Laos is a special Asian country which is well known for its sleepy and laidback lifestyle as well as unique social etiquette and custom. Here are some typical Lao lifestyle and customs you should know to keep you from embarrassing yourself and others. A Laos trip, You are not only soaked in the beautiful landscapes, but you have also discovered the rich traditional customs. Now, enjoy reading!
Friendliness of Laotian
Lao people are super friendly, you can easily run across a local with a warm “Sabaidee!” and charming smile or a little boy peeking out from behind his mother’s sinh with a grin on his face. The friendliness of locals make foreigners and travelers feel very welcome in the Lao PDR.
Bo Pen Nyang Lifestyle
Setting your foot on the laid-back Vientiane capital or any town throughout the country, tourists can feel the “bo pen nyang” lifestyle. There’s a joke saying that Lao PDR stands for “Lao People Don’t Rush”. This lifestyle is something to love about Lao culture. Therefore, take a load off, relax, it’s nothing.
Laotians focus on their family and prioritize people over profits. Although Laos is on the list of the “least developed” category, the Lao family unit remains resilient. You can see many extended families with several generations living together, sharing the work, and living communally in this country.
Food is Foremost
In Lao culture, food is foremost. If you run across a Lao friend, the first thing he/she says is “Have you eaten yet?”. Laotians often eat with their hands, dishes will be served together on a silver or rattan tray and the family sits on bamboo mats to partake. A basket of steamed sticky rice is an indispensable dish of a meal in Laos. Take a ball in your hand and dip it into the laap, bamboo soup, or spicy dips and enjoy.
Buddhist Customs in Laos
You should take off your shoes and leave umbrellas outside before entering a pagoda, shrine, or temple in Laos. You also need dressing neatly, removing your hat, and wearing clothing that covers knees and shoulders. It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around a temple compound. But when you enter the chapel, you must remove them. At some temples, if a woman wears shorts or a short skirt entering the temple, she will be required to put on Lao skirt as another layer before going into the place.
Eating Customs in Laos
Lao people eat with a fork in the left hand and a spoon in the right hand. When eating sticky rice, Laotians often eat with the fingers of the right hand. Unlike people in many Asian countries such as Vietnam or China, Laotian don’t eat with chopsticks. They often eat with their hands so they always wash their hands before eating.
Home Customs in Laos
In Laos, it’s so rude to enter someone’s house with dirty shoes. In some shops, you also will be required to take off your shoes before entering the inside. Therefore, you should avoid wearing shoes with laces when you’re shopping. Laotians are super hospitable, therefore, you can be invited in for a short time and offered a snack and a drink. However, Laotians are somewhat reluctant to invite foreigners to stay at their house for the night because the government and police frowning on such practices.
Other Things You Should Know About Laos Lifestyle & Customs When Visiting Laos
In Lao culture, the head is the most sacred part of the body and the feet are the least scared. Therefore, it’s really rude when you touch the other person’s head. Lao people think that the left hand is dirty because it’s associated with toilet duties. You should use two hands or the right hand when giving an object to someone. Do not place the books on the floor or slide across a table.
- Nop is considered the most formal greeting in Laos. Join your hands together in a praying gesture at chin level and say “sabai dee”. In casual circumstances, you can shake hands. Check out our article Greeting & Etiquette in Laos to know more about the way Laotians say hello to other people.
- When waiting in line, Laotians often push and shove to get to the head of a line.
- Laotians often talking gently and avoid confrontation. Therefore you should avoid shouting or raising your voice in Laos.
- You should ask for permission before taking a photo of someone.
- Kissing and hugging in public is impolite. Please be discrete.
- Please do not distribute gifts to children because Laotians think that it encourages begging, give to an established organization or village elders instead.
- Taste mouthwatering Lao food whenever you can because it helps local businesses and Lao farmers.
With the useful information above, hope you have great Lao tours!