• Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Qatar!

    Qatar: Dhows in Doha Bay. Go Now!

    Qatar
    Although little more than a deserted peninsula, Qatar has a thriving culture based on technology and immigration, with Doha (pictured) taking the lead. Explore Qatar!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Social Life in Laos

Behavior

The Lao are somewhat conservative in most aspects of their lives partially due to their Buddhist faith, which preaches modesty. The people are also somewhat isolated so are not well aware of outside customs and traditions, meaning what you may consider normal, may be interpreted as offensive by the Lao. Fortunately, curiosity often trumps offence in the country and the people are rarely outgoing enough to question your poor behaviors.

The Lao people are proud and insulting them or putting a person down in anyway can be very offensive as the person will feel "shamed." In much the same way, the Lao will rarely give you critical advice or insult you in fear of "shaming" you. This is especially true in business. Turning down a business offer in the wrong way may, unknowingly, be an insult and could force your contact to feel so shamed that he will actually quit his job; if all hope is lost on a deal, allow your local counterpart to gracefully exit the situation so he can save "face."

Finally, try to avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, religion, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or getting noticeably drunk in public.

Dress

The Lao often dress in more traditional clothing, but in cities and among the younger generations this is slowly changing. In most cities the people wear western clothing, but in villages the dress is still more traditional. Most of these clothes are styles particular to a particular region, but there are also a number of similarities. For women, the dress tended to be colorful and usually loose-fitting on the bottom, but varied on the top as many dresses were tight and rarely were there long sleeves, if the clothes had any sleeves at all. For the men, the style and colors were similar.

As a visitor to Laos, there are few dress restrictions in the country. Although few locals wear shorts, there is no discourtesy involved in wearing them as this is a cultural trait, not a religious rule or cultural offense. Of course if you are visiting temples or other sights of particular religious importance you may be expected, or required, to cover up with long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Sunbathing naked or women sunbathing topless is rarely permitted; check with locals before doing so.

This page was last updated: November, 2013