There is no doubt that Asian culture is one of the most important in world history. Its traditions, cultural richness, and history have fascinated millions of people from all corners of the planet, making it clear that the Western world still has much to learn from it, especially from Southeast Asia.
To Westerners, many customs and traditions can surprise us a lot about the culture of Southeast Asia, and that makes us feel distant, but there are others from which we can learn a lot, values that we did not know, and that we want to see.
Painted eyes in India, Nepal, and Myanmar
In India, Nepal, and Myanmar, it is customary to paint the eyes of newborn and young children black. For this, a substance known as kohl is used to protect against infections and ailments. But also, according to their beliefs, it protects children against the evil eye.
Do not use the left hand in Indonesia
If you travel to Indonesia, never use your left hand to give an object to a person, as it means disrespect. If you are going to give something to someone, you have to do it with your right hand. And the same happens when greeting or having any contact with a person from the country. However, you should bear in mind that in most countries, this physical contact does not usually exist and that the greeting is done by bowing.
Men walking hand in hand in India
On the streets of New Delhi or the Rajasthan cities, it is normal to see men holding hands while they walk and talk. Paradoxically, couples are not seen holding hands, since it is not well seen to show affection.
The water war in Thailand
It is a custom known as the Songkran Festival. One of the most anticipated events for Thais throughout the year. This holiday celebrates the Buddhist New Year. Traditionally, people wet their Buddha figures as a sign of respect, but today this custom has undergone certain changes, becoming a water war between the people who attend it. It takes place on the Khao San Road in Bangkok, and it is common to consume alcohol.
Shoes off as a show of respect
Throughout Asia, the custom of taking shoes out of the house is widespread. It is done both as a sign of respect to the hosts of the house and to keep the floor clean. With which if someone invites you to eat at their house, remember that for them it is very important that you leave your shoes outside. Otherwise, you won’t be showing them your respect.
Outdoor hair salons in India and Thailand
In both India and Thailand, do not be surprised if you see outdoor hairdressers. Not a bad idea, since you enjoy the atmosphere, there is more light, and you can talk to people who pass by. The only drawback is that it is not viable on rainy days. Would you try to go through these unique hairdressers in Thailand?
It is common in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos to squat down to smoke a cigarette, chat, or simply wait for the bus. If a Westerner tries, it won’t take long to notice cramps and the beginning of muscle tears, but the people of these countries can go a long time like this without flinching.
Chewing betel in Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh
If you travel to India, Bangladesh or Myanmar, one of the first surprises that you will come across as soon as you go out on the street is that any person offers a big smile with red and black teeth as the first response. One of Myanmar’s most deeply rooted traditions is chewing gum, a mixture of areca nut and herbs wrapped in a betel leaf. Men, especially in India, have the custom of carrying kum on their cheeks all day, chewing and sucking on it until the taste runs out, spitting it out and then putting another one in their mouth as if it were chewing gum. It is offered as a token of hospitality to guests at the end of the meal, and to refuse it is a very rude gesture.
Betel has digestive properties and refreshes the breath, but what has made it so famous is its narcotic and stimulant properties, which makes it highly addictive. The problem is that when consumed in excess, it ends up affecting the root of the tooth, resulting in these unique dentures that attract so much attention in the West.