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Etiquette and Taboos in Tibet

Tibet is essentially a holy place of Buddhism, governed by deeply-rooted Buddhist practices and traditions.

For all visitors to Tibet, having the basic knowledge of the unspoken etiquettes and taboos of Tibet would save you from lots of unwanted troubles.

So check our local travel experts’ helpful advice and impress locals in a respectful manner.

What are some of the taboos in Tibet?

Almost all the lakes in Tibet are believed to be sacred. So, no matter how beautiful it is, you are forbidden to swim in the lake.

The piles of mani stones you see on the mountain passes, beside the holy lakes or along the roads, are also holy. Don’t try to move it.

The outsiders are not allowed to witness the scene of “Sky Burial”, a funeral practice commonly seen in Tibet. The corpse will be disposed of and later devoured by vultures.

When you join the kora, also known as a pilgrimage, around Tibetan monasteries or holy mountains and lakes, do it in a clockwise manner.

Hat and glasses should be removed as you visit the Buddha in the Buddhist halls. No photo is allowed inside there. In summer, ladies shouldn’t wear skimpy outfits for visiting holy Buddhist sites.

For religious reasons, Tibetans don’t eat fish, the meat of dogs and horses and donkeys, etc.

Be careful when dining with locals. Killing any living creatures is a serious taboo in Tibet.

So long as you are uncertain about something, asking our local guide’s advice first is always a wise decision.

Check for more details of Tibetan etiquette and taboos on different occasions.

What etiquette are generally accepted in the Tibetan society?

As you arrive in Lhasa, the local guide may greet you with Hada, an auspicious silk scarf, you may kindly accept it with both hands. And the guide will help drape the Hada around your neck.

If you are invited to be the guest of a local Tibetan family when the host offers you the sweet tea, reach out to get it with both hands as the tea is brought in front of you and respond with “thanks”.

When proposed a toast with the barley wine, sip three times before drinking up all of it. Besides, don’t make the disturbing sound as you chew the food at the dinner table.

The religious items like Buddha statues and prayer bells, etc. enshrined in locals’ houses or insider monasteries shall never be touched. Also, refrain from touching the head of small kids.

If you happen to violate social rules in Tibet, what should you do?

Of course, local Tibetans are extremely welcoming and friendly to international tourists, and they won’t expect you to know all of their social norms that well.

So long as you kindly and sincerely express the apology for the mishap, they would forgive you once in a while.

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To help you learn more of the time-honored customs and manners of Tibet and avoid the embarrassment that would raise the eyebrows of locals, we equip you with the top 3 guides to Tibetan etiquette and taboos. You can learn how to behalf on different occasions and tour Tibet in a graceful way. Read on for more details.

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