Etiquette and Customs

By: Song Shuhong, Tibet from all Angles
Updated: May 31, 2018

Tibetan etiquette and customs are varied, but most are closely linked with Buddhism.


Presenting hada is the most common form of etiquette. People present hada in many circumstances such as weddings and festivals, visiting elders and worshiping Buddha statues, and bidding farewell to friends leaving on a long journey.


Kowtowing and bowing are also common etiquette. People generally kowtow when worshipping Buddha statues, pagodas and Living Buddhas, or the elderly. In the past, when meeting senior officers, headmen and respected people, people would take off their hats and bend to an angle of 45 degrees while holding the hats close to the ground. In greeting ordinary people or peers, a slight lowering of the head while holding the hat in front of the chest was widely adopted. People sometimes clasped their palms together and bowed simultaneously. To show veneration, the palms must be raised together above the head while bowing deeply.


At every festival, and at the Tibetan New Year's Day, the host will offer a toast to guests. One custom in the pastoral areas is to entertain guests with highland barley wine. According to convention, the guest must first carefully drink three mouthfuls and then drain the cup - otherwise, the host will think the guest is impolite, or despise him.


Drinking tea is a daily etiquette. When the guest sits down in the house, the hostess or her children will pour out buttered tea. The guest should not attempt to drink the tea, however, until the host has politely placed the cup in front of him.