Etiquette

  • Modesty Though fashions are changing in urban centres, modesty is still important in traditional areas, especially in Muslim-dominated countries. Avoid baring too much skin in general – avoid topless sunbathing and cover up when visiting religious buildings.
  • Taboos Politics and religion are often sensitive topics. Always treat both with deference and avoid being critical. Many Southeast Asian cultures are superstitious; it is wise to learn about these beliefs and act accordingly. Muslims don't drink alcohol or eat pork. Women shouldn't touch Buddhist monks or their belongings.
  • Save Face Southeast Asians, especially in Buddhist cultures, place a high value on harmonious social interactions. Don't get visibly angry, raise your voice or get into an argument – it will cause you and the other person embarrassment. When in doubt, smile.
  • Shoes Take them off when entering private homes, religious buildings and certain businesses. If there's a pile of shoes at the door, be sure to follow suit.