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Essential Tips for Perfecting Your Balinese Cultural Etiquette

Essential Tips for Perfecting Your Balinese Cultural Etiquette

One major part of Bali's charm as a global destination is its deeply-rooted etiquette culture. As a traveler, understanding and respecting Balinese etiquette is not only a sign of courtesy but also the key to an authentic and enriching experience on this enchanting island. Through this article, we'll delve into some of the most basic courtesy to which you should pay attention during your vacation in Bali, so you can explore the island with confidence and grace while enhancing your social prowess in the eyes and minds of the locals.

Essential Tips for Perfecting Your Balinese Cultural Etiquette

Avoid Pointing With Your Feet

In Bali, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body, while the feet are the least sacred. With this being said,pointing your feet at people, religious objects, or offerings is a big 'nuh-uh'. Instead, when sitting, keep your feet tucked beneath you or positioned away from others as a sign of respect and cultural sensitivity.

Be Mindful of Public Displays of Affection

Bali's culture is actually quite 'open' compared to most Indonesian regions, but you would still have to be mindful of public displays of affection like kissing and hugging. Saving your affectionate moments for more private settings would be good not only for you and your loved ones but for the surrounding society as well. Furthermore, in this social media era, your appropriate affection could go viral in an instant. When this happens, the least that could happen is being called to apologize for your action in public, and in the worst case, you could get your vacation time forcefully cut short. Just be mindful and keep everything low profile!

Dress Modestly Sign

Dress Modestly (Especially in 'Pura' Temples)

Bali is home to numerous temples (called 'Pura), and when visiting these beautiful sacred sites, dressing modestly is a sign of respect. Cover your shoulders and knees, and if needed, use the provided sarongs and sashes. This not only adheres to the temple dress code but also acknowledges the spiritual significance of these places, helping you participate in the rituals respectfully.

Haggle Cosiderately

Bargaining, or haggling,  is common in Balinese markets and shops. Most of the time, they will test you by giving you a 'foreign price'. But the key is to do it with politeness, a sense of humor, and respect. Engage with sellers while smiling and haggling in good spirits. Remember that many locals depend on these transactions for their livelihood, so find a fair deal that leaves both parties satisfied.

Balinese Market

Learn Local Phrases

While English is spoken in many tourist areas, making an effort to learn a few basic Balinese or Indonesian phrases goes a long way toward building connections and showing respect for the local culture. Simple greetings and expressions will be greatly appreciated by the locals, enhancing your overall experience on the island. Some of the Indonesian phrases like 'permisi' (excuse me),'maaf' (sorry / pardon), or 'terima kasih' (thank you) would go a long way.

Practice Patience

Bali has a more relaxed pace of life, and things may not always go according to plan. Instead of expressing frustration or rushing, embrace the island's slower tempo. This not only aligns with the local way of life but also allows you to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the island at its fullest. After all, what's the point of rushing things during your blissful vacation?

Balinese Flower

Use Your Right Hand

This one is relatively flexible, but in general, in Indonesian culture, the left hand is reserved for personal hygiene and considered impolite for many activities. To show respect, always use your right hand when accepting items, making payments, or even eating. This small but meaningful gesture demonstrates your understanding of local customs and ensures you won't unintentionally offend anyone. Of course, if you are naturally left-handed, people would understand, but just always try to use your right hand when giving or receiving something, especially to someone you just met.

Balinese Canang Sari

Respect Balinese Offerings

Balinese Hinduism revolves around rituals and offerings. When you come across small, handmade offerings known as "canang sari" at temples, shrines, or on the streets, avoid stepping on or disrupting them. Instead, step over these offerings, a simple act that signifies respect for the Balinese belief in the sanctity of these objects and their place in daily life.

The "Om Swastiastu" 

Balinese culture places a significant emphasis on warmth and respect in interpersonal interactions. When you meet someone, it's customary to greet them with a friendly greeting, 'Om Swastiastu' (pronounced 'ohm-swas-tee-as-too') while smiling and putting your palms together. This phrase, which basically translates to 'God's grace be upon you', fosters immediate connections, shows appreciation for the local culture, and helps create a friendly atmosphere. It might take some time for you to pronounce it properly, but hey, no harm in learning, right?

Balinese Local and Tourist
IMG Credit: Lotus Bungalow