Most people put one in front of the other as a most basic way to get around, though they often come in handy to kick a ball, ride a bicycle or dance a jig — maybe even walk a tightrope. But in Asia, feet are far more than just the two pins that keep us upright and get us from A to B — they can lead people into a cultural minefield.
In India, touching another person’s feet is perceived as a sign of respect for their knowledge and experience, usually reserved for family elders and teachers and parents. Feet also play a prominent role in Indian wedding ceremonies.
During Hindu weddings in western India, the bride’s parents wash the groom’s feet. In eastern India, the bride dips her feet in a mixture of milk and a red dye before entering the groom’s house, leaving red footprints on the floor. Hindu and Muslim women decorate their feet with henna in the run-up to weddings, and Hindu brides traditionally wear toe-rings after the wedding to signify their married status. In Thailand, it is the opposite — feet are considered fine for walking, but that’s about it.
Perhaps the new expression will be “Kiss my feet!”