Laos

Traditions & Customs

Traditions & Customs

Dress respectfully (long trousers, sleeved shirts) when visiting temples and take your shoes off before entering temple buildings and private houses.

As with other Buddhist countries, showing the soles of your feet is very poor manners. Never touch any person on the head. Despite prevalent cheap alcohol, being drunk is considered disrespectful and a loss of face.

Things in Laos happen slowly and rarely as scheduled. Keep your cool, as the natives will find humor in any tourist showing anger. They will remain calm, and venting your anger will make everybody involved lose face and is certainly not going to expedite things, particularly if dealing with government bureaucracy.


Buddhist monks

As in neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion in Laos, meaning that respect for monks is part of Lao life and that monks take their duties seriously. Monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by women. Therefore, women should place any offerings on a piece of cloth on the ground in front of a monk so he can pick it up. Monks are also forbidden from accepting or touching money, and offering money to a monk is considered to be disrespectful in the local culture. Should you wish to donate, you should only offer food to the monk. "Monks" who hang out at tourist spots soliciting donations, or those that accept money, are imposters. Monks are also not allowed to eat solid foods after noon, and will stop alms gathering before then. Some undertake a vow of silence, and will not answer you even if they can understand and speak English. It is best not to compel them to stand next to you for a photograph, or try to start a conversation if they seem reluctant.

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