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Understanding Bali’s Social Etiquette

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Understanding Bali’s Social Etiquette

After many years of being based on the beautiful island of Bali, we feel lucky to call the Balinese people both our gracious hosts and family. As expatriates, we feel privileged to live here, and we believe it’s important to treat the local people with the utmost respect.

Being aware of the culture and respecting the traditions of the island is just one part of that and we’d like to share with you some essential tips for social etiquette that we’ve picked up over the years.

If you’re a tourist or visitor to the island, then please follow these simple guidelines to manage your interactions with others. They apply when you’re out and about shopping or even just speaking with staff members in one of our premium villas.

10 TIPS FOR RESPECTING BALINESE CULTURE

1. WATCH OUT FOR OFFERING
 

One of the most enchanting aspects of Balinese Hinduism is the daily placement of offerings and the lighting of incense for the Gods. This happens each morning and more frequently on special days. The gorgeous little palm leaf trays are called Canang Sari, and they’re stacked with colourful flowers then laid out on the pavements. Take care not to step on them.

 
2. AVOID THE HEAD
 
If you’re a tall person, a hairdresser or even just kindly greeting young children make sure you don’t touch their heads. It may be known as a fond or intimate gesture in the west, but the Balinese believe that the soul lives in the head, so it’s a no go zone for hands.
 
3. BE PATIENT
 
The pace of life in Bali is slower than that in the west, so please be patient when you’re waiting for a driver, a shop assistant or even a waiter to serve your food. There isn’t the same sense of urgency here, and slower service may be the norm when you’re out and about. Just sit back, relax and accept the flow of the tropics.
 
4. DON’T POINT
 

It’s considered rude to point or call someone over with your index finger. This is relevant in social settings like restaurants where you may need to summon the bill or in shops when you’re choosing items. The safe way to draw attention is to lift your whole palm and gesture with a mini downward-facing wave or to just point with your thumb and the fingers closed.

 
5. STAY CALM
 
Showing aggression, confronting someone loudly or even just shouting are all considered unacceptable and offensive. If you’re feeling angry, take a step back, a deep breath and try to redirect your feelings more constructively. The heat of the climate and the language barrier can cause tempers to run short, but there’s no excuse to insult.
 
6. TEMPLE ETIQUETTE
 

When you enter a temple, try to ensure that the level of your head is never higher than that of the Balinese priest. Don’t use a flash on your camera and don’t interrupt or walk in front of anyone who is praying. You should ensure you rent or buy a sarong to cover your legs and temple scarf to wear around your waist. Also if you’re menstruating or have a bleeding wound of any sort, it’s not appropriate to visit a temple.

 
7. CONTAIN ROAD RAGE
 

Several times a year religious ceremonies, processions and parades will line the streets, and you’ll find yourself stuck in traffic. Expect and plan for delays on these holy days and never honk your horn or interrupt. However, when you are driving around on a scooter on other days, you’ll notice that people use the horn as a basic form of communication on the roads. A short beep is appropriate to signal that you’re passing or approaching an intersection.

 
8. BE MODEST
 
While the heat makes it tempting to walk around in a bikini or without a shirt, the Balinese are very modest people so try not to expose too much skin when you’re out and about. It’s fine on the beach but cover up at other times and refrain from public displays of affection.
 
9. USE YOUR RIGHT HAND
 
When passing money over to a shop assistant or touching someone, don’t use your left hand. This is primarily because, in Balinese culture, the left hand is used for washing up after the toilet. To use it for other purposes or to touch people is considered culturally wrong even if your hands are clean. You can use your right hand or even both hands without offending.
 
10. TIPPING
 

Tipping of 20%-30% is encouraged and rewarded. This applies to almost every sector of the service industry, including staff members in restaurants, street vendors, drivers and housekeeping staff. You won’t be snubbed if you don’t tip, but it makes such a massive difference to the lives of the people, and the currency conversion means it’s cheap for you to do so.

 
MAKE YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME

If you follow these simple etiquette guidelines, then Bali will soon feel like your home away from home. And when it comes to homes, we’ve got a sumptuous range of villas available for visitors to make their own. Each is fully furnished and staffed by friendly local people who can’t wait to meet you.

21 August 2019

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