Dos & Don’ts

There’s probably too much hang-up about appropriate behaviour in the Sepik area. Good manners go a long way and locals usually forgive transgressions of local rules but try to remember the following:

  • Don’t wear your hat into a haus tambaran.
  • Ask where you may wash.
  • Ask before taking photographs of anybody or anything – haus tambarans were traditionally taboo, though these days many let you photograph both the outside the and inside, with the exception of the spirit chair.
  • ‘Best price?’ Don’t bargain, but objects often have two prices. It’s OK to ask what the 'second price' is and leave it at that.
  • Alcohol can be a very sensitive thing in villages – it’s best not to bring any.
  • The gender politics can be a bit confusing. Local men, particularly in the Middle Sepik, are used to interacting with Western women. Tourism has undoubtedly impacted local culture, since Western women are allowed into sacred haus tambarans when local women aren’t. Couples should not overtly show affection.
  • In villages, you'll notice people walking on designated footpaths rather than all over the place; try to follow their example.