Asia is an overwhelming place and travelling to the most populated and diverse continent in the world can be an enchanting experience. Even though Asians speak more than 2000 different languages, there are certain things everyone has in common. The key is to always observe and learn.
You know, no one can prepare you for a journey. To understand the good and the bad, you will have to experience everything first hand. Some cultural taboos might seem a little odd at first but keeping an open mind about things can open doors to amazing experiences.
But for starters let’s get into the basic dos and don’ts of travelling to Asia. Do note that these points might always not be true for all countries:
• When visiting someone’s home, take along a small gift. Flowers or food items are accepted everywhere. But never take white flowers in China, as they are used in funerals.
• Cover your head when entering a temple or mosque. Try to observe what others are doing. Most mosques have separate entrance for men and women so look carefully before entering.
• Always open your shoes before entering a house or temple. Lookout for shoes outside before entering any place, that way you can avoid awkward situations. Pro Tip: You might want to start wearing sandals when in a warmer country because they are easier to open and wear, also it will let your feet breathe.
• Yes, No, Hello, Thank you and Goodbye- try learning these words in local language of country you plan on visiting, especially China; almost no one in China speaks English.
• Show respect towards elders. Make sure the seniors have gotten seats before sitting and avoid calling them with their names. Even if they are not related by blood, most Asians call elders ‘Uncle’ ‘Aunty’ Grandpa’ or Grandma’.
• Compliment others. This is more like a life tip then a travel one. No matter where you are on earth, compliments always make people happy.
• Check the weather before heading out and prepare accordingly.
• This is more of a pro tip if you’re traveling around South Asia, try to book flight tickets 8-12 weeks in advance to get for the best rate.
Try avoiding these taboos:
• Don’t kiss or hug when greeting someone for the first time. Handshakes might not be a good idea either. Muslim women are not comfortable touching others so try a head nod and saying hello. For instance, if you are in India, a simple gesture of putting your hands together and saying Namaste will suffice.
• Touching or kicking someone with your foot is frowned upon as it is considered the dirtiest part of our body. In Mongolia if someone accidentally kicks you they will shake your hand immediately to make amends. Also, don’t kick a book or a food item with your feet.
• Don’t reject food offered to you. Even if you don’t want to have it at least accept it and try a small sample. If you have to reject on grounds of some sort of an allergy, do politely explain to the host.
• Even if the host insists on paying for a meal, don’t accept it without a fight. Try insisting one or two times, if the host still insists then accept the offer graciously. This shows you are not taking advantage of their kindness.
• Funny but, don’t sit on a pillow which was initially intended for your head.
• Pointing at people might mislead them into thinking you are rude. Try using your whole hand to gesture towards what you want to show. Avoid putting both hands in your pockets