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Bali Overview

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Cultural etiquette has been described as the unspoken, but assumed, behavior that conveys politeness. Therefrore it is important that you take the time to learn and follow 'local etiquette'. On Bali (as well as in Indonesia) there are a few rules that visitors should be sure to know about and follow.

The Balinese are inclusive by nature and take great pride in their heritage and therefore do not mind visitors observing ceremonies and traditional dances, just as long as you follow a few simple and basic points of etiquette. (After all, how would you like a group of foreign speking tourists invading you wedding or funeral of a close relative to snap a few photos?) First, fress appropriately, smart casual is appropriate, swimwear is not appropriate. Two, be quiet and respectful. Cameras and camcoders are ok - but do be unobtrusive.

That being said, do not step in front of anyone to snap a photo and do not sit higher than the local priest presiding over the ceremony. As well, Do Not touch or pat anyone (including children) on the head. 
Also a word about being stuck in traffic... If you do find yourself stuck in traffic for no apparent reason you may have come up on a Balinese procession on the way to temple. Be patient. No amount of honking the car's horn is going to speed things up and it's rude to try and pass.

When visiting temples be aware that you should wear long pants or a sarong with a selendang tied around the waist (men and women). Whilst you can take your own every major temple has selendangs to borrow for a small donation. It is extremely bad form (in fact it’s taboo) for women who are menstruating to enter a templeAlso women should avoid wearning halter tops, bathing suits as well as tight fitting jeans or reavealing clothes in public, especially when visiting government offices, i.e. immigration office.

Never hand anything to a Balinese with your left hand. This is true throughout Indonesia where the left hand is considered "unclean" and thus insulting. If this makes the action somewhat cumbersome by having to change hands, take the time to do it anyway. Handshaking is customary for both men and women on introduction and greetings.

There are a few differences in the use of hands and feet for indicating actions or getting attention. The proper way to summon someone is to use the Balinese word Bli, (for men) and Mbok (for women) while make a scooping motion toward you with your right hand, fingers facing down. Crooking the index finger as is common in the West is not polite on Bali or in Indonesia. Also, be aware of where and how you position your feet. Exposing the sole of your shoe is considered impolite as is pointing with your foot to indicate an object. Shoes should be removed when entering when someone's home. A sure sign this expected is a pile of shoes at the front door.

Lastly visitors should keep in mind the importance of status in Balinese society. On Bali everyone has status, but that status is situational. A hotel staff member or cab driver may have very high status in his home community either through leadership ability or religious training. Try to understand that different situations may arise in day to day activity and modify your personal behavior to meet those situation appropriately - or just be polite no matter what may be happening around you. Be aware that any emotional display is considered rude.


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