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How Can I Connect With Locals While Traveling in Laos?

May 1, 2019 Global Basecamps

Category Laos, Asia

 Featuring stunning scenery and culture and far fewer travelers than other parts of Southeast Asia, Laos tours will show you a beautiful place and its wonderful people. Connecting with locals can be a highlight of any international trip, especially in countries like Laos where traditional life remains strong. We love helping our clients connect with the locals in a culturally sensitive way that is meaningful and life-changing for everyone involved, so keep reading to learn more about how to do this well in Laos!

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Your attitude, presentation, interpersonal conduct

Start PlanningPoliteness goes a long way in this country of kind and welcoming people. Friendliness, patience and courtesy are of the utmost importance in Laos, and a smile will get you a long way. However, public displays of romantic affection - and conflict and displeasure! - are to be avoided, with serious matters tended to in private. Both men and women should dress conservatively, with long pants and dresses being standard in public while doing multi-activity tours. In informal settings like walking around markets, men can wear shorts, but women are best advised to stick to longer skirts.

If visiting temples or museums, men and women should both ensure their legs and shoulders are covered (no tank tops), and carrying a sarong-type wrap in one’s daypack is a good idea. Entry can be denied and great offense can be taken if these customs are not heeded!

English being a bit more rare in Laos than in countries like Thailand makes for a great setting to use basic greetings and establish rapport with new friends. Your guides will help you with meeting new people, of course!

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Managing the body

In many Southeast Asian countries, Laos included, the feet are considered a lowly part of the body, and the head, highly and holy. The foot is not to be pointed at others (while seated on the floor, for instance), so be careful when crossing the legs while seated that your foot does not end up in this position. The head of others, children very much included, is not to be touched! When entering a house, look for a collection of shoes at the entrance to determine if you should remove yours.

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Activities

  • General
    • Tipping for eating is optional but appreciated, and optional but encouraged for activities ($2/5USD half/full day for driver, $5/10 half/full day for guides)
  • Swimming
    • Men and women, note the style in which locals are enjoying swimming; doing so fully clothed is not uncommon and modesty is key, especially for women.
  • Eating
    • Washing hands before eating is standard, and the staple sticky rice is often eaten by rolling it into a ball with the right hand. Food is often eaten with a spoon (held in the right hand) and a fork, used to fill the spoon (held in the left hand).

Giving back to the community

Giving gifts like food, drink, or money directly to locals (especially giving sweets to children) creates dependency and is not appropriate, save for certain instances of giving certain helpful resources to low-income elders. Ask your guide about how best to donate to those in need; doing so through a local charity often being the best approach.

Laos tours are a splendid way to experience some of the best enduring culture of Southeast Asia, and special friendships with locals await. Learning about its culture and how to connect with its people will make your trip that much better, so keep learning, start planning your trip, and get ready to enjoy Laos!
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Tags: Laos, Asia