Do’s and Dont’s of Tibetan Culture

Do’s and Dont’s for Travel in Tibet

Tibetan culture is one of the most hospitable cultures in the world. They treat thier guests with the utmost respect. Please do your best when traveling here to follow the cultural norms. Here is a list of Do’s and Dont’s to help you show respect as a guest in Tibetan areas.

Generally, try to interact with your hosts. Try to speak Tibetan
or make some jokes. Don’t be too aloof. Don’t embarrass your hosts by
asking them for things they can’t provide.


Don’t smell your food.
Don’t ask to be shown the food while people are cooking.
Don’t throw away leftover tea.
Eat and drink at least a little of whatever the host offers you.
You don’t need to finish everything you are offered.
If you want more food, ask the host – don’t just help yourself. It is
not impolite to ask for more.
Don’t rub your belly or stretch your arms after a meal.
You may burp and eat noisily during a meal.
Don’t take leftovers for yourself.
Eat as much as you need.

Elders and Lamas

When lamas or elders come in or leave, you should stand up.
Answer clearly when elders or lamas address you.
If you meet a lama, remove your hat and bend down a little. If you
speak Tibetan, do your best to use polite words.
Don’t sit with your back facing elders.
Don’t call elders directly by name.
Be patient with elders, and flatter them a little from time to time.

Modest Conduct

Don’t wear revealing clothing, for example short pants or clothes that
show your arms.
Don’t kiss or hug people of the opposite sex. You can shake hands.
Apart from questions about sex and love, feel free to ask any questions.
Don’t touch people on the top of the head.
Men and women shouldn’t sit too close to each other.
Don’t stare at anyone for a long time.
Men should avoid making contact with women they don’t know.
Don’t fart loudly, especially when people are eating.
Generally, women shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol.
Don’t boast about yourself.

The Shrine and Religious Objects

Don’t point your fingers at image of lamas, Buddhas or deities. Use
your outstretched hand with upturned palm.
Don’t put your shoes or socks beside the shrine.
Don’t wash or comb your hair near the shrine.
Don’t take photos in the shrine.
Don’t smoke in the shrine.

Sitting and moving

Take off your hat when you enter a house.
Sit wherever the host asks you to sit.
Don’t stretch out your legs when sitting. If you can, sit with crossed legs.
Don’t step over other people (not even their feet) or their clothes.
Don’t step over or straddle books or photographs.
If you are a women wearing a skirt, gather it together when you pass
people sitting on the floor and don’t let the skirt brush others.
Men should generally sit on the right hand side of the house.

Household objects

Don’t put your shoes or socks beneath a pillow.
Don’t pass things like clothes or shoes over the stove.
Don’t wash or comb your hair near the stove.
Don’t step on pillows or quilts.
Take bowls and cups with two hands.


Always bring gifts, such as candy or pocket money, for children.
If you can, bring a gift for the rest of the family as well. For
example fruit, meat, milk, brick tea. Present the gift with a kadag.