'Scanty clothing can really offend...'
'Scanty clothing can really offend...'

The people of Khorezm are far more laid back than other regions of Uzbekistan when it comes to manners and etiquette. They are also extremely forgiving of tourists' cultural blunders and faux pas. However there are still some basic guidelines you should take into account as a guest in another country. Do your best to avoid causing offence but remember that local people are generally fairly gracious towards foreigners.

',,,so avoid tricky situations'
',,,so avoid tricky situations'

Khiva gets very hot in summer and the temptation is to wear as little as possible. However you can dress both sensibly and modestly with loose cotton trousers or skirts. Shorts and tight, strappy tops for women are offensive and are generally only worn by Uzbek prostitutes or Russians. If you must wear shorts try to wear long, baggy ones. In Khiva shorts are usually only worn by boys and young men.
As in other Asian cultures, shoes are removed at the entrance of a home.

'Local people love it if you try a few words of Uzbek'
'Local people love it if you try a few words of Uzbek'

No matter how halting, a few phrases of Uzbek will be greeted by exclamations of your language prowess. People appreciate it so much when tourists learn a few phrases of their language. Often there is little alternative, as most people do not speak English. A few words in Uzbek can also bring the price down whilst bargaining for souvenirs or wanting a better room in a hotel.
Many local people learned German at school and everyone speaks at least some Russian, so both are also worth a try. However even if your Russian is quite good, do try to learn some Uzbek as Russian is still perceived as the colonial language. If you can manage some of the 'Khorezmcha' phrases, the distinct dialect spoken in the Khorezm oasis (see the The Phrasebook section) you will really impress.

'Local families may invite you to join them for a  meal'
'Local families may invite you to join them for a meal'

One of the most important things to remember is that bread is considered sacred. When you buy some from the bazaar, then treat it with respect. Do not throw any away and do not place it patterned side down. If you see women baking bread and they offer some to you, it is impolite to refuse, as this is a gesture of friendship. Don't attempt to pay for the bread although you may wish to give a small gift of your own.
If you are an independent tourist travelling by public transport, locals may befriend you and extend warm offers of hospitality. Most of these invites are genuine, as people are thrilled to host a real live foreigner. There are, of course, exceptions and discernment is needed. On the whole, if someone gives you a sincere invitation, then take up the offer even if you feel that, in your culture, this would be an imposition. (For further information see the Guests and Hospitality section.)

Gifts are an important part of Uzbek culture. However there are unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of this. Expect to be hassled by children asking for pens, sweets and chewing gum. These children are not beggars but know that hassling tourists provides a lucrative source of presents. Do not feel pressure or guilt if you do not wish to give them anything. If they are persistent, it is quite culturally appropriate to shout at them or find their parents. Alternatively you can succumb to the 'hassle tax' and buy sweets and candy in the bazaar to keep the ankle-biters at bay.
On the other hand you may well experience acts of kindness and hospitality and it's good to have a stock of small gifts (as well as one or two larger ones) preferably from your own country. If you visit someone's house flowers, (kitsch plastic ones are particularly appreciated!), chocolate or fancy tea are well received. Do not expect the recipient to show delight at your gift, however expensive or well chosen, as this is not culturally appropriate. Presents are quickly glanced at and then put away. Once you're gone they will eagerly examine your gift with interest, even if they did not appear particularly grateful in your presence.
Today it is rare that your host would feel compelled to give you a gift as well as hospitality. However this was often a tricky dilemma for the khan, as Henry Lansdell discovered when he was a guest himself,

'Yakoob, who took up his habitation with the servants, and who had not told them that he spoke Tajik as well as Turki, rather amused us that evening by telling us that there had been a discussion going on outside as to whether it would be proper to give us presents from the Khan. It was at length decided in the affirmative, and there came a horse and cloth khalat for me, a similar one for Sevier, and cotton one for Yakoob'.

Henry Lansdell 'Russian Central Asia' 1885

Taking Photos:
If you would like to take a photo of someone, always ask permission first. If this is refused then accept it with good grace. Some people are not willing to be photographed by a person of the opposite sex.
However most locals love having their picture taken and really appreciate it when they later receive copies in the post. Don't promise to send photos if you don't intend to do so, as tourists often disappoint local people in this way.

If you are travelling on public transport or sitting with local people in a waiting room at a station or airport, it is good to remember the principle of sharing. Sweets, sunflower seeds and bread are usually passed around and the same will probably be expected of you. Bear this in mind particularly if you intend to consume expensive food or titbits from home. You may either want to save these for a more discreet moment or be willing to share them around.

'Don't suggest a ridiculously cheap price'
'Don't suggest a ridiculously cheap price'

When it comes to buying fruit at the bazaar, purchasing souvenirs and taking taxis, bargaining is important. People usually expect you to bargain and are willing to come down from their first price. In some cases, locals will try and rip you off by charging exorbitant sums of money. This is particularly true of taxi drivers at airports whose prices you can greet with hoots of derision. However unlike many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, bargaining will rarely knock much more than a tenth off the price, although this depends a lot on the level of the initial asking price. A constant source of irritation for local sellers is when tourists respond to the first figure by suggesting a ridiculously low one. If you want to buy a wooden box and the asking price is $10, you may be able to go down to $7 or so, but do not annoy the souvenir seller by suggesting $1. He or she will find this demeaning and insulting.

'This means  'sex'
'This means  'sex'
'This means 'sex'

Body Language:
Since most tourists don't speak Uzbek, body language can be a major help in communication. For example, placing one hand on your heart and slightly nodding your head is a good way to show gratitude, respect or contrition. It's also the accepted greeting towards an older person or someone of the opposite sex with whom you shouldn't shake hands.
However there are certain gestures that you may wish to learn so that you don't make them by accident. The first is the gesture for sex which is shown by making one hand into a fist and slapping it with the other hand. Curiously, this gesture, when done discreetly, is often more acceptable than the use of the actual word for sex, either in Uzbek or English.

'This means 'to get drunk'
'This means 'to get drunk'

Another important gesture is the sign for getting drunk. This is made by flicking the side of your neck with your hand. It implies the intention of getting drunk rather than drinking in moderation with a meal.

'This means 'shame'
'This means 'shame'

Shame is demonstrated by dragging your forefinger down your cheek.

'This means 'too much'
'This means 'too much'

Lastly, the gesture for 'a lot' or too much is shown by making a slicing motion across your neck with your thumb.

Public shows of affection are not the norm so amorous couples should keep this to a minimum or expect to be gawked at by passing youths.

Interaction with the opposite sex:
Although there are vestiges of Soviet culture in evidence around Khorezm, men and women are still relatively segregated and do not interact that much unless they are related or are former classmates. As such it is best to interact with people of the same sex. English speakers are usually younger and more westernised so this may not always apply. Women should be especially careful not to be too friendly with local men, as this may be wrongly interpreted.
Still, much has changed since 1885 when Lansdell, a British missionary sojourning in Khiva, asked his host whether it would be possible to meet his wife and to see the unveiled face of a Khivan woman. He then went on to explain that in England it was common for the lady of the house to introduce herself to guests.

"The host replied that it would give him great pleasure to do so, only that it was contrary to their customs. Moreover, they (the women) were always locked in their chambers, and would be so frightened at the appearance of a stranger that they would drop. Yakoob afterwards informed me that Matmurad was offended at my asking."

Henry Lansdell 'Russian Central Asia' 1885

Tour Links
'The Bazaar' 'The Blue Dome Restaurant'
'Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum' 'The Ota Darvasa Teahouse'
'Said Allaudin Mausoleum' 'The Khorezm Hotel'
'The Working Mosque' 'The Summer Palace Hotel'
'Said Magrumjan Ensemble' 'Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah Hotel'
'Yurt Restaurant and B&B' 'Hotel Arkanchi'
'Miras B&B' 'Hotel Zafarbek'
'Mirzabashi B&B'    
Guidebook Links
'Guests and Hospitality'    
'Other Traditions'    
'Greetings and Civilities'    
'The Phrasebook'