Laos remains a fairly poor country but that does not mean that it is not making great strides. Certainly, the increased number of overseas visitors booking Laos travel packages is helping the economy and the positive experience that Laos is providing should ensure tourism continues to grow. There is a communist regime that has had to adapt to change. The break-up of the USSR meant that Laos lost a ‘’backer’’ but Vietnam and China are friendly neighbours that support the Country. There are similarities across the whole of South East Asia that those on Indochina tour packages will see but there are also aspects of culture specific to Laos alone.
It is a Buddhist country but spiritualism plays an important role in life as well. The roots of communism are community and responsibility and they pervade Laotian life. There are several small ethnic tribes in Laos so it is often wrong to speak in generalities simply because of linguistic differences. Buddhism requires people to be responsible for their actions so there are individualist elements within each citizen as well as the feeling of community.
Respect for elders is important; there is also a hierarchy in society and it is essential to show deference to authority. At the same time, everyone strives for consensus making the implementation of decisions all the easier because there will usually have been a consultation process before the decision is made.
No one wants to lose face and that may express itself if you go shopping and seek a price for something that is not acceptable. Greetings are often fairly formal outwardly with hands pressed together as in prayer followed by a slight bow. A smile is important followed by "Saibaideebor" (how are you?), the response is "sabaidee". It is accepted that people will not touch each other and certainly the head is ‘’off limits.’’ Pointing is regarded as rude while the soles of the feet must always be hidden in some way.
Tourists enjoying a Laos holiday must show due respect to temples and monks. Appropriate clothing must be worn; no bare shoulders or legs are two very important considerations when visiting a temple and everyone removes their shoes when entering a temple.
Some clothing traditions have changed. Men are tending towards Western style clothes in urban areas though that is less common among women. There are many festivals and traditional clothes come out for such special occasions. Such clothing is colourful yet modest. Amongst the smaller hill tribes there are clothing items unique to their particular tribe.
Overseas travel is an education in itself. Holidaymakers visiting countries like Laos do so because of the contrasts they are likely to find from their normal everyday lives. Tourists will see many new things and observe daily life as they travel around Laos. The culture of its citizens is there for all to see and knowing a little about it before travelling on a Laos travel package can certainly increase the enjoyment of your holiday.