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Social Life in the Maldives

Behavior

Most of the behavioral rules and restrictions in the Maldives are related to Islam, beginning with the conservative dress (above), but more important are their dietary restrictions. Islamic law forbids pork products and alcohol; fortunately, there is little expectation that you follow these rules unless you are in public. Few restaurants serve pork products and if they do it is in a resort, in which no local will be offended at your order. Alcohol is only available in resorts; in fact hotels expect you to drink alcohol as it makes up a part of their income and appeal to the foreigner. However, alcohol isn't available outside resorts and public intoxication (outside your resort) is forbidden, even if you only had one or two drinks. See our Maldives Dining & Food Page for further details.

In addition to following the dress restrictions mentioned below and following the local dining etiquette, the most important behavioral restrictions are basic courtesy. Avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, religion, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart.

Dress

As a Muslim country, there are a number of religious rules that pertain to dress that should be obeyed by everyone in the Maldives. The locals are primarily Muslim and dress very conservatively. Women tend to wear long-sleeved dresses that are quite loose-fitting and reach nearly to the ground. Many women also cover their hair due to Islamic Law. The men tend to dress in shirts and pants, with white being a more formal color; again the clothing tends to be loose-fitting and reaches to the lower arms and legs at a minimum.

Prior to packing, be sure to understand where you are staying and how many locals you will encounter. The Maldives has established itself as an island paradise and most tourists go with the intention of sitting on a beach with little clothing on. While this may seem ideal, the locals don't want to see your half naked bodies and you surely won't see theirs. Although Foreigners are never expected to dress like the locals, if in the presence of locals cover your shoulders and knees at a minimum. If you are in a private resort, wearing a swimming suit is acceptable, but nakedness and toplessness for women is strictly forbidden even in these resorts.

This page was last updated: November, 2013