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Short guide to Bali

These pages contain a number of tips for travelers that are going to bring a visit to the Indonesian island of Bali soon. They are simple tips about the daily life on the island and what to expect when visiting the island. Many things will be just slightly different than at home, but it is important to locals that you at least somewhat adhere to their lifestyle.

Body language
Tips for first-time travelers to Bali

Aggressive gestures and postures such as crossing your arms or standing with your hands on hips while talking, particularly with older people, is regarded as insulting since this is the traditional posture of defiance and anger in wayang theater. In an exchange with someone older or in a high office, extend your right arm (but not too far) and bring your left arm across the front of your body touching your fingers to your right elbow. Also show respect by bowing from the waist when passing an older person, a priest or reverend, or a person of equal age whom you don't know-particularly if that person is sitting. Turn your body slightly sideways, extend your right hand, and walk by half bent over.

Next to sex organs, feet are considered the lowliest and most profane body parts. It's a serious offense to sit with the soles of your feet pointing at people (such as propping them up on a table). It's also terribly impolite to use your toes for pointing as when indicating something displayed on the ground in the pasar.

Also, to beckon anybody with the crooked index finger is rude. If you need to call to someone, extend your right hand and make a motion using the cupped fingers turned downward. Neither should you point with your forefinger, but use instead your right thumb. The left hand is considered unclean, never use it to touch someone or to exchange things. If you should use your left hand, say "Ma'af" ("Excuse me").

Don't pat children on the head. In fact, never touch anybody's head as the Balinese see the head as sacred, the seat of the soul. Pillows shouldn't be used for sitting because they are meant for the head. A barber will ask permission before he cuts your hair, and a hotel receptionist will apologize before placing a flower behind your ear.

Last revised on January 30, 2010
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