Does and don’ts in Tibetan culture

In a Monastery

  • When visiting a monastery, do not touch religious images and objects and avoid taking photographs inside unless it is authorized.
  • Do not wear shorts, tank tops, or other revealing clothing when visiting monasteries.
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol in or around the compounds of the monasteries.
  • Do not enter the enclosure of a monastery if your breath smells of alcohol or garlic.
  • Remember to always walk around monasteries and stupas in a clockwise direction, except for in Bonpo monasteries.
  • Do not point fingers at representations of gods or high lamas. Instead, gesture with your hand open and palm up as a sign of respect.
  • Keep money in small change for poor pilgrims.
  • Take off your hat at the entrance of the monastery.
  • Do not throw tissues or spit into fires.
  • Do not urinate at rivers or roads near the monasteries.

In a Family Home

  • When you are invited into a family home always allow the host, elders and children to enter a room first.
  • Tibetans do not eat horse, dog or monkey meat, and do not eat fish in certain areas. Please respect their eating habits.
  • When you receive a gift, always present your two hands to receive and lean slightly forward as a sign of gratitude.
  • Say “Tashi Delek” to the family and sit according to the arrangement provided by the host.
  • When you go to sit or if you want to get up, avoid crossing over people who are seated – instead, go around them.
  • In a nomadic tent, do not step over utensils for food which are often placed on the floor, or over religious objects.
  • In a camping tent, people can sit crossing their legs on the ground but this position is not permitted for women, except for nuns.
  • Do not place your feet, shoes, or socks over a stove. Stoves are considered special or holy areas inside the home as this is where a ‘naga’ (spirit) resides.
  • If babies are present in the family do not approach too closely or touch them without the permission of the host.
  • When you leave your host you may hug or shake hands, but in no case should you kiss.
  • When you visit a nomad’s tent, avoid any physical contact with women so as not to embarrass them.