Faux Pas – can they be avoided while travelling?

Faux Pas can be easily and innocently committed while travelling. In light of the news about a bunch of backpackers who have been arrested for taking pictures of themselves naked on a sacred mountain in Malaysia, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at Faux Pas in general while travelling.

Committing a faux pas while travelling is extremely easy, I’m sure those four backpackers were unaware that the mountain they had innocently chosen as their backdrop was considered sacred by the local tribes.

It’s easy to forget that attitudes to certain things differ from country to country. What is acceptable in one is frowned upon in another. In general, as you are in another country it is best to respect their traditions and customs to avoid trouble.

I myself have taken plenty of these naked pictures and I can see why it is don, as its funny and can be a memento from a trip. But, I also think knowing where to do it is important. For instance, it’s much better to do it in Australia than Malaysia. As an Englishman, there is not much difference in our culture and belief then Australia. The worst case scenario would probably be being moved on by the police and maybe a fine.

Doing it in a country with a different legal and belief system is asking for trouble in my opinion. Though I do have sympathy with these backpackers as they have unintentionally offended people, I think they could have been smarter and avoided the situation they now find themselves in.

Mount Kinabalu. Malaysia

Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

From a Western perspective, it can seem old-fashioned and a little ridiculous that tribes consider a mountain to be sacred and that the naked pictures were the cause of an earthquake a few days later.

However, that is to ignore the fact that many of the world’s religions such as Christianity and Islam preach extraordinary event such as the resurrection of Christ without any physical evidence to back it up. It’s in many ways about perspective and context, because we in the West see ourselves as more developed and intelligent, other views, like the Malaysian’s tribe’s, can be ridiculed for being archaic and out of date.

This is in many ways ignorance, just because we in the West observe certain customs and live the way we do, does not mean that the rest of the world should follow suit. This is what makes the world what it is, a melting pot of cultures and beliefs.

This is many ways the essence of travel, you travel to experience something new, to immerse yourself in a different culture, to see the world in a different light. The moral of the story is that we should respect the customs of these countries and educate ourselves, so we do not see the world through a series of assumptions.

In case you are worried about experiencing the fate of these backpackers here is an article by the Huffington Post detailing 50 faux pas that you should avoid while travelling.


Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *