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Ethics and Etiquette in Tibet

It's good to have some knowledge about Tibetan customs, ethics, and etiquette beforehand. Make sure that you do not step on a threshold when you enter a house or a tent. When you call or address somebody by name, please add "la" after the name for politeness. It’s an equivalent of "Mr." or "Sir" and “madam.”When you are asked to sit down, please cross your legs. Do not stretch your legs towards others.

When somebody presents you something, you should accept it by both hands. While offering a gift to others, hold the gift by both hands higher than your head. When the host presents you a cup of wine, before you start sipping, you should dip your ring finger in the wine and flick the wine into the sky, in the air, and to the ground to express your respect to the heaven, the earth, and the ancestors respectively. After you take the first sip, the host would like to fill up the cup again, and you will take another sip. If the host fills your cup with wine again, then you should bottom it up.

Tibetan people don't eat horse, donkey and dog meat and in some areas fish, too. So, please respect their dietary habits.

It’s not polite to clap your palms and spit behind the Tibetan people. Tibetan people stretch out their tongue to greet you. It's also a courtesy to put their hand's palm to palm in front of the chest.

Smoking inside the monasteries is not allowed. It’s also banned to touch the statues of Buddha and religious articles and take pictures of them. In the holy shrines, you should walk clock-wise but not in the Bon temples. Tibetan people, when they come across a shrine, mani piles, etc., they go around in clockwise direction. They don't just cross it.

Eagles are the sacred birds of Tibetan people. You should not drive them away or injure them. On the outskirts, you should not drive or disturb the sheep or cows with green, red, and yellow cloth strips on.

Since more and more tourists are going to Tibet, Tibetan people get used to seeing the "Big Noses" (western people) with jeans, sunglasses, and some of them with shorts (It is prohibited to wear shorts among the Tibetans.). But the above rules are not obeyed so strictly as before; we still suggest you take the above advice and travel to behave well.