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|Topic: Travel tips: Dress sense and sensibility|
Joined: 03 July 2001
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| Topic: Travel tips: Dress sense and sensibility
Posted: 06 February 2008 at 3:14am
Dress sense and sensibility
February 3, 2008
Jane E. Fraser on wearing appropriate clothing overseas.
It's great to dress to impress but when travelling in some countries it is perhaps more important not to make an impression. Many an Aussie traveller has been guilty of causing offence in a foreign country and while some simply do not care, many are unaware they have done so.
Appropriate dress standards vary enormously from country to country and even from one town to another, so it is easy to get it wrong if you are not paying attention.
And don't assume specific standards only apply to Middle Eastern or Asian countries, as even very liberal countries can have cultural quirks. In Brazil, for example, it is perfectly acceptable to parade up and down the streets of Copacabana in a bikini so skimpy it is barely there, or to dance in the Rio Carnival in little more than body paint, yet topless sunbathing on the beach is both prohibited and frowned upon.
Women need to be particularly mindful of local customs, particularly in Muslim countries, where head coverings are sometimes required and conservative dress is almost always advised. Many conservative countries require you to cover your shoulders, arms, legs and even ankles, and dressing appropriately can be as much for your own safety as for avoiding offence - exposing too much flesh can send the wrong message and attract unwanted attention.
Malaysia is a good example of a country where dress standards vary a great deal from one part of the country to another.
Tourism Malaysia director Shahrin Moktar says while most of the country is very liberal and it is acceptable to wear clothing such as shorts, the eastern states are much more conservative and visitors need to be more modest in their clothing.
Moktar says while it is unlikely locals will say anything about inappropriate clothing (out of respect for tourism), it will cause offence and possibly cause you to be stared at.
"You do have to know where to wear certain things in Malaysia," he says. "Without intention, you can hurt other people's feelings."
Moktar says travellers to Malaysia also need to be prepared to cover up if they want to visit some religious sites.
"If you want to enter a mosque, you have to have a long dress or trousers," he says.
So how do you find out about local customs and the different requirements of places you are going?
The first step is to do some reading before you leave home, so you don't arrive with a suitcase full of inappropriate clothes.
Most guidebooks give a good rundown on what is expected and you can also find cultural information in travel brochures and on the internet.
If you have booked through a tour operator or travel agent, don't be embarrassed to ask about what you should pack - the main point of travelling overseas is to learn about other cultures and you should not be expected to know until you have been.
Another source of information can be the country's tourist office, although I have found the answers can be skewed by the personal beliefs of the person to whom you happen you speak.
Once you arrive in the country, it is best to take your cue from the locals: if the women are all wearing long skirts then your short shorts are probably going to cause offence. And if the men are all going into a restaurant or temple in longsleeved shirts, your favourite Mambo T-shirt might not be appreciated.
T-shirts with any sort of doubtful image or wording should be left home, as what is considered funny in Australia might not be so in other countries.
What you should always pack if you are unsure about dress standards is an emergency cover-up item, such as a lightweight sarong or shawl for women and a long-sleeved cotton shirt for men.
These often come in handy if you want to go to religious sites - in some countries it is fine to walk around the streets in shorts and a T-shirt but if you want to enter a place of worship, you need to be covered from head to toe. Thailand is a prime example.
It is better to come prepared than to miss out on experiencing some of the culture or to find out what it is like to be stared at everywhere you go.
GET IT RIGHT
- Look in guide books and travel brochures for guidelines.
- Ask your tour leader or travel agent what is expected.
- Take your cue from the locals - standards vary from place to place.
- Carry a lightweight sarong, wrap or long-sleeved shirt to cover up when necessary.
- Err on the conservative side if you are not sure.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/01/31/1201714138078.h tml
Edited by Angel
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