It seems like only last month that another tourist was deported from Myanmar (Burma) for publicly showing off his Buddha tattoo. Oh wait, it was.
The Washington Post reported that Cesar Hernandez of Spain was there with his wife when people began noticing his seated Buddha tattoo covering much of his calf. Buddhist monks kindly informed him that the tattoo was inappropriate. The tourists were then detained and deported or, perhaps, asked kindly to leave or be careful.
As the Post reports, “A Canadian professor was deported two years ago because he, too, had a Buddha tattoo. That same year, Sri Lanka deported a British nurse who had inked the Buddha on her arm. Both insisted that they tattooed the man on their bodies out of religious devotion, not lack of respect. They were told that they were violating the law, put into custody, then kicked out.”
In 2014, another tourist was kicked out of Sri Lanka for a tattoo on her upper arm. In 2012, three French tourists were convicted of “wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures deemed insulting” – pretending to kiss a Buddha statue.
Today, a Thai news source writes:
Hours after a blonde woman was photographed wearing a see-through dress while visiting a sacred temple in Phuket, she was invited to the police station to get a lesson on Thai culture last night.
The tourist, a Russian national, had to make a stop at Tourist Police Command Center with her tour guide and apologize for her actions after photos of her parading around Chalong Temple in a flimsy beach cover-up went viral and was criticized by furious Buddhists.
This further underscores the need for respect when entering the space of other cultures. Respect comes from understanding and an openness and readiness to alter one’s behavior based on the wishes of others. This in turn depends on humility, recognizing that one’s own cultural mores and customs are not universal or superior. Humility is a tough virtue to come by these days, and thus a difficult one to instill upon people who don’t have it.
But, if you care to travel to Asia, you’d best learn a bit first and follow local decorum, or you might find yourself learning it in a police station or on an early flight home.
The best advice is to ask around, do plenty of research before you travel. Then, do your best to follow the locals. When in doubt, ask. Your hotel staff should speak some English and be willing to advise you. Taxi/Tuk-tuk drivers too should speak English depending on how touristy your location is. Many locals, again, location depending, will also be happy to help.