Lao Manners And Etiquette: 10+ Important Facts And Phrases

manners and etiquette in laos

Are you going to live in Laos? Then you must be worried about whether you will be able to blend in with the locals or not. Well, it is only natural. Especially if you are traveling from an American city to an Asian, there will be a significant change in the cultural and social aspects. However, we are here to support you. With this blog filled with Lao manners and etiquette that Lao people follow on a daily basis, you will start getting familiar with the regular norms and become a Lao person from within.

Every country and society has its unique cultural manners and norms. It is only a genuine concern if you are afraid of making any cultural mistake. Especially when you shift from a more liberal place to a conservative, there are some adaptations that one must keep in mind. Every aspect of life changes from place to place, from personal space to physical contact.

So, if you want to merge with the locals and avoid any cultural shock, this blog is the right place for you. Along with pointers, you will also get to learn some vocabulary that will help you accommodate yourself well in Laos. If you want to learn more, continue reading.

Lao Manners And Etiquette: Do’s And Don’ts

First, we will go through some Lao manners you must follow to have a smooth life in the country. Learning these will help you adapt yourself to society and become comfortable with the Lao women and men. Later, we will talk about the don’ts you must know to avoid unknowingly offending someone. So, please give them a good read and have a blast in a new country.

Do’s In Laos

Lao word manners

1. Do Greet Properly

The first important etiquette you must ingrain before landing in Laos is the habit of greeting people respectfully. Lao people generally greet each other and smile at each other as a sign of respect and friendliness. So, whenever you meet a Lao person, you must greet them well and show your concern. The most common greeting manner of Laotian people is by pressing your palms together in a prayer position with a slight bow, similar to a Namaste. While handshakes are common for men, women should follow the rule of “nop,” the standard Lao greeting.

2. Do Dress Modestly

While Laos welcomes people from different cultural backgrounds and nations, it is still conservative. And such a nature comes out, especially regarding women and their clothing. Laotian women try to cover as much skin as possible. It is all the more essential when visiting Buddhist temples or entering any cultural and religious site. Although foreign visitors wear short pants and t-shirts, it is better if you stick to modest dressing where long pants and shirts covering shoulders and chest are included. Even if you go to meet your Lao friends, it is okay to wear comfortable clothes but make sure they are decent and cover you appropriately.

3. Do Take Your Shoes Off

If you want to impress your local guardian or any local mate on the first day, take your shoes off before entering their house. No matter where you are in Asia, removing your shoes before entering the house is considered exemplary. This manner also applies when you visit a temple. You must remove your shoes and hats and keep them aside. If you do not follow this, your act will be considered rude, and people may dismiss you as ignorant. You will see this rule in many Asian cultures.

Most Asian houses have shoe racks placed outside their homes where you are supposed to take your shoes off and put them. However, if the owner asks you to keep it on, you can do so without offending anyone.

4. Do Use Your Right Hand

Like other Asian cultures, the use of the right hand is primal. It is one of the good manners you must know while handling things in Laos. Always use your right hand whenever someone offers you something, or you give something to others. Asians believe the left hand is used for dirty work like washing your body, and the right hand is used for good purposes like eating and offering things. So, make sure you use your right hand or both hands when offering or accepting things from others.

5. Do Eat With Your Hands

While it might sound weird, Laotian people mostly eat with their hands. If you opt for spoons, you will become the odd one out. Most Lao food is eaten with hands, and only chopsticks are used for noodles or sticky rice. Even if they sometimes use forks and spoons, the fork is used on the left and the spoon on the right hand. However, try to use your hands and get accustomed to it once you land in Laos,

6. Do Respect Elders

Once you visit Laos, you will realize that they have a lot of respect for their elders. Generally speaking, a younger person is always expected to greet an older adult with more care than the amount used when greeting someone of their age. Always bow your head and say Sa bai dee as you join your hands in a prayer position. It is better not to shake hands and stick to greeting them through a nop.

7. Do Help The Locals

When we talk about helping them, it can be in any sense, like helping your mate in the kitchen is an excellent dining etiquette. Never stand there and wait for the other person to call for help. Always try to offer a helping hand and go local with them by trying out their work and allowing them to teach you. Locals love it when foreigners try their native things and get engaged in learning.

Don’ts In Laos

Lao manners and etiquette

1. Don’t Touch Someone’s Head

If there is something prohibited in Laos, it is touching someone’s head. Generally, it would help if you never touched the other person’s head without any urgent purpose. It is considered that the feet are the dirtiest part of the body and the head is the most sacred point. So, if you touch someone’s head, it turns out to be disrespectful, and the locals will speak rudely and treat you differently for offending them.

2. Don’t Disrespect Buddhism

Disrespecting Buddhist temples, Buddhism, or Buddhist monks in any manner, be it a joke or a sarcastic remark, is something you must avoid. No matter how funny it is, Laotian people will not tolerate any disrespect shown towards their religion and culture. Especially when it comes to a Buddhist temple and its monks, always show respect, bow before them, and refrain from funny acts. Never criticize Buddhism.

3. Don’t Touch Buddhist Monks

Monks are highly respected and followed in Laos. They are like messengers of God and are kept in a very high position in society. So, whenever you see a monk, always maintain your distance. You cannot just go near them and touch them. Especially if you are a woman, try to avoid physical touch at all times. Sometimes, even the mother of a monk is denied permission to hug her son. So, these are some strict etiquette that you must be aware of.

4. Don’t Be Loud

Don’t speak or laugh loudly in Laos. Lao people are very peaceful, calm, and patient. They do not like to be aggressive and show extreme emotions. So, ensure you are not too loud and disturbing others whenever you are talking or laughing. Even when angry or frustrated, could you not show it on your face? Try to be calm and patient; your work will get done.

5. Don’t Make Eye Contact

While making eye contact shows one’s confidence in themselves and high self-esteem, it might not work out in Laos. Making direct eye contact, especially between male friends and female counterparts, could be uncomfortable. Men and women rarely make eye contact; even if they do, it is for a short period. Also, keep this rule in mind when you meet a senior person. You are not supposed to make direct eye contact with older adults when they are present. It can either become too intimidating or awkward.

6. Don’t Stick Your Feet Out

Since most people sit on floors at Laotian homes on cushions instead of sofas, there is one rule while sitting. Always try to tuck your feet in while sitting and don’t stick them out. Especially if there are buddha images, you must avoid pointing your feet toward them at all costs. It is disrespectful and religiously unacceptable.

7. Don’t Go Empty Handed

Always try to bring gifts when you are visiting someone. It is very lifeless to go barehanded to meet someone in Laos. When you meet someone new, always carry nicely wrapped gifts, among which beautifully packed fruit baskets are standard. Doing this will help you build a strong impression in front of the locals.

Lao Phrases To Practice

Hello, how are you?ສະ​ບາຍ​ດີ​, ເຈົ້າ​ສະ​ບາຍ​ດີ​ບໍ່?sa bai di chao sa bai di bo
May I come in?ຂ້ອຍ​ເຂົ້າ​ໄປ​ໄດ້​ບໍ່?khony khao pai dai bo
Nice to meet youຍິນ​ດີ​ທີ່​ໄດ້​ຮູ້​ຈັກ​ເຈົ້າnyin di thi dai hu chak chao
I ate wellຂ້ອຍກິນດີkhony kindi
Thank you for the giftຂອບໃຈສໍາລັບຂອງຂວັນkhobchai soalab khongkhvan
Excuse meຂໍ​ອະ​ໄພkho a phai
I am so sorryຂ້ອຍ​ຂໍ​ໂທດkhony kho othd
Can I take a picture of you?ຂ້ອຍສາມາດຖ່າຍຮູບຂອງເຈົ້າໄດ້ບໍ?khony samad thaihub khongchao daibo
Can I have a bottle of water?ຂ້ອຍສາມາດມີຂວດນ້ໍາໄດ້ບໍ?khony samadmi khuad noa daibo
Please eat wellກະລຸນາກິນດີkaluna kindi
Can I join you?ຂ້ອຍສາມາດເຂົ້າຮ່ວມເຈົ້າໄດ້ບໍ?khony samad khaohuam chao daibo
Could you please help me?ກະລຸນາຊ່ວຍຂ້ອຍໄດ້ບໍ?kaluna suanykhony daibo
Do you need help?ເຈົ້າ​ຕ້ອງ​ການ​ຄວາມ​ຊ່ວຍ​ເຫຼືອ​ບໍ່?chao tong kan khuaam suany heu bo
Good morning/ Good nightສະບາຍດີຕອນເຊົ້າ/ສະບາຍດີsabaiditonsao sabaidi
Sleep wellນອນດີnon di

Over To You!

Now that you know all the manners and etiquette of Lao people, nothing can stop you from blending in with them from within. However, there is still one thing you need to learn to go genuinely local: the Lao language.

So, to provide you with the best lessons curated with the help of expert writers and native speakers, we bring you the Ling app. It is one of the best language learning apps to help you learn Lao with various content like food, clothes, culture, grammar, colors, and many more. The app also has an AI chatbot feature that will help you retain such lessons through interactive exercises and improve your communication skills.

You must search for the Ling app in Appstore or Playstore and sign up for free now. It has 60+ languages, and you can choose other languages apart from Lao if you wish to. So, what are you waiting for? Download and start learning with Ling today!

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