Laos in particular requests visitors to show the proper respect when visiting their country. As with anywhere, visitors and locals alike should pay attention to basic rules of politeness. Making a good first impression will be greatly appreciated by the Lao people, who are often seen as shy and gentle. These quick tips are useful in ensuring the best cultural experience possible.
- Do not touch a monk. There are over 75,000 monks in Laos. They are highly revered and a sacred part of the Lao Buddhist tradition. They are people of honor and as such we are asked not to touch them or take their picture without asking.
- Ask before taking a photo. Having your photo taken is a personal matter and asking permission before you take a photo shows the proper respect. In asking first you will find you are seldom turned down.
- Do not shout. The people of Laos do not shout under most circumstances. You’ll find shouting actually gives you the opposite of the desired affect. Instead of paying more attention to you, the person you are shouting at will shy away and not want to be seen with someone making so much noise. They value quiet and peacefulness.
- Do not put your feet up. To show someone the bottom of your foot or shoe is a sign of disrespect.
- Do not touch people on the head. Buddhists and animists believe the soul resides on the top of the head, the highest point of the body. Touching someone there disturbs the soul and is a sign of disrespect.
Check out stories from our 2010 Laos tour.