Everybody wants their country, their ways and customs, their laws and inhabitants, to be respected; Laotians too, have the right to expect tourists to have the correct attitude and behaviour towards their country.
Unfortunately, this is far from being the case.
[Extract from the booklet edited by the Lao National Tourism Authority 2004]
The rules to be respected are certainly strict, but easy to follow as they are almost identical to those in our own countries :
- You say hello by joining your hands. Sometimes, between men, there are handshakes. There is no kissing whatsoever.
- Women must never touch nor brush against a bonze. It is tolerated for men, but only if its unavoidable.
- Feet are a very inferior part of the body, and not just because they are on the ground, and the head is the most noble. Because of this, its very badly looked upon, to shut a door with your foot, or put your feet on the table. To kick your foot (and even more so, the sole) in somebody’s direction is considered very rude.
- Shoes are always taken off before entering anywhere.
- Because the people of Laos are always very clean, it is strongly advised to follow a faultless corporal hygiene, otherwise, you risk being very much less welcome than normal.
- Try and make sure that your head is always lower than those of the bonzes and elderly people. It’s a mark of respect that is very much appreciated.
- Dress yourself correctly, which means that you must always wear a bottom AND a top at all times, (except possibly at the waterfalls; although, Laotians bathe themselves almost completely dressed; see the Tatsé waterfalls).
- Due to their modesty, it is very impolite to kiss in public ; holding hands is tolerated, but even so, it is preferable not to do so in public.
- It is embarrassing for Laotians, who are very softly spoken, to come across people who speak loudly. It is also very badly looked upon to get excited and worked up, for whatever reason. A person who loses their calm also loses face : they are considered childish, being as they are incapable of controlling themselves.
- Ask permission, before taking photos. Laotians normally laugh a lot and are often honoured and proud to pose for photos.
- When you bring anything to a village, make sure you give it to the village chief and not distribute the presents yourself.
- Don’t buy any ancient representations of Buddha or any other Buddhist relics. It is completely forbidden and is liable to a heavy fine.
- Of course, you mustn’t let yourself be tempted by any drugs whatsoever (this is very heavily punished), don’t throw paper on the ground and always stay polite.
For more information, please refer to the Internet web-site of ecotourism in Laos
For rules of how to deal with Buddhism and the monk’s requests for alms in the morning, please refer to the required article.