Laos’ dominant language is Lao, though only about 70% of the population speaks this language natively. In fact, there are more Lao speakers in Thailand's north-eastern border lands of Isaan than there are in Laos.
Locals living in rural areas speak ethnic minority languages such as Khmu and Hmong. French is also commonly used in government and commerce – it’s also a compulsory subject for schools in Laos.
Religion in Laos
Buddhism is the main religion in Laos, and its overall influence upon the daily lives of the Lao people has been altered by the strictures of the communist government. In fact, the Lao government doesn’t oppose observance of the religion and has used many of its teachings to support its political goals.
The Vientiane-based That Luang festival – once reduced to a 3-day religious observance during the first decade of Communist control – has expanded into a full week's celebration of concerts, parades, and religious ceremonies
Social Rules in Laos
There are several social rules in Laos that you may need to follow during your holiday. Lao people greet each other with a prayer-like gesture called a nop. A younger person or a person of lower status will nop their elder or social superior.
The western custom of shaking hands has become more common in recent years, though a smile and a slight bow of the head is still considered polite. Backslapping, public displays of affection, shouting, and wild gesticulation are considered impolite among the local community.
Buddhism has also influenced many social rules in Laos – the head is considered the highest part of the body and the feet lowest, both literally and figuratively. Touching someone's head or pointing with your toes are both extremely rude behaviours.
You’re also required to remove your shoes before entering temples and somebody's home.