Photo by The Philosophy Of Travel
Feature photo by Stinkie Pinkie

Hey you, backpacker girl. Yes you, in the halter top and jean shorts, drinking a banana shake by the Mekong.

Would you walk down the street topless in Brisbane or Stockholm or Boston?

Sorry, don’t mean to offend you. It’s just that the way you’re dressed is totally inappropriate for this place. Look around at the local women – do you see any bare shoulders?

No, don’t point to the bar down the street. Those women are prostitutes.

The fact is, wearing skimpy clothes in Southeast Asia makes YOU look like a prostitute. Sure, the locals are used to backpacker fashion by now, and if you stick to the banana pancake trail, you won’t get more than a few uncomfortably long looks.

Not impressed by backpacker fashion.
Photo by Akuppa

But if you venture outside the tourist zones and – gasp – actually attempt to interact with local people on more than the most superficial level, your bare skin will be totally offensive. You can get around the language barrier to make genuine connections, but flouting cultural norms separates you from the locals as effectively as razor wire.

Show A Little Respect

OK, OK. You’re on holiday. You’re here to have fun, try some new food and maybe hook up with that dreamy English guy who you met tubing in Vang Vieng. You’re not in Laos to be some sort of freelance ambassador.

But, just for a moment, imagine what your grandparents would say if rich, rowdy, foreigners – perhaps Russians, or Africans, or Eskimos – started pouring into your hometown wearing nothing but body paint, leather boots and thongs. Poor Grandma would wonder what the world was coming to, wouldn’t she.

So show a little respect. Buy a sarong in the local market, put away your tube-tops and for Buddha’s sake, please cover up if you visit a temple.

Hippie Bombs

Photo by JonRawlinson

Backpacker guys, you’re not off the hook. When was the last time you showered? Did you use soap?

Dreads and stubble might show off how far-out you’ve gone on your travels, but in Southeast Asia personal hygiene is of utmost importance. Be neat. Be clean. Wash your hair.

America might not be dropping cluster bombs on Southeast Asia anymore, but hippie-bombs are also disruptive to local culture. Take care of your appearance, and you’ll get a lot more out of your travels.

What say you, readers? Am I too harsh on tube-tops? Please leave a comment below.

Other Matador articles to check out include Has Travel Chanel Sunk To A New Low With Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches? and the classic Budget Travelers Are Hippie Scum.