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Customs involving clothing.

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Originally part of Tipping
"I can never understand why people insist on feeling disrespected because of what others are wearing?"
13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #44159  
B Posts: 5,195
Lets split this discussion off into another controversial area 😉

Customs involving clothing...

You just can't place it alongside other customs such as taking your shoes off in peoples' houses, covering your shoulders in temples, keeping knees and shoulders covered in certain countries - it's not the same thing at all.

I can never understand why people insist on feeling disrespected because of what others are wearing?

So I am figuring in certain countries where they dress way more modestly than we do they probably see tank tops and above-the-knee pants as sort of underwear-like.

Where do you stand in this argument?

Are the traditionalists insisting on dressing in a conservative way behind the times?

Are those that insist on dressing in hot-pants and tank-tops because it's hot disrespecting the local people?

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13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #44162  
B Posts: 104
Well, I never leave home without my shocking pink hotpants and tank tops and sarah has a real fettish for leather. 😊

When it comes to respecting a country's customs, I think that, as a guest of the country, I should fit in with their dress code. I don't mean wearing a burka, though I hear these can give great UV protection, I mean, covering my shoulders/knees/feet when in temples. I would also avoid wearing T shirts with offensive language. I travel to experience new cultures, not to convert locals to mine.

I think there should be a common sense approach to these matters, trouble is, there are lots of people out there with no common sense!!

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13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #44173  
B Posts: 29
I travel to experience other peoples cultures ... that includes showing respect for their beliefs. If I want to run around in tank tops and tight shorts (god forbid) I'll save it for those european countries where nobody cares.

By showing respect you enhance your travel experience as people actually want to talk to you and share their life and experiences with you as by dressing in a 'respectful way' you show you are open to learning about them, not just judging them. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #44184  
Hot pants and tops as small as bras asside there are places where the local women feel disrespected if we wear a skirt that goes an inch above our knees. Some even feel disrespected if the skirt only goes to 2 inches below the knees instead of being ankle length.

Last Saturday I was sitting in a cafe in the centre of Munich. If I was to only look at the people sitting at the cafe and try to judge which continent I am on I would not be able to decide if it is the Midddle East, Europe or India. Why is it that people wear what they want in Europe and we have to accept it out of respect for them. But if we go to Middle East or India we have to wear what want out of respect for them. What is it with all this demanding of respect? According to the cliche isnt respect supposed to be earned?

If I want to run around in tank tops and tight shorts (god forbid) I'll save it for those european countries where nobody cares.


There was a big scandal in Germany a few years ago. It is a pity I dont know where to find a news link for it. :D A young girl wanted to get on the public city bus in Munich wearing hot pants. The bus driver would not let her on. She made a complaint about it. I cant remember if he was fired or got a serious telling off. Good for Germany is what I say. Out with the silly customs and in with some common sense. :D

There used to be a time when all office type work places used to insist that employees wear business suits to work every day out of respect. That is also becomming a thing of the past in many EU based countries. In the last place I worked we wore what we wanted unless one of the clients of the company was visiting. There were some who argued that people have a better work attitude if they wear suits. I dont think my jeans and T shirt had any effect on the quality of my work.

I often wear more conservative clothes when I travel but it is more for protection than out of respect. It reduces sexual harassment and is less shocking for the people of certain countries. The need to protect myself like this or else actually makes me feel less respect for those who would judge or do worse to me if I wore my regular clothes.
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13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #44227  
B Posts: 212

I often wear more conservative clothes when I travel but it is more for protection than out of respect. It reduces sexual harassment and is less shocking for the people of certain countries.



I guess maybe it's the difference between respecting a cultural tradition, and respecting the feelings of the people within that culture. I personally disagree with a lot of cultural traditions, including the fact that it is perceived to be disrespectful to do a whole range of things: not covering up in certain countries; enter a temple with uncovered shoulders/knees or with shoes on; pointing feet at a shrine; turning your back to a shrine, etc etc ... a lot of these traditions stem from either the oppression and disrespect of women, or from superstition, or both. when I was working in England, with a lot of different ethnic minorities, a real PC buzzword was 'tolerance'. I always resented this, as I was not willing to say I was 'tolerant' of certain customs that kept some members of certain groups/religions (mainly women) subservient and submissive. When I was in India, I often felt distressed at some of the customs there, and the way women are kept down, as lesser people. Regarding religion, I also feel that most religious customs and rituals have arisen from superstition, and also control. I don't believe spirituality, true spirituality, is about that. I don't believe that if you point your feet at a shrine, or wear shoes, that gods and deities will be angry and it must mean you're not pure enough, or have enough humility, etc etc etc.
So, no - there are a lot of things I have difficulty 'respecting'. BUT - when I was in these countries, I went along with all these norms - not because I think they're right, or that I should force my mind and heart into a spirit of 'respect'. Just because the people of that culture (including women) have those customs and traditions so deeply, deeply ingrained, that it was actually painful for them to see these customs not being adhered to.
I guess it's the same when I'm staying in someone else's house - I just follow what they do, even when I don't agree with it - eg, I would never bother to dry dishes once they're washed, I just leave them on the drainer - why dry something that dries itself???!!! But if I'm staying with someone who does dry the dishes and likes to keep a clear draining board, well, I do that too - just out of respect for them and that it's their house. It doesn't mean I respect the fact that they dry dishes.
Of course it's the same but not the same - as drying the dishes isn't causing harm and oppression to members of society. (although on the other hand, maybe it is....) :D But single handedly, I can't crusade around the world, trying to get people to see differently.
Also, at the end of the day - travelling would be so much more boring if all cultures did things in the same way - whether we see it as good, bad or whatever, at least it's different.

BTW - does anyone know the answer to this? I always wondered, and wondered more when I was in India. Why is it that it's acceptable to have lots of belly showing beneath the folds of saris, but not acceptable to have shoulders/knees showing? I would have thought your belly is a real display of your womanhood - yet it's more important that your shoulders don't show??? Reply to this

13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #44232  
When I was in Iran I had to wear a headscarf and cover myself in lose fitting clothes from neck to ankles to wrists, apparently out of respect for peoples religious beliefs in Iran.
But the thing is, not everybody in Iran is a Muslim and either am I, yet we all have to follow the Islamic dress code or earn a public beating. Well, maybe I as a non muslim foreigner would escape with a deportation rather than a public beating.... Who is not respecting whom, I have to wonder??

...a lot of these traditions stem from either the oppression and disrespect of women...


I am very glad that somebody else besides me sees that aspect. I am regularly astonished that even many Western women dont question it. When I travel I am constantly insulted by signs saying 'no ladies allowed in here' etc and all the places where one is expected to address the man of the couple and not the woman apparently out of respect for the customs of the country.... etc etc etc. We also have some of the residue of that BS in modern countries which people even women insist on tolerating/liking but thankfully it is becomming less and less.

I went along with all these norms - not because I think they're right...


I generally go along with them as much as I have to too mainly because people in certain countries would not understand anything else. They often also have the tendency to believe that not upholding certain customs leaves the door wide open for ''bad morals'' to enter society and anybody who tries to defy these customs must be stopped at all costs. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 4th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #44235  

Why is it that it's acceptable to have lots of belly showing beneath the folds of saris, but not acceptable to have shoulders/knees showing?



That one always amuses me too. It is consided more respectable here in Europe to wear something that does not show ones belly. I would never go to a wedding for example wearing something that showed my belly. :D

Speaking of weird sensitivities: I was reading about a childbirth which was shown on TV in Iran. It was described in the book 'Not Without my Daughter' by Betty Mahmoody. The woman having the baby was completely naked appart from a headscarf and the face veils which woman had to wear by law in Iran at the time. There were 2 doctors both male delivering the baby. Why was it more important to cover the womens head than her breasts for example? And since women have to keep everything covered in pubic in Iran, then why is it acceptable to show most of this womens body on national TV?

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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #44320  
B Posts: 66
When in a Muslim country, I never feel forced to wear local outfits, nor do I cover my head at all times. I am not from their culture and I find that they do not expect me to pretend that I am. I usually mix local clothes with my own and I usually wear local shawls that are very versatile when one needs to cover up. I very much enjoy mixing their style with my own and it works really well for me.

But I always wear long-sleeves and cover up my legs and everything else that needs to be covered up as I am completely aware of the effects I'd be creating otherwise. I don't find it hard at all to maintain my own personality without offending the locals.
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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #44357  
There is always a lot of talk on travel sites about how we should respect the locals by wearing this and that and not the other and behaving like this and that.....
But lets consider who are the locals we are respecting in countries where people are offended by typical Western clothing and sexual activity. We are offending the more conservative elements of society and giving no thought to the less conservative who are silenced in various ways. There are consequences to different degrees for not fitting in and ''respecting'' the norms of a society. When we ''respect'' these cultures we are doing little more than playing because the decision to respect or not to respect will have little effect on our own lives in the long run. We will get on that plane and fly back home where we will put back on our bikinis and mini skirts and then we will tell others on the travel sites that we have respected the culture while in wherever. We will say this without having visited the womens section of Evin prison in Tehran, or having ever spoken with the too outspoken to be marriagable women in wherever...... Reply to this

13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 10 Msg: #44367  
I would call it politeness, rather than respect. Respect under these terms (as above) is only lip service.

Maybe we choose whether we wish to be polite to our hosts...or not polite. Like #5 ...dress/take care their way because you are 'in their house'.

I spent a number of years in the South Pacific and learnt that the local feeling towards those who did not wish to cover up (the way the locals did) in their villages was considered plain rude. Lacking in manners.

Politeness is perhaps a much easier concept to accept ...no need to get all PC about respect or disrepect ....If the locals view it as you respecting their culture, then that is great - better for you and your experiences surely.

Perhaps this way it gells better with our western culture - polite veneer, yet still being able to hold vehemently opposing views/opinions/beliefs.

Perhaps too, by being polite , we will be more accepted and spoken to and be able to talk to those from whom we would normally be kept far apart. (the 'too outspoken to be marriageable'?)
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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 11 Msg: #44375  
Maybe even claiming politeness is giving ourselves pretentions. How many of us bother to pander to the sensitivities of the locals when there are not consequences to us personally. Considering how many travellers dress in Thailand for example despite the suggestions in the Lonely Planet book would suggest to me that our adjustments to local clothing and morals are self serving. We will walk around the beach in bikinis and snog and get drunk in public in Thailand but we would not do this in Pakistan for example.
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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #44380  
B Posts: 212
yeah I think you're probably right, Mel - we do maybe what we feel we can get away with, and if there are enough other people around doing it too, we feel more protected.

Maybe we also do what makes us feel good - I admit there was something I liked about the fact that I needed to carry a shawl around me, and wear different clothes to what I'd normally do - I WANTED those different experiences, it made me feel more alive, and that I was experiencing something new, something I'd never done before. Yeah - hate to admit it - think I did it more for me than for anyone else 😉 Reply to this

13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #44384  

I admit there was something I liked about the fact that I needed to carry a shawl around me, and wear different clothes to what I'd normally do - I WANTED those different experiences, it made me feel more alive, and that I was experiencing something new, something I'd never done before. Yeah - hate to admit it - think I did it more for me than for anyone else 😉



Of course we want to experience things and see what is there. That does not mean that we approve or want those conditions to exist and they are not of our making. Many of us would change the human rights situation around the world if we possibly could. It is Ok for us as long as it is temporary. When people ask me if Iran is really so bad for woman as they have heard and want to know if I felt repressed when I was there, I tell them it is indeed so bad but I did not feel too repressed because I was holding a foreign passport and a ticket out of there. I certainly would not marry a local man and condem myself to living under that regime.
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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #44392  
B Posts: 212
I wonder what it is in us human beings that makes power and control such dominant drives. I wouldn't have any kind of a problem with it at all if people were to say that , look these are our temples, we see them as special places, and therefore we dress in a particular way to visit them - in the same way that we dress up for a special occasion - there's something nice about that. It's just so weighted and loaded because the rules are imposed in order to control people and to oppress women, and because people get hooked into superstitions put out by the 'powers' in order to keep them in line.
Religion has become the single most powerful weapon in being able to control, manipulate and bully societies and individuals - and it's so clever! Throw in a couple of truths in amongst the piles of BS and you have people eating out of your hands and doing all kinds of things. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #44414  
I think greed makes power and control such dominant drives. I think all discrimination against groups starts with greed and then becomes mindlessly accepted. If one makes up reasons to deem a large percentage of the population unworthy of wealth, power... then it makes getting the lions share for oneself easier.

It does not surprise me that most of the clothing restriciton customs are on women since they are a discriminated against group. Sex is a powerful influence on many people and situations. Since women are generally the gate keepers of sex then cover up your body and sexual represion rules enter. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 16 Msg: #44427  
B Posts: 66
There's a huge difference between being forced to wear a chador and dressing modestly as a cultural thing (whether religious or not).

There are in fact severe human rights violations attached to some of these issues and if you feel that things needs to change then you should get involved.

I hardly think refusing to cover up in a temple or criticizing their superstitious beliefs will cut it. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 17 Msg: #44432  

There are in fact severe human rights violations attached to some of these issues and if you feel that things needs to change then you should get involved.



Well yeah, I would report all severe human rights violations that I see or hear about. Not to the dodgy authorities of the particular country but to Amnesty. Of course it is important that we speak up for those who cant speak up for themselves.

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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 18 Msg: #44451  
B Posts: 66
Right. But throwing fits in temples and criticizing their religious beliefs or traditional outfits is not only rude, it accomplishes nothing. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 19 Msg: #44452  
I dont think many/any of us who have or do travel a lot throw fits in temples. We have had plenty of practice with being patient in many types of situation. As well as that we are efficient with preserving our energy as travel can be energy draining in more ways than one.
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13 years ago, August 5th 2008 No: 20 Msg: #44455  
B Posts: 66
Oh, maybe I misunderstood some of the posts above. I thought I read something about refusing to cover up in a temple and leaving, or some such. My bad. Reply to this

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