Good Manners in Central Asia: 5 Tips for Travelers in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan
MIR’s Director of Operations Jake Smith has lived and worked in Central Asia for years, gathering first-hand knowledge of how to act in a mannerly fashion. Here Jake offers 5 “best behavior” tips in two of his favorite countries.
1. Dress ModestlyUzbekistan and Tajikistan are secular states and religious dress codes are not enforced as they are in some Muslim countries. That said, by covering up from elbow to elbow and from neckline to just below the knees, you are showing that you understand and respect local sensitivities. The rules can be a little stricter in villages and rural areas, or when visiting religious sites.
Bukhara street style
Photo: Marina Karptsova
2. Take Off Your ShoesWhen entering a local home or a mosque, you should always remove your shoes unless specifically told not to. Central Asian streets are often much dustier than those back home, and locals want their floors and carpets to stay clean.
Uzbek men gathering for daily prayers at a local mosque
Photo: Michel Behar
3. Don’t Deploy Your HandkerchiefMost Uzbeks and Tajiks view nose blowing as a private act to be avoided in public. While you won’t seriously offend anyone if you have to do so, it is best to hold out for the next bathroom break, if possible.
4. Expect Personal QuestionsIn Uzbekistan and Tajikistan the definition of a too-personal question is much narrower than in the U.S. and in some other countries. Don’t be shocked if you are asked about your salary, age, family circumstances, religion, political beliefs, or other topics. These are all fair game for casual conversation and introductions in Central Asia, and the questioner intends no rudeness.
One of my wife’s pet peeves while living in Tajikistan was the constant barrage of inquiries about whether she had children or not. Her reply that we did not was frequently met with concerned questions about the reason for this apparent failure, and occasionally by advice on how to make it happen quicker!
Inquiring minds want to know…
Photo: Peter Guttman
5. SmileGuests are of the utmost importance in Tajik and Uzbek culture, and locals will often bend over backwards to make sure you are happy and have everything you need. In fact, a common saying throughout the region is “A guest is a gift from God.” With that in mind, it is important to always try to maintain a sense of humor, be patient, and most importantly, smile.
Travel to Central Asia with MIR
MIR has 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and has an affiliate office in Uzbekistan. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
When you travel with MIR on a tour to Central Asia, you can practice good manners every day, the Central Asian way. You can also book a custom private journey.
Top Photo: Silk scarf vendor in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo Credit: Michel Behar
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2016