Dos and Don’ts in LaosAndrew Mason
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Lao people are friendly and quite accepting of others. Although most people won’t treat you badly or even draw attention to it if you offend them, showing your respect and appreciation for their hospitality by learning some traditional Lao customs can make a big difference to your overall experience. Most things are common sense, but there are also traditional Lao customs and habits that you should be aware of.
You should dress conservatively, especially around temples or other religious monuments. Men should always wear a shirt in public and women should avoid shorts and sleeveless shirts around holy sites. Make sure you remove your shoes before entering temples or private houses and place them neatly outside the doorway.
Buddha images are extremely sacred and must be treated with respect. If you have to touch them, handle with extreme care and never touch someone’s personal Buddha statue or amulet unless you are invited to do so. When sitting on the floor in a temple you must be careful not to point your feet at a Buddha image. Sit with your legs crossed or with your feet tucked to the sid with the soles pointing backwards.
Women must be careful not to touch monks as they are forbidden female contact. If a woman wants to give something to a monk it must first be given to another man or put on a piece of cloth. Monks have to be careful to observe this, even when interacting when their mothers and sisters.
Head and Feet
The head is believed to be very scared, whilst the feet are seen as unclean. Be careful not to touch anyone on the head and avoid touching them with your feet or pointing to things with your feet.
Sexual relations between people who aren’t married is actual illegal, and this extends to relationships between Lao people and foreigners. Public displays of affection such as kissing and holding hands can be offensive to Lao people, as is greeting them with a hug or kiss on the cheek.
You must carry your passport or ID document with you all the times as the fine for not producing it when asked can be very high. Lao people highly value personal hygiene and it is important to make sure your clothes are always clean as well.