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Guidelines for the Culturally Sensitive Guest  

by on Sunday, 12 July 200914 Comments | 13,427 views


The Balinese people are very open to sharing their unique cultural heritage and the spiritual wisdom they have nurtured over centuries. Visitors to Bali will be warmly welcomed to most temples and ceremonies. There are, however, certain codes of conduct that visitors should follow to offer respect for the Balinese and their culture.

When attending a temple ceremony, remember that it is not a party but a celebration to welcome the gods down to earth. Balinese always, no matter how many hardships they may face in their material life, put on their finest traditional clothing as a gesture of respect to both the worldly hosts of the event and the divine guests. Women wear a sarong, a long length of cloth wrapped from waist to ankles, a lacy blouse called a kebaya, and a sash tied around the waist. They will often tie up their hair in elaborate styles, and decorate it with fresh tropical flowers. If they own a piece of precious gold jewelry, they will wear it, and they will wear makeup and lipstick, for the Balinese gods delight in beauty. Men as well will be sure to dress respectfully, in a sarong, their best shirt or ceremonial jacket, a sash around the waist and an elaborately folded headdress (Udeng). The Balinese are thrilled to see visitors wearing Balinese ceremonial dress and deeply appreciate the respect it shows. So if you want to share the experience of attending a ceremony, ask a Balinese friend or someone in your hotel to help you find the correct clothing and show you how to wear it.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you wish to participate in a Balinese Temple Ceremony.

At minimum, wear a sarong and a sash to attend a ceremony or enter a temple. Women should wear blouses with sleeves that cover their shoulders. It’s all right to wrap your sarong over your shorts or dress.

Never position yourself higher than the offerings or the priest, or climb temple
walls or statues to get a better photo angle.

Do not walk in front of people praying.

Be sensitive with your camera and flash, and respect the religious nature of the occasion.

Women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter temples. This is not necessarily a sign of gender discrimination, but a general prohibition against blood on holy ground.

If you are invited to a ceremony in someone’s home, such as a wedding or baby ceremony, it is appropriate to bring a small, wrapped gift. A card is not necessary.

Like in many other parts of the world, the left hand is considered unclean, and to eat with it, point with it, shake hands with it or offer or receive something with it is perceived as extremely rude.

Shorts and sleeveless tops are fine for the beach and for shopping, but when visiting cultural sights or small villages they may be seen as offensive.

Feet are considered impure and the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body. Don’t point with your feet or prop them up on tables, and don’t pat people, even small children, on the head.

Ask questions, share experiences and opinions, and you will be sure to learn and enjoy!

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