Whine Wednesday: Reminder To Dress Appropriately When Visiting Government Offices Abroad

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Our Whine Wednesday this week is about travelers who step into government offices such as embassies, immigration centers or police stations with less than adequate clothing.

In many countries especially in Asia people are expected to dress respectfully when visiting any government office and in case they show up like a slob will be refused service and thrown out.

While it should be common sense to dress in an appropriate manner when seeking out any office where the outcome is at the discretion of the person standing in front of you, some travelers seem to not have gotten that message or were never taught about basic decency in the first place.

South East Asia is rather conservative and traditional and earlier this week I was able to witness an interesting scene when visiting the Immigration facility at Chaengwattana Government Office Complex in Bangkok to modify my visa.

After waiting around there for roughly 9 hours (I will write about this process and visit in a separate article) it was about my time to be called to one of the officers desk when I noticed some commotion across the room.

Apparently some older foreigner who was also there to handle his visa matter was being told in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t be served unless he comes back with proper clothes. He showed up at the immigration office in flip flops, dirty shorts and a muscle shirt, exposing more of his body than it covered!

I’m not sure how he even made it inside the main waiting hall in this outfit as you have to get past two checkpoints before this final stage.

The sign they have posted outside the main door (see picture above) states not to wear:

  • Vests (muscle shirts)
  • See Through Shirts
  • Stomach Free Shirt Tops
  • Tight Pants (?)
  • Shorts
  • Miniskirt
  • Sandals / Flip Flops

Suddenly a lady appeared (not sure if she was with him in the first place or not) and she shot out of the room, just to return 15 minutes later with a shirt she must have purchased in the lower level of the building.

It looked absolutely hideous and he looked like a clown when he finally approached the desk again where his matter was then taken up.

I have to say though that the dresscode poster above is a bit arbitrary. A good amount of people there (including myself) wore proper, clean shorts. Many sandals or flip flops. I guess as long as you don’t make an ass out of yourself or be rude to the officers they might let minor things slide.

Conclusion

I’ve seen this many times where foreigners think it’s suitable to show up in foreign countries wearing their worst clothes, pretty much looking like a bum. It starts at the airport, then the immigration counters abroad and government offices such as visa application offices and police stations.

This isn’t just a matter of basic politeness and decency but there are in fact rules in many countries that you aren’t allowed to enter public offices unless dressed in a respectful way. How someone would think it’s appropriate to walk around like this is beyond me, especially because it’s not in their own interest to draw attention to the fact that they might be destitute and draw extra scrutiny from the officer. Those are the first people who complain why they have to present proof of finances and insurance or get their application denied for another reason, be it valid or fabricated.

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