15th ASEAN University Games 2010 Cultural Do's and Don'ts
Reviewing these key cultural do’s and don’ts will go
far in showing our international guest that you respect
and appreciate their culture, enriching your ASEAN
University Games experience.
The ASEAN University Games, is
organized by the ASEAN University
Sports Council which is composed of the
university sports associations from Brunei
Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste,
The mission of AUSC is:
To strengthen international ties,
appreciation and understanding amongst
the students in ASEAN.
To encourage the development of
programs in physical education, sports
and educational recreation in ASEAN.
The official name, Negara Brunei Darussalam, loosely translates to “The
Country of Brunei, Abode of Peace.”
Head of State:
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Language(s): Malay, English
Culture / Do’s and Don’ts
The official religion of Brunei is Islam, though you will find Buddhists,
Christians, and a number of other beliefs as well. Bruneians are generally
very tolerant and will understand that foreigners are not familiar with all of
their customs and Islamic traditions.
Bruneians observe the local dress code and dress modestly.
Bruneians shake hands by lightly touching the hands and then
bringing the hand to the chest. Some people do not to shake hands
with members of the opposite sex.
You should not point with your finger; instead, use the thumb of
your right hand with the four fingers folded beneath it.
You should not pass in front of a person in prayer or touch the
Gifts (particularly food) should only be passed with the right hand,
although it is acceptable to use the left hand to support the right
wrist. Avoid giving or receiving with the left hand or pointing the
soles of your feet towards other people while receiving.
It is polite to accept even just a little food and drink when offered.
When refusing anything offered, it is polite to touch the plate
lightly with the right hand.
During the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims do not
take food from sunrise to sundown. It would be inconsiderate to eat
or drink in their presence during this period.
(Preăh Réachéa Nachâk Kâmpŭchéa), "Kingdom of Cambodia"
Head of State:
His Majesty King Norodom Sihamon
Capital: Phnom Penh
Language(s): Khmer, or Cambodian, English
Smile, relax and have fun are the big "dos". Cambodia is a mainly Buddhist
country (95% of the population are Theravada Buddhists) and the religion
has a big influence in the country's culture and habits. The people
in Cambodia understand that foreigners may not be familiar with all of their
customs, but by showing a respectful effort you will gain trust, friendship,
and have a better overall ASEAN University Games experience.
Don't walk over a person's feet.
Don't use your feet to point at someone.
Don't raise your feet on tables or chairs.
When you sit, women must sit knees bent and legs to the side.
Do not use your left hand to touch, eat, or hand someone
Pointing with your index finger is considered rude. Instead, gesture
with your right hand palm-up.
Don't start to eat when you are a guest at the dinner table before
your host has taken a bite.
Don't burp while eating.
Don't pick your teeth while eating.
Don't touch someone on the head, it is considered vey impolite.
Avoid aggression and confrontation at all costs, raised voices and
loss of temper are considered extremely rude.
When you walk between two Cambodians talking, bow a little as
you across them (it is really rude to walk straight through them
without bowing a little).
Ask permission before you take photos of people, some people are
shy and do not like being portrayed.
"Unity in Diversity", Republic of Indonesia
Head of State / Goverment:President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Language(s): Indonesian or 'Bahasa Indonesian, (Minangkabau or
Javanese'), Malay, English
Although it is not an Islamic state, Indonesia is the world's most populous
Muslim-majority nation, with 86.1% of Indonesians declared Muslim. It is
made up of over 17,500 islands (6,000 of which are inhabited) which are
home to over 300 ethnic groups.
Greetings can be rather formal as they are meant to show respect.
A handshake is the most common greeting accompanied with the
Many Indonesians may give a slight bow or place their hands on
their heart after shaking your hand.
If you are being introduced to several people, always start with the
eldest or most senior person first.
Titles are important in Indonesia as they signify status. If you
know of any titles ensure you use them in conjunction with the
Any food substance should be "halal" - things that are not halal
include anything with alcoholic ingredients or anything with pork
derivatives such as gelatine. Halal meat means the animal has been
slaughtered according to Islamic principles.
Offer gifts with the right hand only.
Dining etiquette is generally relaxed but depends on the setting and
Wait to be shown to your place - as a guest you will have a specific
Wait to be invited to eat before you start.
Eat or pass food with your right hand only.
Meuang Lao which literally means "Lao Country"
Head of State: President Choummaly Sayasone,
Secretary-General of the LPRP
Head of Government: Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh
Language(s): Laotian or Lao, French, English
Theravada Buddhism is a dominant influence in Lao culture.
The Lao are very friendly and hospitable and minimum efforts will you
respect the Lao culture and you will earn its respect in turn.
A formal greeting for most Lao people is the “Nop” (joining
one’s hands together in a praying gesture at chin level) similar
to Thai Wai.
Handshakes are also commonly used among male friends and
with foreign visitors.
The head is considered high. It is not acceptable to touch Lao
Feet are low. Placing them on furniture or pointing at things or
people with your feet is not acceptable.
Personal cleanliness is valued highly in Laos. Anyone who has
strong body odor tends to get disgusting looks.
It is polite to gently crouch down when walking past someone
who is seated, especially older people
Stepping over someone on your path is very impolite,
similarly stepping over food is disgusting and some Lao won’t
eat the food that has been stepped over.
Despite the heat, Lao/Laotians dress conservatively.
You might find it hard to communicate with locals if you
don’t speak Lao especially in the countryside where not many
people speak English. If things don’t quite work the way you
expect, remember to keep cool, don’t lose your temper or raise
your voice. It won’t help; it will only make you look bad.
Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu "Unity Is Strength”
Head of State:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong, referred to as "the Head" or "The Agong”.
The Agong is an elected monarch chosen from amongst the hereditary
rulers of the nine Malay states
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Language(s): Bahasa Malaysia, Malaysian Standard English
The Malaysian constitutional-monarchy guarantees freedom of religion,
although Islam is the largest and official religion of Malaysia. Malaysia is a
multi—ethnic, multicultural and multilingual society. The main ethnic
groups are the native Malays as well as large populations of Chinese, and
Indians. The country is clear that the ethnicities retain their religions,
customs and way of life. The most important festivals of each group are
Greetings in a social context will depend upon the ethnicity of the
person you are meeting. In general, most Malays are aware of
Western ways so the handshake is normal. There may be slight
differences though and a few things to bear in mind include:
Malay women may not shake hands with men. Women can of
course shake hands with women. Men may also not shake hands
with women and may bow instead while placing their hand on their
The Chinese handshake is light and may be rather prolonged. Men
and women may shake hands, although the woman must extend
her hand first. Many older Chinese lower their eyes during the
greeting as a sign of respect.
Indians shake hands with members of the same sex. When being
introduced to someone of the opposite sex, nodding the head and
smiling is usually sufficient. Among all cultures, there is a general
tendency to introduce:
The most important person to the lower ranking person, the older
person to the younger person, women to men.
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Head of State: Senior General Than Shwe
Language(s): Burmese, English
Theravada Buddhism is a dominant influence in Myanmar culture.
The Myanmar people are very friendly helpful, honest, but proud and
hospitable with minimum efforts will you respect the Myanmar culture and
you will earn its respect in turn.
When addressing people, don't leave out U (which stands for Mr) or
Daw (which stands for Ms/Mrs).
Speak slowly and clearly.
Not always necessary to shake hands.
Don't hug or kiss in public.
Don't touch any adult on the head.
Don't step over any part of a person, as it is considered rude.
Accept or give things with your right hand.
In Myanmar, unlike the Indian continent, nodding means YES, and
shaking head means NO.
Let the oldest be served first.
"For God, People, Nature, and Country" Republic of the Philippines
Head of State: President Benigno Aquino III
Language(s): Filipino (formerly Pilipino) is based on Tagalog, English
More than 90% of the population is Christians: about 80% belong to the
Roman Catholic Church while 10% belong to other Christian
denominations. Philippine culture is a combination of Eastern and Western
cultures. The Philippines exhibits aspects found in other Asian countries
with a Malay heritage, yet its culture also displays a significant amount of
Spanish and American influences.
Hiyas shame and is a motivating factor behind behavior.
Filipinos believe they must live up to the accepted standards of
behaviour and if they fail to do so they bring shame not only upon
themselves, but also upon their family.
If someone is publicly embarrassed, criticized, or does not live up
to expectations, they feel shame and lose self-esteem.
Initial greetings are formal and follow a set protocol of greeting the
eldest or most important person first.
A handshake, with a welcoming smile, is the standard greeting.
Close female friends may hug and kiss when they meet.
Use academic, professional, or honorific titles and the person's
surname until you are invited to use their first name, or even more
frequently, their nickname.
Dress well. Appearances matter and you will be judged on how
Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
Do not start eating until the host invites you to do so.
"Onward, Singapore" Republic of Singapore
Head of State:
Language(s): English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil
Singapore is a multi-ethnic society where Chinese, Malay and Indian
traditions coexist beneath the veneer of a western cosmopolitan
metropolis. The three main ethnic groups are religiously and culturally
Greetings will follow a strict protocol often based on both the
ethnic origin and age of the person.
Younger people or those who work in multi-national companies
may have adopted the western concept of shaking hands with
everyone, but this is not the case with older or more reserved
Ethnic Chinese shake hands. Their grasp is rather light although
the handshake itself can be rather prolonged.
Men and women may shake hands, although the woman must
extend her hand first. Introductions are always done in order of
age or status.
Between men, ethnic Malays shake hands.
Men and women do not traditionally shake hands, since Muslim
men do not touch women in public.
Younger Malays may shake hands with foreign women, but it is
more appropriate to use the 'salaam' (bowing the head) greeting.
This is also the greeting to be used when two women meet.
Ethnic Indians shake hands with members of the same sex.
When being introduced to someone of the opposite sex, nodding
the head and smiling is usually sufficient.
As with the other groups, the elderly or the person with the most
status is introduced first.
Kingdom of Thailand
Head of State: His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Head of Government: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
Language(s): Thai, English
The national religion is Theravada Buddhism. Thai culture has been shaped
by many influences, including Chinese, Lao, Burmese, Cambodian, and
Indian. Thais know that foreign visitors have their own customs and
different ways of doing things, but if you are aware of some of the do’s and
don’ts you will earn respect from your Thai hosts.
Most importantly of all, be particularly careful about respecting
Buddhism and the Thai Royal Family.
The Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and
the visitor should also show respect for the King and the Queen, and the
Royal Children. When attending a public event where a member of the
Royal Family is present, the best guide on how to behave is to watch the
crowd and do as it does.
Do respect all Buddha images.
Do dress properly when visiting a temple.
Do treat monks with the highest respect.
Do lower your body slightly when passing between or in front of
Do smile a lot.
Do enjoy yourself. Thais like life to be sanuk. Do keep both feet
on the ground when sitting.
Do offer and receive anything with your right hand always.
Do exercise tolerance, particularly when it comes to order food,
pay a bill or waiting for change.
Do use the wai correctly. A Westerner should never wai first and
anyone who is paying for any service is the boss and the bosses
don't wai first.
Do wai an elderly person.
Do sit in the place indicated by your friend.
Do ask for a receipt if you pay for a room/apartment in advance
more than a day.
Do make sure your laundry is your laundry when it’s returned.
Don’t cross your legs when you are in the presence of a monk.
This applies whether you are sitting on the floor or in a chair.
Don't place your feet so that they point towards a person, religious
image or picture of the Royal family.
Don’t touch a Thai woman without consent. The majority of Thai
women are conservative.
Don’t be overly affectionate in public.
Don’t worry too much about whether you should wai or not.
Don’t touch a Thai person’s head or ruffle their hair. Apologize if
you accidentally touch somebody’s head.
Don’t place your feet on the table while sitting, don’t point to
anything with your feet and don’t touch anybody with your feet.
Don’t raise your voice or lose your temper; try and be jai yen.
Don’t take Buddha images out of the country. Strictly speaking it
is against the law.
Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman,
or to accept anything from the hand of one.
Women should ensure that their legs and shoulders are covered
before entering a Buddhist temple. Please do not wear shorts.
Don't point with the forefinger at anyone.
Don't step over any part of another person.
Don't step on the door threshold.
Accept things with your right hand.
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Head of State: President José Ramos-Horta
Head of Government: Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão
Language(s): Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian English
East Timor became one of only two predominantly Roman
Catholic countries in Asia (97%). Most social courtesies are fairly formal.
Many conventions will be similar to those of Indonesia (despite their
political and religious differences) and many old East Timorese conventions
will doubtless come to the fore in the coming years.
East Timor is a relatively small island nation yet full of surprises. "A great
deal in a small package".
Its terrain changes from majestic mountain ranges, the highest peak being
Mt Ramelau at 2963 meters above sea level, to grassy plains, tropical
rainforests, swamps, white and black sand beaches and pristine coral reefs
all within a few hours drive....
Its people are proud, shy yet friendly. When engaged, will reward you with
a prompt smile opening the door for a journey of adventure and discovery
of places that only locals would know to share with you!
This is a mainly Catholic country where religion coexists with Animism,
modern with the ancient and where many cultures intermingle. Animist
beliefs and practices provide the background for the creation of legends and
myths passed on from generation to generation.
Dili, the capital, and other major towns are safe, laid back and still display
much of the Old Portuguese architecture and monuments.
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Head of State: President Nguyễn Minh Triết
Head of Government: Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng
Language(s): Vietnamese, English
Generally, Vietnamese people are very appreciative if they see you trying to
abide by their customs, and very forgiving if you get it wrong or forget. If
you make the effort, you will be rewarded. Vietnamese society has a fair
amount of public etiquette. The following are some of the more common
Avoid public displays of affection with a member of the opposite
Do not touch someone's head.
Pass all items with both hands.
Do not point with your finger - use your hand.
Do not stand with your hands on your hips.
Do not cross your arms on your chest.
Do not pass anything over someone's head.
Do not touch anyone on the shoulder.
Do not touch a member of the opposite sex.
Wait to be shown where to sit.
The oldest person should sit first.
Chopsticks should be placed on the table or a chopstick rest after
every few mouthfuls or when breaking to drink or speak.
People hold bowls close to their faces.
Hold the spoon in your left hand while eating soup.
Meals are typically served family-style.
Try to finish everything on your plate.
When you are finished eating, rest your chopsticks on top of your
Cover your mouth when using a toothpick.
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