It’s hard to get a grasp of a culture in a single entry, 30-day visa period. Especially in a country that is as large as Laos, which has multiple sub-cultures and differing ethnicities. Getting a good idea of the place you are visiting is tough.
I think one of my first experiences with Laotian people gave me a great incite into the culture. While crossing the road by motorcycle, a Laotian driver and I nearly collided. The almost-wreck was my fault, and culminated with an NBA-style flop on the other biker’s part, used to swindle some money from me. I checked out his “injuries,” as well as his bike, and while he was trying to say I owed him money, a group of Laotians at a bike repair shop laughed raucously. Laotian people always laugh raucously.
On a very shallow level, one could come to the conclusion that people from Laos like slapstick humor. They laugh at falang and locals alike when they fall, or do something silly. They laugh all the time. At first I started to feel a bit uncomfortable, as I was always being laughed at, but now I think there is something more to it. Laotian people are proud. When conflict arises, or a situation that could offend someone’s pride occurs, instead of overreacting, they laugh. This is a mechanism to diffuse a situation that could be uncomfortable for them.
I’m not sure if my 30-day conclusion is correct, but it seems to make sense to me. The people in Laos can be very nice, and very accommodating, but it comes at a price, and isn’t always upfront. Keep calm, enjoy your time, and if you feel uncomfortable, just laugh it off.