angle the photo was taken, it appeared as if her boot(which she seemed to be showing off on the picture), was kicking the flags as the sole of her shoe was directly facing the flags.
Millions of people(not just Muslims, Middle East or Arab countries), but also people who understand international etiquette found her post very insulting and completely contemptuous.
The 22 year old celebrity responded swiftly and pulled down the post, she also posted a lengthy apology to her Instagram Story, which in part, reads, “The photo of my shoe on my story yesterday had NOTHING to do with politics…I never noticed the planes in the background and that is the truth. I would never mean to disrespect these airlines, let alone these amazing countries “.
While the American super model’s fans have long accepted her apology and forgiven her, others are yet to accept her apology and are calling on the brands she represent to drop her or forgo their patronage. Some tweeted that it’s inexcusable for an international celebrity of her calibre to be unaware of certain international ethics.
In case you’re also wondering the uproar behind what would be termed as a mere picture; Yes! it’s true, that displaying the soles of the feet doesn’t come across as a good gesture.
As a matter of fact, a client I took on International Etiquette early last week called my attention to the #bellahadid incident. Showing the sole of your shoe has long been an insult in Arab culture and to hit someone with your shoe is perceived as even worse.
This is because the shoe is considered dirty, it is used on the ground and associated with the foot which is the lowest part of the body. Another perspective is that the feet are often sensed as unclean, particularly the soles of the feet. Showing your foot or the sole of your foot to an Arab is generally offensive.
The shoe is such an offensive symbol that it is discerned as culturally discourteous to cross an ankle over a knee displaying the sole of the shoe while chatting with someone. If the sole of your shoe is exposed unknowingly, it’s okay to quickly apologize and it will be understood that it wasn’t a deliberate act. However it could come across as truly negative if you notice the other person was uncomfortable and you still ignore concealing the soles of your feet or apologize.
In the Islamic religion, the shoe is also considered unclean, it is forbidden to wear shoes in mosques and believers must remove their shoes before praying.
It may interest you to know that showing the sole of your shoe is also considered impolite in many cultures. For instance, in some Asian and African cultures, it is a common practice to take off shoes before entering the house, just like in the Arab world.
Shoes are seen as dirty and hitting someone with shoes passes off as implying that the person is as dirty as the soil the shoes step on.
It is of great importance to have general knowledge of global etiquette, especially if you travel often. For instance, the most important of the international etiquette tips is to show respect for the culture of a people and what is important to another person.
There’s so much more to know on International Etiquette.