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This Is The One Little Known Taboo In Bali You Need To Know About Before You Visit

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Bali is loved by many as a travel destination for its welcoming hospitality, stunning landscapes, and truly unique culture.

While the cultural nuances of the island can take a lifetime for an outsider to truly understand, there are many aspects of the way of life on the island that visitors are expected to respect.

Young Boys In Bali With the Gamelan.jpg

There are some seemingly small actions that tourists do that can cause big offense to local people.

Balinese people are known for being open and kind-hearted, and deeply understanding of foreigners who are learning how to behave on the island.

Naturally, local people have a zero-tolerance approach to foreigners who break the law or engage in deeply sacrilegious behaviors, but there are some lesser-known taboos that some tourists may not even think of as being disrespectful; in fact, in their own culture are gestures of affection. 

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In Bali and in many cultures across Asia, it is considered deeply disrespectful to touch the head of another person, including children and babies. This is because the head, or the crown, is viewed to be our human connection with the divine, so to touch the head of another person is considered to be really impolite. 

In many Western cultures kissing the forehead of a loved one or ruffling the hair of a child is considered a gesture of affection and endearment, but in Bali and in many parts of Asia, it is incredibly rude.

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However, in understanding that there is a cultural difference, many Balinese people don’t speak up should this happen, leaving many tourists unaware that they are causing offense.

Many such tourists, if they knew otherwise, would be mortified to realize that they had caused offense to their hosts, guides or local friends.

It’s not only touching another person’s head that is considered taboo in Bali and across Indonesia. Using the left hand to pass an object, point, or gesture is also viewed as super rude.

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This is because the left hand is typically used for bathroom-related activities and, as such, is considered to be dirty.

Hence handing someone something with your left hand or gesturing with your left hand is considered impolite. It may be a hard one to get used to, and most people in Bali have an understanding of this cultural difference.

However, as visitors, it’s always important to adjust to cultural norms as much as possible and rectify mistakes if they happen. 

Similarly, feet are also considered dirty in Bali and in many cultures across Asia. With this in mind, visitors should never point at anything with their feet.

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Shoes should always be taken off inside the home and inside some public spaces, cafes, and certain temples. 

Tourists should also be aware of where their feet are pointing, even when sitting down. For example, don’t put your feet up on a chair in a cafe or restaurant with your soles on the show to people sitting with you or walking past.

Never point the soles of your feet towards a temple or statue of a deity. Never touch someone with your feet, either.

Balinese-Family-In-Traditiona-Clothes-Sit-Outside-Their-House

These seemingly small taboos actually cause a lot of offense to local people, even though they may not directly address the issue with a tourist who has unknowingly gestured in these ways.

This is because Balinese people are also typically conflict-averse and prefer to resolve issues in an often more indirect and gentle way. 

Young-Family-in-Bali-Feed-Fish-at-Temple

As communities across Bali, and the local government, further commit to ensuring that Balinese culture and heritage are preserved and celebrated, these are just some of the small ways that tourists can respect the island and local people and make the most of their experience of Balinese life

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JK

Friday 26th of May 2023

Balinese already understand that bule don't know what are considered the taboos.

Exp

Wednesday 24th of May 2023

Ok. Got it. Not touching head or use left hand to hand over objects.

But why can I no longer arrive at the airport wearing sandals (according to an earlier article here that is a sign I'm poor)? Wearing sandals seems to be the local standard/custom even for the rich ones?

So confusing these dos and don'ts when copying local custom is not good enough!

Firechef

Wednesday 24th of May 2023

In other words, unless you want to inadvertently insult someone, don't go to Bali. Now we also know with which hand they wipe their butt, more than I needed to know! It's probably considered dirty because they don't wash their hands after taking a crab. Umn...makes me not want to eat something that they touched now.

Exp

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

Quote: "Balinese people are known for being open and kind-hearted".

Correction: "Most Balinese people are known for being open and kind-hearted".