Local Customs and Traditions
Armenia is extremely safe with very, very low incidents of assault, ranking eighth on this year’s “How Safe Do You Feel?” Gallup Poll. However, there are certain traditions, customs and unspoken rules to keep in mind when travelling around:
- Even though homosexuality was legalized in 2003, it remains a taboo throughout Armenia, especially in rural areas. There are no laws in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. While street harassment and assaults are not common, they are known to occur.
- Some local men may come on strongly when flirting, and have a lack of what would be considered an appropriate respect for personal space in the west. Foreign women might have to face some street harassment, but the men will tend to keep their distance. It is unusual in Armenia for women to walk alone at night but it is actually incredibly safe, most likely safer than what you’re used to back home!
- Armenians always want to help. Whether they’re offering a lift, inviting you over to their home for dinner, offering to pay for a meal, helping out at a shop, giving directions even when not asked for, or just shouting out a friendly hello (especially common with children in villages, wanting to put their learned English to the test) – be prepared to accept with a big grin, or politely decline!
- Meals at home or in nicer restaurants tend to be quite lavish, with a lot of food generally remaining post-consumption. At a restaurant, feel free to ask to take leftovers home – a practice slowly gaining momentum in the cities. If you are dining with locals, be prepared for a little struggle over who pays the bill, as Armenians tend to be very hospitable no matter their means.
- In some churches, it is customary for women to cover their hair. Although it is not expressly prohibited, casual clothing such as shorts or miniskirts are not considered appropriate clothing for visiting churches. It is also a religious tradition to walk out of the church backwards, facing the altar, as a sign of respect to god, but mind your step and head!
- As with travelling anywhere, use your common sense – keep your belongings close, don’t wave wads of money around, avoid creating a public disturbance, and travel with a friend for maximal enjoyment and comfort!