Holiday Etiquette: Why You Shouldn’t Ask Your Guests to Take off Their Shoes

I don’t like taking off shoes when visiting people’s homes.  That’s one of my pet peeves.  But most of my guests visiting my home would voluntarily take off their shoes, and I had to tell people again and again to keep them on.  They do that because it’s a popular custom among Asians.   

Maybe you want your guests to feel more at home.  Maybe you live a new house and want to protect your new hardwood floor from scratching or your new carpet from staining.  Or Maybe your cultural upbringing is such that it’s customary and respectful to take off shoes when visiting other people’s homes.  No matter.  If it doesn’t violate your fundamental values or religious practices, please do not make your guests take off their shoes.  Why?

  1. Shoes are an integral part of the overall attire.  Sometimes the pants or skirts I wear depend on what shoes I put on.  For example, I may put on tight jeans or denim leggings for wearing boots but I don’t want to walk around anybody’s house wearing just leggings without my boots.  Other than the jackets or coats, you shouldn’t expect people to take off any part of their clothing.
  2. Some people may want to keep their shoes on as their socks may not match each other, are very old or unsightly, or have holes. 
  3. Some may prefer to keep their feet warm by leaving the shoes on. 
  4. It’s a hassle to bend over to buckle or tie the shoes when you have to juggle other things like your bag, umbrella, a food tray or a coat.  So make it easy for your guests. 
  5. You may live in a huge mansion, but if you have over 20 guests at a party with everyone taking off their shoes, you have a pile of unsightly mess at the door, which can also be a hazard in case people need to get out quickly. 
  6. Finally, when you expect people to take off shoes because you have a clean, beautiful home or brand new floor, it just makes you look very uncool.  If you are that concerned, you shouldn’t invite anybody over.  Really. 

So relax and tell your guests to come right in, like a gracious and fabulous host would.

Lily Qi: Mover and Changer

By: Jenny Chen

The original article can be found at

Rockville, MD – Lily Qi is no stranger to change. The Shanghai native has lived in West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and now Maryland. Over the years, Qi has served as head of multicultural affairs at American University, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at the DC Economic Partnership, spokesperson for the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, and Community Liaison for the Asian, Middle East and Near Eastern populations in Montgomery County, Maryland. But whether she was disciplining college students or drafting press releases, there’s one thing that’s held constant – Qi loves making connections.

A self-declared cultural broker, Qi is now drawing upon all her past experiences as the newly appointed Director of Special Projects in the Montgomery County Executive’s Office. Looking around at her new office, which is full of relics from the past – a mug from American University, where she earned her MBA, a porcelain cup from China, and photo from her days as a community liaison – Qi says that she feels like this is a reward for all the years that have passed.

But her path was not easy. Like any immigrant, Qi found her first couple of years in the United States extremely difficult. She not only had to learn English, but also the cultural idioms that are not written in any grammar textbook.

“You sort of lose your identities,” Qi said about being an immigrant in a new country. “I have been working very hard at small barriers.”

Qi says that Asian Americans have just as much responsibility to fight stereotypes as do mainstream figures. She says that it is up to Asian Americans to show the greater public that they are above stereotypes.

Perhaps it is because of her immigrant experiences that Qi became a strong community activist.

“I don’t want to feel like a guest. I am a U.S. citizen. I want to be plugged in…in order to feel more grounded,” Qi said.

This desire propelled her into her latest position. When Qi heard about a new project to convert an old farm on Muddy Branch Road into a Life Sciences complex, Qi recognized it as a project that Asian Americans should rally behind – and she made it her mission to make sure they do. She took to the streets to encourage Asian American residents to pressure their elected officials to vote for the project.

“This is why they came here in the first place,” Qi said. “My point is not to teach them about what to say but they have to care,” Although the project received very strong opposition by those concerned about pollution and transit problems, by the time the County Council took a vote, every council member was for the project.

Qi’s single minded tenacity is not lost on those who work with her.

“She’s one of the most diligent people I’ve ever met,” said Michael Stevens, the Vice President of the DC Economic Partnership. Stevens and Qi worked together for four years to recast DC from a political center to a business center. “She was always well prepared. She was a great strategic thinker.”

Qi’s support of the life sciences center fell right in line with the county’s own development strategy and in 2011, she was appointed by County Executive Isiah Leggett as Special Projects Manager. Her special project? The life sciences project which is now dubbed as the Great Seneca Science Corridor.

Her vision is to make the area the number destination for science and health research. “No one has the FDA. No one has NIH. No one has NIST. It would be a shame for us to sit on all our assets and not benefit the world,” Qi said.

As Manager of Special Projects, Qi is poised to oversee radical change in the area. For example, Qi facilitated a deal between the Chinese pharmaceutical company, Tianshili and Johns Hopkins. Tianshili will be the first traditional medicine company approved by the United States FDA.

Many in the Asian American community appreciate Qi’s efforts to engage the immigrant community in local affairs. Qi is a rare face, as a Chinese born activist and who rose in ranks not through science or technology but by her sheer ability to communicate in her second language.

“If you go to any majority activity that is not an ethnic activity, you will have to look closely to see any Asian Americans. It’s not proportional to our presence here, which is 12-13% of the population. If we are not there, there will be a misconception about whether or not we are really interested in being part of the community,” said Michael Lin, former President of the Organization of Chinese Americans. Lin worked with Qi while she was President of the DC Chapter. Lin says that her presence continues to bring unique perspectives to the community as a whole and pushing reluctant immigrants into participating in their new home country.

“If a vacancy comes up, I’d encourage her to run for elected office,” Lin said. And although he was laughing, if there’s one thing that’s certain when it comes to Lily Qi, it’s that change is always in the air.

Asian and Middle Eastern Liaison Position Opening

The application deadline has passed. 

After three and half years serving as the Asian and Middle Eastern Liaison of Montgomery County, Maryland, I was appointed this past summer by County Executive Ike Leggett as Special Projects Manager to work on several Countywide initiatives including biohealth industry growth strategy and international partnerships. 
Being a community liaison was tremendous amount of hard work, requiring, but I was infinitely enriched by that experience and consider that one of the best jobs I have ever held.  I connected with many different communities and learned about their cultures and religions in ways I would have never thoughtful possible.  If you are passionate about people and cultures, I highly recommend that you consider applying. 
Being a community liaison means you are an advocate on behalf of your communities inside the government, a connector of people and resources in many different ways, an advisor to anyone seeking your insight on things related to your community, an educator about community dynamics to help others understand the new communities, and a problem solver who is a trusted point of contact for anyone in the community who seeks you out for help.  Here are a few more of my observations about this job and the desired attributes/qualities/skills that might be helpful to you if you’re interested:

  • A high energy person who can work on evenings and weekends for numerous community events and meetings on behalf of the County government;
  • An excellent writer who can produce greeting letters, proclamations, certificates requested by communities year round and prepare speeches and talking points for the County Executive on special occasions;
  • An effective public speaker who can make spontaneous or prepared remarks on behalf of the government and the County Executive for various ethnic and cultural communities
  • A culturally sensitive and astute person who is willing to learn and able to adapt to different norms and dynamics while maintaining professional neutrality and a healthy balance as a facilitator and mediator of all interest groups and parties
  • A good listener who can bring people together to work towards the common goal and understand each ethnic community’s unique needs as well as identifying common issues and opportunities. 
  • Most importantly, this person has to be an effective and strategic connector that introduces and recommends community leaders and community resources to the larger community that is eager to learn about and connect with the many different communities. 

Below is the position announcement:

The Community Outreach Manager job (IRC 7120) was posted on November 1. Applications are due by Friday, November 18 (see link below) with a start date projected to be January 2, 2012. This is a merit-based position with benefits that will expire on December 31, 2014. Continued employment in this position beyond December 31, 2014 is contingent upon action by the County Executive elected in November of 2014. The position is one of three full-time positions working as a team under the supervision of the director of the Office of Community Partnerships within the newly established Community Engagement Cluster.

The three major areas of responsibility are: (1) community outreach and engagement with the County’s Asian populations; (2) community outreach and engagement with the County’s Middle Eastern populations; and (3) leadership role promoting and ensuring compliance with County, State, and Federal language access policies and procedures.

Bilingual applicants in Asian and Middle Eastern languages are encouraged to apply. Minimum qualifications include: Bachelor’s Degree in Public or Business Administration or related fields and extensive (seven years) professional administrative experience in the areas of public relations or program management in community outreach or public policy.

For a more detailed description of the areas of responsibility and preferred criteria,

Deadline is November 18, 2011.


Learning to be Thankful

Thanksgiving marks the psychological, if not the official, beginning of the annual holiday season, a season of reflection and appreciation. We take the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year, to spend more time with those who matter to us the most, those who have helped us or enriched our lives, and those we feel somewhat obligated to be kind to or show appreciation for. It is a busy season marked with dinners, parties, gifts and cards.

But it is one thing to engage in acts of appreciation, and quite another to truly feel thankful for life’s many blessings. Being thankful is an acquired quality or attribute. In other words, we learn to be thankful.

I grew up in an unusual Chinese family where my dad, especially, would say “thank-you” or “I am sorry” to us when he felt necessary to do so. I didn’t know how special that was until I realized how few families did that in China, where family members were taken for granted rather than treated with the same courtesy and gratitude as others.

While being kind to those who are kind to us, or reciprocity, was emphasized in our culture, being thankful for something beyond our control, or what some call life’s simple gifts, was unheard of. We would simply call that good fortune, I guess. I was first introduced to that concept of being thankful by a very nice and deeply faithful student while in college. We were talking about religion and beliefs one day, when he asked, “Have you ever felt grateful for something in life…like your family, your life and your talents?” I was caught off guard but fascinated by his thinking and mindset. That conversation left a lasting impression on me because it made me look myself in a different light and reevaluate my attitude towards life.

But it was a tragic death of another college friend that shook me to my core and offered an unforgettable lesson of what it means to be grateful. A student I had befriended was killed in a bicycle accident while studying abroad in China. At his memorial service back home in Indiana, I met his parents, who lost their only son. I felt terrible and even somewhat guilty because he and I had talked about his desire to study in China and of course, I had encouraged him. Mark’s father said, in the most loving way, “We are grateful that Mark got to do what he loved to do before he died. He had always wanted to study in China. Thank you for being his friend.” I was profoundly moved by that unexpected expression of grace.

Being thankful is a show of both strength and humility, and an expression of maturity and wisdom. Looking back, I wish I were more thankful when my son was young and totally dependent on our love and care. I wish I were more thankful for my mother’s sacrifice when she left her job as a music teacher in China to care for my son for almost a year when he was born. And I even wish I were more thankful for some of life’s setbacks because they made me more resilient, resourceful and appreciative.

In a culture that rewards competition over collaboration, being thankful lets us see the big picture—which is, none of us can do it alone. Most things in life require either help from others or what some may call an act of the divine spirit. In a world that is filled with problems and conflicts, being thankful gives us sanctuary and hope. In the stress of everyday life, being thankful fills our hearts with joy and peace.

Thanksgiving forces us to slow down, enjoy the company of our family and friends, and reflect on the many blessings in life. I am thankful that having lived in two very different cultures makes me a more insightful and interesting person. I am thankful to Asian Fortune and its founder and publisher, Jay Chen, for giving me the opportunity to share my cultural experiences and lessons learned. And I am thankful to those of you who have chosen to read my column and have even written to share your experiences and make that special connection with me. Thank you.