Important Dos and Don'ts in Laos
- The Laos greeting/hello is 'Sabai Dee' and nearly always said with a warm smile. Usually, this is accompanied with the 'Nop', which is pressing the hands together in a prayer like fashion, much like the Thai 'Wai'.
- Showing the bottom of your feet, touching someone with your feet, or relaxing with your feet raised up on the table is considered extremely rude in Laos culture... don't do it, ever. Feet are for walking or kicking a football.
- A cultural clanger often made by foreigners is touching the head of a Laotian, be that playfully or in a friendly gesture. This is extremely impolite, the head of someone else should not be touched.
- Dirty, smelly, unwashed backpacker types are frowned upon. Keep yourself clean and smart.
- Don't plod into someone's home with your shoes on, EVER!
- Physical displays of affection, kissing, even hugging in public is considered impolite. Respect the local customs and be discreet.
- Laos people are peace loving, avoid confrontation and speak with soft tones... you should do the same.
- Don't go to the temple bare chested and scruffy. Show some respect... dress neatly and conservatively. Don't go snapping pictures in the temple like a paparazzi... be discreet and ask if it's OK first.
- Women... you must not touch a monk or his robes. If you do so, he will have to spend ages ritually cleansing himself of the disgrace.
- DO NOT buy unexploded ordinance! Doing so encourages people to retrieve UXO but this is an extremely dangerous practice and kills many every year. Don't even touch it.
- Do not use illegal substances. As in most countries in the region, the consequences if you are caught are very severe.
In summary, use your common sense and be polite at all times. Respect local rules and customs and you will receive respect in return. It really takes very little effort to do as the Lao people do.
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