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Her Hat Not Always Culturally Correct


Not in the Pacific Islands...
Work colleagues who have visited remote Pacific Islands told me they could not wear a hat or sunglasses due to local customs. We are assuming that this is because the head is very sacred in many Pacific cultures (you shouldn't touch people on the head either) and that sunglasses do not allow you to see a person's eyes. Supposedly they relied heavily on natural shade and sunscreen.
Cindy, Australia

Not in Bali...
I am the male partner of a member of your Journeywoman Network. I am also an anthropologist (for what that's worth) and kind of interested in your question. Hats, like any kind of clothing or bodily adornment always carry a message of some kind 'in' the visual language of wherever you happen to be. Whether you like it or not your favourite hat which the locals are used to in your local laundromat may mean more and different things somewhere else. Regarding hats, the only place I know much about is Indonesia (especially Bali) and there men wear hats more than women. The only women who seem to wear them are agricultural workers who want to protect their already brownish skins from the blackening effects of the sun. It's a beauty thing. They wear either big straw hats or turbans of whatever cloth is available. In a mosque a female keeps her head covered. She doesn't in a Balinese temple. This is getting complicated but I guess the message is there is no universal 'hat' rule and the easy solution is simply to ask with honesty and humility and most people will be only too happy to tell you what is appropriate.
Graeme, Auckland, New Zealand

Not in Buddhist temples...
When should a woman not wear a hat? Here's my answer. Women travellers will be culturally incorrect if they don't remember to remove their hats when entering Buddhist temples in Thailand.
Linda, Bangkok, Thailand

Not in Buddhist temples...
I was asked to take my hat off before entering a Buddhist Temple near Wollongong, south of Sydney Australia. This may not apply worldwide as Buddhism seems to adapt to the geographical location the temple is in. Not sure about that last fact, though. Does anybody else know?
Grace, Sydney, Australia

Not in Buddhist temples...
All headgear must be removed when entering a Buddhist temple. This also applies to umbrellas or sunshades, in fact anything held above the head. It is also not the done thing to touch anyone's head in a Buddhist country and females must never touch a Buddhist monk.
Jo, Norwich, England

Not in Taoist temples...
I didn't know this before until I volunteered as a walking tour guide in my local Vancouver Chinatown back when I was in college. One of the designated places was a Taoist temple; the keeper there (a monk) once told me that he wished that all visitors would have the courtesy of taking off their hat before they enter a Taoist temple. He was very distressed to see many visitors wearing baseball hats and sunglasses in there.
Sheryl, Vancouver, Canada

I love hats...

I also am a hat wearer. In my travels to around 100 countries I have never discovered an incorrect place to wear a hat. In fact, in many places a hat is appreciated and often has afforded me more respect than I would likely have gotten without it.
Dorothy, Pennsylvania, USA


She pulled down her hat...

It was a cold winter's night in Montreal as I found myself on the subway travelling back to my B&B in an outlying neighbourhood. I was feeling a bit uneasy -- It was later than I usually stayed out when I travelled solo. There were plenty of people on the train when we left the downtown core but as we moved further out, the car emptied quickly. To soon, I found myself alone except for one other passenger -- mutter, mutter... a middle-aged, slightly inebriated leering lout who realized the potential of the situation. He began by calling out to me and trying to establish eye contact. I didn't bite. He tried again and again, each time just a little louder. I retaliated by pulling my woollen cap down so that my eyes were almost covered. I hunched my shoulders, took a bag of chips from my backpack and began stuffing my mouth and chewing loudly. Crumbs spewed on to my coat and into my lap as I began to mutter to myself in French. He stopped calling out and stared in amazement at my gross behaviour. I continued muttering. I swear that he looked relieved when he got off at his station.

(Source: Anonymous, Journeywoman files)

All about hats 1/3





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