Lao tradition when someone die

by Kelly


An executives' father just died, and the family is originally from Laos. How can we show them that we care in a way to preserves Laos tradition? We don't know that service address, but we do have the executive's home address.

Should we send flowers? food? card? or nothing?

Thank you,


Hi Kelly,

Thanks for dropping by. It's nice to know that others are interested in Lao culture and traditions.

In Laos when someone we know (or someone close to those we know) die, we go to their house, give flowers, rice (small quantity, uncooked), and/or money.

In offices, if our colleagues' family member die we'd gather a small amount of money (how much? it is up to individual) then send a representative (or a group of colleagues) to their house to give the money and sometimes a wreath. When going to the death's house one should dress conservatively in black or white (no red or bright color clothes).

I think this is enough to show that you care.

FYI: Usually the death body is kept in their family home for a few days before cremation.

Note: What mentioned here is what we do in Laos, I don't know if Laotian living in the USA practice this tradition, but I'd guess that they do to some extent (more or less).

If you want to show that you care in a way that preserves Lao tradition, what I mentioned above should be OK to follow. However, if you're not comfortable giving money then just a funeral wreath will be fine I'm sure.

Hope you find it helpful,

Comments for Lao tradition when someone die

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May 18, 2013
But what if you live in another State
by: maryann

A friend of ours wife just passed away. She was originally from Laos, and did practice Buddhisim.
I live in another state, what would be the proper thing to send. Do I send flowers to his home, maybe make a donation to her Temple? flowers and ask the florist to include a small quantity of rice. , I would appreciate your response as soon as you can. She passed away suddenly this morning,
thank you

May 21, 2013
Call and send flowers and money
by: D.


Sorry I'm late in getting back to you. I just saw your post now though the date you post is a few days ago, don't know why I was not notified.

Anyway, if this is too late for you, I hope it serves as info for others.

Living in other state? first thing I'd do is calling her family to give them your sympathy and tell them you'll send some money (or whatever, if you are willing to).
If possible, you can have a wreath sent (see sample here or just flowers. Asking the florist to include a small quantity of rice is a good idea too.

In Lao tradition we give a small amount of money, flowers, incense, and small quantity of rice that's it.
But there is always an exception, if one is not convenient one can omit any of the items.
Hope this is helpful.

May 22, 2013
Lao tradition
by: Maryann

thank you for your answer, It didn't come to late, services start on Thursday. I made the call to her family as soon as I heard she passed.( the same day)
Do you think it would be disrespectful if I Put her name on a memorial walk in a beautiful Park, So that when people come to the park they will say her name, keeping her memory alive.? Or is that never done.

If I send flowers should I send them to the funeral home ( she will be there ( 2hrs )for viewing before cremation. Or should I send them to her home? thank you I really appreciate the information.

May 22, 2013
Glad I made it in time
by: D.

Nice to hear I was not too late in answering you.

Although putting someone's name on a memorial walk in a Park is never done in Laos, I don't think it's disrespectful (think it's a nice idea), besides this is not in Laos so Laotian living here would have adapted to the mix traditions (there is no right or wrong).

As for the flowers you should send them to the funeral home where she is because by Lao tradition all the flowers are burnt along at the time of cremation.

Hope this helps,

May 22, 2013
When someone dies
by: Maryann

Thank you so much for all the information, It really helped me.

Jan 10, 2015
Gift Idea Listed By Preferences (Practice in U.S.A.)
by: Anonymous

Being an American-Lao and from my own experiences, the order of preferred gifts/contributions are as follow:

1) Give/mail money. Laotian funeral is very expensive given the amount of days (up to 100 days) involved and the rituals that need to be observed. Keep in mind that next to a wedding, this is about the second costliest event in Lao traditions (about half the cost of a wedding). Give what you desire/can. On average, extended families contribute in the thousands of dollars, while good friends contribute in the hundreds. No amount will be frowned upon and amounts are usually recorded by family members. Traditionally, the same amount of money will be returned to you when your own funeral day comes to help your family with their funeral expenses.

2) Provide non-monetary support if you do not have money. This includes things such as offering to make/provide food for days leading up and on the day of the service. Help with memorial service preparations (money and paper flowers folding, service video, running errands, cleaning reception and service locations, etc.).

3) Send flowers to the place of service.

4) Send a card of condolence or be there in person. I think that this is the very least that anyone can do for anyone who is grieving regardless of your income status or culture. Just be physically present for the family or send them a card to show them that you care. Better yet, do both as a grieving family may not be able to process everything that everyone is saying to them during such stressed times, while the cards can be read and reread during a more peaceful time.

If you are very lost and confused as to what you can do, just think about what it would like if you had to plan an event with as much details as a wedding within a one-week time frame (usually) and on top of that, host, feed, and entertain everyone who comes through to visit you. What do you think you would need help with during that time and try to provide that for your friend.

Jul 13, 2015
by: deon

thanks for sharing

May 14, 2016
Giving of rice
by: Anonymous

Is there a type of bag or basket that the rice should presented in? Does it matter what type of rice it is?(Thai sweet, jasmine, etc...) thank you.

May 16, 2016
It doesn't matter
by: Duangpy

The type of bag or basket to present the rice in doesn't matter much, but if you'd like to make it specially nice go for it. I'm sure you'll be regarded as thoughtful person.

Same for the type of rice. Although traditionally we use sticky rice, it is because that was the only type of rice mainly available when the tradition started in the past, now any kind of rice is fine.

Aug 04, 2016
Mixed Thai and Lao?
by: Anonymous

what do you do if the one who deceased was mixed lao and thai? How would the funeral go like? The dad is lao, and the mother is thai. And the funeral would take place in the U.S. And what are the proper things to do at the funeral? What customs am I gonna have to see? Are there any types of things i have to do, for example how would the blessings go?

Aug 31, 2016
Akka tribes funerals
by: Diane

I spend some time in Laos in an Akka family in Phongsaly district in 2015. I really get attached to the family and I recently learned that the grandmother died.
Apparently they have to pay crazy money for the ceremony that require to buy 2-5 buffalos or cows and 10-15 pigs.
A friend of mine told me that a buffalo costs around 15millions Kip (around 1500 US$).
The granson has to endorse the debt and take care of the reimbursment and I am distraught by the burden this charge.
I'd like to first to verify this information with you and secondly I'd like to participate to the funerals because I really feel bound with the family.

Many thanks for your comments and advice,


Sep 07, 2016
Not familiar with the Akka tradition myself
by: Duangpy

If that's true, it costs a fortune to buy that number of buffalos and pigs, but I doubt that they would have to really buy all.
I meant from my own experience as a Lao person (born and live all my life in Laos), by tradition when we have some kind of ceremony that involve providing something in a large quantity we just need to pretend it or have a way around it especially the ceremony for the death. For example in our tradition when someone dies we keep their body at home for a few days for ceremony purpose, and for that the family has to do a lot of organisation, starts from food, drink, stuff for ceremony to car park (in city). We have to buy all of the stuff, we can't borrow them from next door neighbor even if they offer to lend their stuff because it's believed something bad will happen to the person lending their stuff to you, can you imagine how much it will cost if you have to buy everything?
Most can't afford it, so...we have a way around it. Like I said we just pretend we buy stuff from whoever (our neighbor or relatives for example). It is just the way you say it. It's like you do a role play. You just ask the person intending to lend you stuff if you can buy so and so and when she/he give you stuff you just give him/her a tiny amount of cash say $1 or 50 cent. Same for car park, we would say we rent the drive way of our next door neighbor for $1 (if they agree to let our guests to park there). That's the kind of things we do to minimize the expenses and to help each other out, otherwise only the rich will be able to afford to have ceremony for the death.

I'm not sure if Akka people would do something similar. I personally don't believe they'd buy all those buffalos or cows and pigs. For well off family that's possible, but for poorer ones that will put them in debt for years or worse (the rest of their lives).

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