Laos and Thai’s development level is higher than Lao Theung’s and Lao Sung’s. Therefore, they have fewer taboos. However, each nation always has its own traditional customs and taboos. If you visit Laos or live in the local place for a long time, you should learn about these common sense and customs in order to avoid unpleasant things happen.
When Lao people meet each other, they usually put their palms together. Shaking hands is seldom used in the countryside. It is only used in the city and among the upper echelons. And when some of the Miao and Yao nation’ people meet each other, they will do the bow ritual which is the same as Chinese did in the past. When Laos put hands together to salute, there are two kinds: There are two kinds of ways to salute by putting hands together. One is to stretch hands, keep fingers together and raise the hands up to lip’ high, the other is to bow as put hands together. This second way is used to show special respect to the other. In general, the junior should actively say hello to the older people; women should firstly say hello to men; the host should firstly say hello to the guest (but when male host see female guest, he just needs to say hello but do not need to salute). For handshaking, as well as west customs, men will do it after women stretch out her hands. Moreover, it is better to take off your hat before shaking hands.
Lao people are hospitable. When they welcome guests, the commonest and grandest ceremony is “tied line”; Laos call it “seat”. No matter it is a welcome party, marriage ceremony or farewell, this ceremony can be held. The respected elder man in the village will be the person to tie the line. Sometimes, they will invite monks to read the blessing words. As the elder man recites blessing words, he uses the line soaked with perfume to tie the guest’s two wrists. During the ceremony, all people in the ceremony have to face the old man with their hands folded and be seated kneeling. In the ritual process, the person who is tied needs to put one hand up to her eyebrows in order to show his gratitude. At the end of the ceremony, guests need to keep hands together and say “Satu”, which means “I hope so.” In order to express gratitude, guests can in return tie line to the host. You must wear the line which is tied on your wrist for at least three days in order to show your courtesy and respect.
Drinking altar wine is also one of Lao people’s traditional etiquettes for welcoming the guests. When you go to Lao Theung’s home, you must drink the altar wine and you can’t refuse, otherwise the host will think their family will be not lucky. While drinking the altar wine, everyone is sitting around the altar which is full of wine and with a few bamboo tubes inserted in.
When greeting with Laos, if you know his name, you can only call his first name. But in order to show respect, you need to call him with different respect word before his name according to his status. For man of high social status, you can add “Tao” before his name; for women, add “kiang”, for prince, add “Zhao”, etc. For unknown people, you can call the old man “yepao”, call granny “yemai”, call the eldest brother “yeai”, call the elder sister “ye’e”, call the brother or sister “yenong”. In the life, Laos are used to calling people’s first name, but never call last name.
Every nationality in Laos has its own traditional customs. For example, there is a strict distinction in Lao Theung for using the water of the river beside the village. Water in the upper course of river is for drinking; water in the middle course is for men bathing; water in the lower course is for women bathing. As long as there are public appliances at the water resource, such as bamboo tube, you cannot take water directly with your own instruments. Furthermore, before entering the house of the Laos people, you must take off your shoes. If you are not their family member, you are not allowed to enter the inner chamber. After entering the room, people usually sit on the floor but they cannot point your feet to others. Men usually sit with cross legs and women usually kneel down and put their feet on both sides. When others are talking, you cannot walk among them, especially women. If you have to do this, you need to lower your head down and say “sorry”.
Lao Theung people think that the head is the most honorable thing. So, you can’t touch others head, especially children’s. Be sure to take off your shoes before entering the Buddha hall.
In Thai the house of Thai is pile dwelling, which is made of “Hongxiang”, “Zha” and “Xie”. “Hongxiang” is the house; “Zha” is the extension part at the balcony; “Xie” is an extension part of the house, which is usually at the head of the house. According to the Thai customs, foreign women or pregnant women, or all the taboos, such as raw fish and raw meat, must enter the house through the “Zha”. The first pillar of “Xie” is the place for putting a god. There are stairs in the main entrance, which are just used by men or elder women.
Ethnic Ka believes in ghosts and gods and often holds the Kisai. when all people offer ghost, outsiders are not allowed to enter the village. When Ka people are sick, it is a taboo to see a stranger or an outsider. At that time, the patient’s family usually put leaves and branches on the door as a sign. If you see on the door or under the roof there is a hexagonal logo made of bamboo cane, it means there are ghosts in this house and outsiders are not allowed to go inside. Ethnic Ka has some other taboos, such as strangers cannot access in or go out at the back door; people cannot sleep at the door (they think it will block the way of the god of happiness); in the village, you shall not cry out loudly and musical Instruments such as whistle or horn are not allowed to play.
The Miao nationality in Laos has many taboos in food, clothing, living and other various aspects. For example, when family members are not available, they will stick branches at the gate, which means outsiders are not allowed to go inside; Before baby is full moon old, outsiders are not allowed to enter the room; at funeral or sacrifice, without owner’s permission, outsiders are not allowed to get in; when sleeping, people’s heads can’t point to the door; shrines inside can’t be moved casually.
Besides taboos above, the Yao nationality in Laos also sacrifices the tiger for 3 days during the Spring Festival. And they cannot be out of the door and outsiders are prohibited from entering the village; it is forbidden to eat dog meat; some Yao people do not eat beef; hanging white mosquito nets is also a taboo.
In the city of Laos, there are not too many public toilets. In rural, there are no public toilets. People need to relieve themselves at hidden places, such as woods and shrubs. But they cannot relieve themselves in the river, in rice or vegetable fields or in pig’s and cattle’s stables. Indoors, you can’t liberally spit or roast footwear near fireplace and can’t put thing near the consecrated place.
In addition, you can’t touch the Buddha in the hall and don’t even kill animals, cut down lindens near the Buddhist temple. Don’t take the things in the Buddhist temple out of the temple. Don’t take the foods which Monks are not allowed to eat, such as dog meat, horse meat, snake meat and wine, into the Buddhist temple. Outsiders can’t have dinner with the monks; outsiders can drink the water in the pond, water tanks, or a pot in the Buddhist temple, but they can’t drink the water in the monks’ kettles, unless monks give it to you to.