The people of Laos are very diverse, as there are a large number of different ethnic groups living in the country. They are friendly, have a rich sense of humor and love telling stories. They are also patient and very accepting of life, not trying to change the way things are, but taking them as they are. The precepts of Buddhism are a very important part of their lives.
Lao is the main language spoken throughout the country, however, given the wide range of ethnic groups, you may hear a variety of tribal languages. French, Vietnamese and English are also sometimes spoken.
The majority of the people in Laos are Buddhists. Other belief systems from Confucianism to animism to Christianity are also represented.
As with most Asia countries, don't touch anyone on the head or with the foot, and women should never touch a monk. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Dress appropriately for your visit to this Buddhist country. Short shorts and revealing clothing should be avoided. Footwear must be removed when entering a temple. Always carry your ID or passport with you. The typical Lao greeting is the nop, with the hands pressed together as if in prayer, however some people will shake hands instead.
Lao cuisine, with its Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and French influences, tends to be spicy, with a liberal use of chiles. Some of the local specialties are: sticky rice, feel free to eat this with your fingers - just roll it in a bite-size ball and pop it in your mouth; pho, a rice noodle soup, usually served with beef or pork; laap, minced meat, fish or vegetables tossed in lime juice, garlic, onions and chiles; tam maal hung, a salad of papaya mixed with chiles, garlic, lime, fish sauce and palm sugar; and khai phaan, moss from the Mekong River usually topped with garlic and tomato, a Luang Prabang specialty.Favorite local libations include lao lao, a rice whisky, and Beerlao.