Top 10 Fashion Crimes Committed By Mission Teams and Aid Workers in Haiti

So, you’ve decided to make a trip to Haiti to help the people there?  Great!  But now what do you pack to wear while you’re there?  They’re all poor down there and don’t have money for clothes anyway, so it really shouldn’t matter what you wear, right?  Wrong!  After living in Haiti for 5 years I have witnessed far too many foreign visitors to the country blemish their good intentions for the people with poor fashion choices.  The Haitians may seem like some of the most welcoming, friendly, warm people on earth when you are treating their illnesses, and repairing their homes, and hugging their children.  But as soon as you turn you’re back you can be sure that they are criticizing your wrinkled cargo pants and your wide brim hat.  For me, as a long term representative within the culture for all who are outside of the culture, it is embarrassing to see so many of my fellow foreigners demonstrate so poorly the rest of the world’s taste in fashion.  Haitians are extremely sensitive to what’s ala mode, whether they can afford it or not and they expect you who can afford a plane ticket to come help them to be able to buy a pair of shorts that at least fits appropriately.  So I have compiled this list as a warning of what not to do if you are thinking of visiting this Caribbean country.  Please consider this advice carefully while you are packing for your trip.  Your reputation and that of our entire race depends upon it.

1.  Matching T-shirts

This trend among mission teams to the country makes my heart hurt every time I pass through the airport in Port-au-Prince.  There is always at least 2 or 3 groups of people in brightly colored, poorly designed, T-shirts labeled with some cheesy theme about Haiti using a lot of alliteration.  “Hope for Haiti’s Helpless” “Hearts and Hands for Haiti” “Healing Haiti Mission of Mercy”  And so on.  I understand you want to be able to find each other in the airport, but whatever happened to picking a meeting place through the phone or email?  In order to be seen in the airport you have to make the shirts out of the ugliest most obnoxious colors possible.  Trust me, you get noticed.  Aside from being ugly, once you’ve arrived in the country these team uniforms also give off the impression that you are on more of a group retreat than a trip to invest in the local people that you will encounter and learn from their culture.  And if you think writing a stupid message in Creole on your matching t-shirts will remedy that, wrong again.  You will just come off as naive to all of the Haitians because they all already know that “Jesi renmen ou.”  Only slightly less offensive are matching team caps or totes.

2.  Safari Gear

Haiti is not the Australian Outback or the savannah in East Africa.  You will be seeing no wild animals here so no need to dress up like Jack Hannah.  If you are going to be doing some work project to help the Haitian people you do not need head to toe khaki, pockets for binoculars or vents in every seam.  You do not need to wear an outfit that only wild animals can appreciate.  You need to wear an outfit that your fellow human beings that you will be serving and working alongside can appreciate.

3.  Gym clothes

Are you going to PE class or are you going into a culture full of creative, beautiful people?  If the latter is true, then please leave the gym shorts and sweat stained sleeveless t-shirts at home in the hamper.  Perhaps you can bring one pair to sleep in, or if you plan to be doing heavy labor on a worksite.  But, as soon as the work is done, rinse your smelly self off and put on some real clothes!  If you abuse the freedom to wear comfy exercise gear in this culture you run the risk of portraying all foreigners as careless slobs.

4.  Cleavage, Short shorts, and Undershirts

I know that Haitians will bathe in the river in front of anyone that wants to watch, the women will whip their breast out to feed their child in mid conversation with you, and they all will simply take a step to the side to pee while you are right next to them, but this does not mean that anyone wants to see your whitey white skin in all of it’s glory.  I’m not saying that you have to cover up like a conservative religious cult, but try to maintain a little modesty for the sake of our race, okay?  Women with ample chests, cover them puppies up.  Teenage girls, keep the shorts at least finger length.  And guys who think you can show off your biceps on the worksite, please don’t.  Remember, even if you see the Haitians taking their clothes off, they have nicer bodies than you do and they blend in with their surroundings better than you do.  You don’t get to follow the same rules as they do.  Skimpy outfits are only acceptable at the beach where pretty much anything goes (Still doesn’t make that speedo a good idea Mr. Pasty Frenchman).

5.  Peasant skirts and Moo-moos

In contrast to #4 many overly considerate religious folk take the modesty too far and cover themselves up with ridiculous clothes that don’t even fit their bodies.  Someone told all the youngsters before they came not to wear anything too revealing in order to be mindful of the local culture.  So they raid their grandma’s closets and end up wearing clothes that are a very poor representation of their own culture’s generation.  When this happens the young adults in Haiti feel unable to relate to their visiting peers because they dress so strangely.  It’s possible to dress age appropriate, figure flattering, and still culturally appropriate.  Don’t be in a haste to run to your nearest second hand store to buy them out of peasant skirts and moo-moos before  your trip.  Whatever you already have in your closet already is perfect.

6.  Dirty Clothes

It’s true, water is hard to come by in most places in Haiti and doing laundry can be a complicated all day event.  But trust me, the Haitians hosting you will be happy to go get some water and spend the day washing your clothes so that you don’t look like a beggar when you take to the streets.  They’ll do it because their reputations depend on it too.  If they have visitors staying with them and they don’t keep their clothes clean for them, then they are looked upon as inhospitable by the rest of the community.  If it would be too dirty to wear in public in the US, then don’t wear it  in public  in Haiti.  Don’t think that just because everything else in the country is filthy that you get to be too and no one will notice.  You wear an item of clothing once, it’s probably already too dirty to wear again.  You might be able to get away with putting jeans on a second time, but don’t push it.  In this same idea, smelling good is just as important for your reception by the Haitian people.  Sure, it sounds shallow, but if the work shirt that you’re wearing smells like you’ve been carrying 2×4’s all week, you won’t be making any friends in Haiti.  Also, please don’t use the lack of water as an excuse to not bathe!  Haitians typically bathe at least once a day, many times twice or even three times.  So if you only bathe twice in the week that you’re here, they will be ashamed of you.  You are expected to be an example of hygiene and health.  Take a bath!

7.  Bulky Work Boots

Okay Lumberjack Joe, what’s up with wearing the cargo-ship-sized work boots everywhere you go in Haiti?  It’s not a good look anywhere.  You can maybe get away with it if you are working on a project where it’s possible to drop something heavy on your toe, but even then it’s a little over the top.  Take a look at the footwear of the Haitian laborers on the site with you and you’ll realize just how silly your giant workboots look.  Put them on with high white crew socks and khaki cargo shorts and you’ve just become the poster child for an outsider trying to do good things for the people of Haiti with absolutely no effort to adapting to the local culture.  Here’s what to pack for footwear to Haiti: two pairs of sandals – one pair of plastic ones for bathing and the beach and one nicer sturdier pair for spending time at your  host location or easy walks around the neighborhood, one pair of good tennis shoes for where you’re working, and one pair of dress shoes to wear to church.

8.  No Church Clothes

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not, you’re probably going to be expected to go to church while in Haiti and when you do, you can’t wear just anything.  You cannot wear the same clothes that you’ve been wearing around the community all week.  Bring something special to wear to church.  Most churches in the US these days are a little more relaxed with their dress code, but in Haiti they go all out on Sunday morning and they will expect you to too.  Especially if you are a Christian, then you want to be perceived as taking your religion seriously and if you show up in an outfit that’s too casual you will be seen as disrespectful.

9.  Hawaiian Print

There’s a reason why they call it “Hawaiian” print.  It should probably only be worn in Hawaii on a golf course or on a beach while sipping pina coladas.  It’s true that Haiti has mesmerizing blue Caribbean waters and beautiful beaches and really good rum to be sipped under the coconut trees, but you are not going to be on a tropical vacation getaway when coming to this island.  Your Hawaiian print shirt will only say “out of touch” or “I got lost on the way to Maui”.

10.  Wearing Only What You Intend to Leave Behind

If an item of clothing isn’t nice enough for you to want to keep it, a Haitian probably isn’t going to want to hold on to it either.  I encourage giving away clothes that you feel you can sacrifice, but make sure they’re quality.  Also make sure that you do not pack your entire suitcase with only things that you intend to give away when you leave.  You should bring a few things to wear while you’re in Haiti that are too nice to give away.  You should bring a few things that you look so good in that you simply can’t part with them.  Also, when you do give those other clothes away realize that you’re not doing it because the Haitians actually need your used clothes, but because they simply like clothes enough that they will take whatever you give them.  Everyone likes a “new” t-shirt.

Overall, my rule is, whatever you would normally wear in the US, wear that same thing in Haiti.  Don’t feel like you’re going to offend Haitians by looking good.  They’ll appreciate you putting a little effort into your style and so will all of us long-termers on the ground who are always left to explain your fashion choices after you leave.

 

 

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72 comments

  1. Bingo!!!!! Wonderfully written… This list of 10 should be posted on wall at the American Airline counter and those not meeting the standard will not receive a boarding pass. But, then again, the dress code gone awry goes hand in hand with most of what the world thinks about our friends in “developing nations.” If only we Americans understood who was truly just “developing.”

  2. Is this for real, what a turn off for anyone considering a mission trip. Think twice when writing your opinion about people trying to help other and be the hands and feet of God.

    1. I think the author has been thinking. That’s the point. Some people need to be turned off to the idea of a mission trip. Especially if they aren’t willing to think about the culture they are entering and how they will affect the people there.

      This post is a little tongue-in-cheek, but the message is very serious.

      1. I don’t think that wearing work boots or a peasant skirt that I love is adversely affecting the Haitian people. Give me a break! I didn’t realize that going to Haiti was a fashion show.

    2. That is the point. If you can’t respect “their” culture, then stay home. Trust me, Haitians have been laughing at these groups for years.

      1. yeah, I really respect their culture of extreme poverty (when the Dominican side seems to be doing ok). I mean, we definitely don’t have it all figured out in the US, but good grief, just say the word and we can stop wasting time and resources trying to change things down there, when there are clearly elements at work preventing it (and this article does no help).

      2. I think it’s fear that forces some foreigners to dress as such. They want to be noticed, especially the mission tshirts issue. They think it provides some form of security. However, instead it makes them a target. It’s like living in New York, you always know non New Yorkers. They try too much to fit in with one aspect of the city and missed the fact that New York is multicultural. I hope you guys understand the comparison. Haiti was colonized by French and Spaniards, some of the most well dressed people of the world. I know God look at the heart, but we are cultured individuals so we must develop understanding of places we visit. Avoid faux pas by doing your homework. People will embrace you once they noticed you are actually practicing the words of the bible. If you are in a mission representing Jesus and don’t value respect of others you need to go back and reread your bible.

        God didn’t allow you to understand it the first time because he didn’t think you have done enough work on yourself. Jesus had people washing his feet with perfumes, hygiene was important to him. He didn’t spend a lifetime in filth, he did when sinners started to torment him and his mission. People, ask God for clarity as you read his words. Stop waiting on a sinner like yourself to interpret. Your one on one connection with him will do the work. Many blessings. Haitian Native

  3. What should we wear inHaiti, is really important, please do tell us a positive yes. One, we are told to wear dresses and skirts and sandals. Personally, i wear skirts and a thrift store tshirt with a thrift store sweatshirt everyday od my life here. But it is always 70 degrees with no humitiy in california. I have. Found when i go to Haiti, i am overwhelmed by the humidityand heat and really would like to be in a flowing short skirt with a tank too, but i feel that may be offensive, so i stick to my longer skirts and tshirts woth sandals. Theheat is really what drives my fashion choices, and the fact that i will be outdoors most ofthe time, or walking the pothole filled streets. What DO you suggest? Most folks around here favor string tied wedges (the kind youtwist your ankle in the mall in) or flats with leg ties, skinny jeans and see through silky tops with a tank underneath. The tops are the type that snag on any little thing. Most folks wear long dangleling necklaces and straw fedora style hats. I am sure it would be too much clothing for hot humid Haiti, and i am not clear on girls wearing skinny jeans in Haiti, too much? Most of the folks I know from middle America do wear prairie outfits if they are conservative Christians, or short shorts or nothing but a long tee if they are trendy. It is a crazy fashion world up here. Would love your positive choice options!

    1. Good question. Having lived in Haiti for a year, my clothing has slowly evolved to fit the climate and the work.

      For women:
      Light-colored linen or cotton pants with short-sleeved button-down fitted shirts work well for being out in the heat walking up and down potholed roads and steep staircases in typical Port-au-Prince neighborhoods. Jeans are too hot, long peasant skirts can be unwieldy and shorts come off as a little unprofessional. Wear with tennis shoes or comfortable sandals. Work boots are fine if you have to be on a construction site.

      For meetings, wear regular office clothes: skirts, button-down shirts and heels (wedges work best with the uneven terrain). Feel free to get a pedicure while you’re down here. They’re cheap and Haitian ladies wouldn’t be caught dead without one. For church, wear a nice dress.

      As for washing clothes, don’t bring anything that wouldn’t survive vigorous scrubbing, because clothes are usually washed by hand. Also note that Haitians usually put some chlorine in their water to keep bacteria and parasites out, so it may bleach your clothes a little over a couple of washes. So don’t bring your favorite top that you just bought because it might get ruined.

      For men:
      Out on site: Light-colored linen or cotton pants work for everyone, male or female. Wear with a button-down long-sleeved shirt. Short-sleeved button-down shirts look stupid no matter what country your in. If you’re hot, roll up your sleeves. It’s what men do. Wear sneakers or work boots. I disagree with the author; I think it’s fine, especially because who knows what you might step in. The streets are filled with trash.

      For meetings wear slacks and a button-down shirt. Wear leather dress shoes. I hate going to meetings where all the Haitians are dressed to the nines and the international folks come in looking like Indiana Jones. For church, wear a suit. There are dry cleaners in Pétion-ville if you need to get your suit cleaned.

      1. Lee, I enjoyed reading this blog post! I had to laugh out loud.

        TNN, thanks for the tips. I make my first trip to Haiti in early February.

  4. Haitian psychology 105- Style: That should be the title of your blog. (kidding) After reading number 6, I remember my bonne whom after encountering a blanc telling me that the blanc had the odor of big ravet blanche. Is it rue that the ravet blanche have the same smell as an unbathed white person? Please enlightnen me? I agree with the statement, Haiti is not a safari, why the kakhi? We may be poor but logical. If you can afford a plane ticket why can’t you smell good and look good in another word be happy? I think this is the next chapter for us to comprehend. A lot of these foreigners are not who they are perceived to be!! Haitian poor want the foreigners to dress up similar to the upper class Haitians. We want our foreigners to look good, dress well, smell good. We want the white foreigners to put the ravet blanche smell to an end.

  5. most of the people think that Haiti is a trash can where they can come and their garbage and leave it. i want to say you that you may be out of mind if you think like that. I am glad you wrote this to let them know the way they need to dress, we are the light of the world

  6. please read those books before you marry mission, i beleive those books will help you and will prepare you for your calling.

    1. When helping hurts
    2. Tocix Charity

    you can buy them online in Amazon.com

  7. I wore a denim jumper for 4 days straight on one trip, and cut off scrubs while doing nursing stuff. After a few days they started teasing me about my “sack dress”. They liked my cut off scrubs!!! lol

    1. excurse me, not everyone in Haiti is unable to buy clothes in Haiti, don´t try to compare like the worst country in the world. it depends where you went to do mission.

    2. Lol I would be laughing too, you must have smelled in this heat lol sorry no offense but your response is hilarious. Haitian Native

  8. Love this post, Lee, and I had to laugh out loud a few times. In full disclosure, I have been guilty of the peasant skirts and cargo pants. While here I would try to sport cool jeans and heels, somehow that is just not practical while walking through the rocks and mud on the mountain–ha! BUT last time, I learned a fashion thing or two and this confirms it. Thanks for the laugh today, and the cultural lesson 😉

  9. Why all of the fashion talk…aren’t there other issues to deal with? And as for you being a representative of our “race” and “a long term representative within the culture for all who are outside of the culture”, please refrain, because I don’t want your type of chat representing me. You basically make it sound like all Haitian think that we are jackasses, and that all Americans are ignorant idiots because they aren’t you. I would like to support your program, but every time I read something of yours, your arrogance turns me off.

    1. I have to agree with Jessica. Your post is truly arrogant. People coming to Haiti have no idea of what they will need, what the conditions are, the climate, the laundry facilities. Perhaps someone could give some guidelines before rather than cricitizing after. I would imagine that anyone staying with someone would hesitate to ask their hosts to wash their clothes. I would also imagine that some people have to protect their skin from the sun and heat; thus the wide-brimmed hats, long skirts – which are cooler in the summer. Bathing facilities too may be different from what they are used to and need to be explained.
      The tone of self-righteousness is very unpleasant.

      1. Yeah, I have to agree as well. I’ve been to Haiti, and I was surprised how rude and unfriendly the people could be (which is ok, we’re there to minister, not necessarily receive), but your post makes the Haitian people seem even worse. If it’s all in jest, that’s one thing, but if it really makes that much difference, as you say, then you are reflecting very poorly on them. I personally applaud anyone who steps out of their comfort zone and goes to the poorest nation on earth to try to help, and I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks about what they or I wear when doing it. But congrats, it looks like your getting a lot of play on the post, which seems to trump decency these days.

      2. Agreed. My reaction to this post was also that the writer is being hateful. Some of these ways of dressing are just how people dress. I am not a fashionista in the states and would be hard pressed to be so just to impress someone in another country. We are God’s beloved no matter what we wear.

    2. It’s true we all do represent each other whether we like it or not. When you go to Haiti you do represent all Americans, all white people, all christians etc.

      A lot of American’s that go to Haiti are indeed “ignorant assholes.” The authors just trying to help us out with what they see.

      I don’t personally live in Haiti, but having been going there 4x a year for 4yrs. It took me almost 3yrs to figure the Haiti clothes thing out. I wish someone had written something like this earlier! Haitians take clothes very seriously. We need to have some understanding of that. That doesn’t mean their ideas are necessarily right or perfect. The church clothes makes me pretty mad because it so limits who is allowed in the building 😦

    3. Jessica, I have news for you: most Haitian think missionaries are self serving jackasses. You are naive and out of touch if you haven’t realized it.

  10. I will be traveling to Haiti in July. I will be the guest of a Pastor and I need to know what will culturally expected of me. Iwill be working with women and children. I am 62, NOT wealthy and I gave up dress up years ago. I am obviously going to have to make some investments in wardrobe! May I write to you with questions. Odel is too polite ti givd me a straight answer. I do not want to embarass or be embarassed. Help me Obi One Kanobe, you may bd my only hope. (Pardon the spelling there and everywhere. The edit function won’t workwith my phone!)

    Thank you for any guidance you are willing to give.

    Debbie Casteel

    Thank you for consodering my request,

    1. Debbie, thanks for the comment, if you’ve got some specific questions, you can always contact me through email at thegreenmangoblog@gmail.com and I’d be happy to talk to you more about what you can expect coming to Haiti. My main advice is always: don’t overthink things and just be yourself. Everyone will appreciate that more than anything! But email me and we can chat more. I’d love to hear more about your plans.

      1. Dear Lee,

        I appreciated your blog about clothing in Haiti. However, I would have some disagreement with you in some areas. I have lived in Haiti in the southern area for 25 years. We have had 20 plus teams coming every year. We have a 6 week training program that all of our teams have to go through before they come to Haiti to help make sure they are in sync with the culture, etc.

        We partner with a Haitian church association of over 400 churches, mostly out in the “country areas”. In asking the National church leadership what they prefer for clothing recommendations for the teams to wear, I would say that telling people, especially young people to “wear with they would wear at home” is often not appropriate especially out in the country areas. In Port-au-Prince, I would say they are more progressive and especially the young people there are much more Western in their outlook. Out in the country areas, outside of the capital, they are much more conservative and that needs to be considered.

        I would recommend outside of the capital, women, girls, should not wear pants, jeans or shorts (most of the time), but skirts or dresses. They generally should not expose their armpits so tank tops are out. Men should wear long pants or jeans most of the time. Shorts are only for work. As you say, when in doubt, dress up rather than down. These are the recommendations of the national leaders.

        However, much of what you say is true or needs to be considered by your readers. Much of the basics of what you have shared are discussed in our orientation program. I don’t have a problem with matching T-shirts but I do agree about the kitschy Creole slogans!

        For those who read this, please do NOT go directly to a Haitian pastor or org. I highly recommend you go through a good 3rd party organization that can provide you with this type of guidance in all areas of involvement. There are many good org’s working in Haiti that can help you in these areas. It sounds like the author of this blog is one. RMI is also one of those. Get more info at http://www.rmibridge.org. Keep up the good work, greenmango!

  11. Enjoyed the post. Will be making some of these fashion blunders myself in the next few days. Fortunately, I trust that Christ will go before me, prepare the ground that needs to be prepared and hopefully, despite my terribly inappropriate fashion choices, the Haitians will see behind my dress and the heart that guides my hands. A heart filled with love for others and the spirit of the living God. Praising him that he can overcome our faults whether they be ignorance or arrogance.

    1. Yes, God overcomes our faults, but perhaps we can prevent a few with the advice given in this post and respect for those we are serving? I live in Haiti and fully agree with what Lee shares here! Tongue in cheek or not, he is right.

  12. These posts make me crack up for 2 reasons:
    1. Lee- i’m loving the straight forwardness (if that’s a word). You give people the truth, because of you love for them and for the people of Haiti- rock on!
    2. C’mon people…this guy is trying to give you good advice for your GOOD! Take it as a gift. I’m headed to Haiti for 4 months as of the 31st of August and i’m super thankful for these helpful hints. More love, less hate!

  13. The ironic truth hurts, I love this blog. For those who are offended, take a closer look at yourself, reflect before you answer and cannot run from the truth, no matter how fast you are you cannot outrun it. I retired from the U.S. Armed forces and have traveled extensively throughout the world. You can always tell the Americans by how they dress and then they wonder why and how I was targeted. They like to bring attention to themselves and not the problem. I have blended in, no matter when I have been, by dressing for the culture I am in and remaining silent and talking with a soft voice. . I leave tomorrow for Haiti and do not want to be the Ugly American either in attitude or dress.

  14. I was laughing when I was reading this… Good post with a lot of good points.

    I am going to Haiti in 4 days for the second time with a mission team. We do, unfortunatly, break faux pas #1 on this list. Our team shirts do come in really handy on the U.S. side (we were actually able to be let off the plane first to catch our flight!), but I did feel pretty dumb once we arrived in PAP.

    Also, I was so embarrased when we went to church. Some of the ladies on my team were wearing these ugly dresses from the 80s that obviously sat in their closet for at least 10 years. Along with the ugliest shoes. Meanwhile, I’m sitting next to a haitian woman with a cute dress I would wear to work and a Coach handbag.

    They really care about how they look and you should too. It’s not like the Haitians don’t know what the U.S. is like. They know we don’t dress in rags at home, so why do it when we are there? It really all comes down to respect.

  15. I love this POST! I am Haitian, I have lived in Haiti, and I have been in the states for the past 12 years. I’ve been back to Haiti (post earthquake) twice and I am telling you everything she says is TRUE! No, it is not a fashion show you have come to help and we are all God’s people so it really shouldn’t matter what we wear all that is true; but if you’re going to be serving in Haiti please take heed to this post. They will talk about what you’re wearing. Those brightly colored t-shirts that you wear at the airport are disgusting. DO NOT wear those booty shorts, and have your boobs hanging everywhere Haitians will talk about you and laugh at you. Yes, We do bathr about two to three times a day so please bathe too, smelling good is very important to us

    . Sundays are very important to us as well, just because you can wear flip flops at your church in the states with some jeans doesn’t mean that you can in Haiti. Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you should wear shorts to church, you WILL stand out and be perceived as having no respect for the Lord.

    Yes we are a poor nation, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have standards. I lived in Haiti, I know! I’ve also lived in the states so I also understand your dilemma but please do not bash this writer for trying to help. She’s not arrogant, it’s literally just the way it is!

    This is not to make you feel bad or anything, but if this discourages you then maybe you’re not ready to go to Haiti. If clothes discourage you, so will the mosquitoes, the language barrier, the HEAT, Dust/trash everywhere CONSTANTLY, the traffic (traffic is RIDICULOUS), etc..So pray about it!

    Sincerely Folks!!!

    1. ok I have to comment on the short shorts and boobs hanging out. So far I have not seen an American dressed like that (been living here almost 4 yrs.) BUT the Haitian women SHOW IT ALL!!!! Most all wear tight tight fitting clothes and no matter how big or small their boobs are, they are seen everywhere…there is no hiding anything. I have never seen such short skirts and shorts and skin tight pants here. I was dressing “modestly” and the Haitian women that work for me have fixed that! I cannot wear what I wore in the states here in Hatiti…the Hatian women have changed my wardrobe a bit. No longer do I have bras that fit, instead I have ones that push me up and out (lol) and omg tight fitting clothes to me do not look appealing on this body! Anyway, seems there is very much double standards in some thinking. Also, as far as church, it is so sad to see and know that the poor can’t go to church because they do not have the right clothes or shoes and aren’t allowed in. What does that say about the people’s hearts?

  16. Thank you! I was looking for real advice on what to wear to Haiti next month. I want to be me, but be comfortable and respectful. This helped a lot. What about Tank tops? I am hearing not to bear my shoulders. Thanks!

    1. When I lived in Haiti, I wore tank tops around my neighborhood (out to the grocery store, on a walk, etc). But never to church or the school where I worked. It kind of depends on where you’ll be. I found that people in Port au Prince seemed to be less conservative than people in the more rural areas. It was also hotter in the city than in the mountains where I lived, so that could have been another factor.

    2. haha you can’t bear your shoulders but you can your chest! sorry couldnt resist, it makes no sense but then again I guess it does make sense because whatever doesn’t make sense here makes sense!! Make sense? lol
      I think I better shut up before ALL my sarcasm comes out!

  17. Wow, completely inappropriate! If they expect fashionista’s to come to their aide I will just stay home! I can understand posting about bringing Sunday clothes and dressing modestly but to knock what good hearted people wear is just wrong. I can honestly say after reading this post I probably would never consider taking a mission trip there!

    1. time of of everyone reading this. Why write something so negative? I just don’t understand. Yes, it can be frustrating when people come to Haiti and don’t know how to dress or act but there was a time when all of us were in the same boat. Can’t you recall your first trip to Haiti or if you’ve always lived there, how about any time when you needed the patience of others?

  18. Hahaha 😀 This is hilarious!!! Having been on several “mission trips” in my teenage years and early twenties, all of this rings a very loud bell.

    There is another part to the story, however. You may live in Haiti and be acquainted with everyone and everything there, but the visitors are not. Young people, which you probably see an awful lot of, aren’t really given a choice. I spent time with Teen Missions and they took most of our clothes after Boot Camp (a prep time in the U.S.), and we were only allowed to bring boots. Our travel gear was the incredibly horrid hot pink T-shirts and jeans. That’s it. Everyone who travels to Haiti is probably allowed only one 40lbs suitcase. The shoes you mentioned alone would take up most of the room and weight. And yes, because all Americans are assumed to be incredibly wealthy, the expectation is to leave the clothes. How many rich kids do you know spending their summers slaving away in a hot climate? I can tell you that out of hundreds of people I’ve been on trips with, only one or two were well-off, and those were adults. People like me can’t even afford clothes that are in style for our own closets, let alone all those shoes. I don’t even have them now. Maybe Haitians should donate to us…lol 😀

    Laundry time, what you wear to church, and bathing time are also all very regulated and out of the control of most people. Our leaders would have laughed if we asked to shower outside the regulated 2 minutes, yes, 2 minutes we were allotted each day. On Saturday we were allowed 5 minutes…yaaay! Neither one of those is enough to get clean, especially when the water is scarce. There were no baths, either — just those mission shower heads with no pressure.

    Many teenagers on missions are also there as a last resort, because they got involved in something terrible and their parents have given them an option of this or being kicked out of the house or whatever.

    So, unfortunately, if you want things to change, you must speak with the leaders (I mean, those at the top who can actually change things) of the organizations you’re seeing. Even the leaders you see on the field have hardly any authority. There’s a lot of dictatorship. Ha! It would definitely help if there was some cultural sensitivity training as well. Don’t get me wrong, there is some, but not a whole lot. Mostly, there’s preaching and Jesus music and old history about the place you’re going and tons of gun-hoe style. At 14 years old, after coming through Teen Missions boot camp, I was shocked when I landed in Indonesia. They had warned me about culture shock, but not the type I was receiving. Everything was so modern. I thought we would be landing on a barely visible strip in the jungle, but ummm…nope, there was a real live airport! (It was my first time out, and I was extremely sheltered lol)

    Good luck changing things. It would be better for everyone involved, I think.

    1. I think that it is really inconsiderate and rude to scrutinize American citizens who live a somewhat lavish lifestyle, but choose to spend their summer serving the Lord. I myself would be considered upper class, but that’s because my family has worked hard for it. I am traveling to Haiti in 9 days to serve the Lord and the people of Haiti because I believe it is my calling. Don’t assume people are assholes and don’t go on mission trips to poorer countries just because they have more money than you.

  19. Thank you for such a great article. I am getting ready to go back home to Haiti after decades with a mission. I was reading from many sites about the dress code expected. I thought it was ridiculous. Haitians love to look and smell good. We take pride in our care whether in rural areas or the elite suburbs. I would advise missions to treat people with respect by learning about their culture before making assumptions. There are so many littératures available about Haiti and its people. Do your homework.Thank you again for this article. Many blessings, maybe one day our path will cross in Haiti. A Haitian Native

  20. I am going to Haiti on a mission trip and what would be appropriate for girls shorts length? Would knee length be good or something just slightly shorter be appropriate?

    1. They can be a little shorter than knee length, just not short shorts. Nothing that a butt cheek could pop out of when they bend over. If they wouldn’t allow them in school, probably not a good idea for Haiti either, unless they’re at the beach.

    2. My mission trip is July 25th-August 1st, and I was told by my team leader (who lived in Haiti) to dress modestly and not wear anything above the knees.

  21. I found this post helpful when I was preparing for a long-term post (it turned out to be 7 months) in the Central Plateau. I have always thought that dressing formally is a way to show respect for others, and I found no reason to change my practice just because I was going to work in Haiti.

    I arrived at my new home wearing a tan suit and tie, like I have for the first day of my new jobs in the past. I felt a little like a Graham Greene character, but I came correct. I was initially concerned that I would not have an occasion for the bowties and French cuffs that I packed along, but stopped worrying after I noticed a few of my Haitian colleagues similarly dressed.

    In the middle of summer, after sweating through a few days when the temperature approached 96 F, I found it appropriate occasionally to wear a short-sleeved shirt to work. However, I usually wore at least a business shirt. There is no excuse for being rumpled. People emerge from one-room huts wearing blindingly white, freshly ironed shirts; they expect the same of you.

    I recommend dressing for your work in Haiti similarly to how you would dress for your work in your home country. If you work in an office, wear office wear; if you work on a construction site, wear construction gear. If you are to meet someone who is in a position of authority, wear what you would wear when going on official business–e.g., when going to court. When you’re off work, wear what you would wear when going out at home. It’s really not that difficult.

    And for goodness sake, if you’re a medical professional, don’t wear scrubs in the PaP airport. It’s not like you’re going to perform an emergency mastectomy in the Barbancourt section of the Duty Free shop.

  22. My church does local community service like is done in the mission field and we all wear our apparently “ugly” matching shirts. The people we are helping here in the US don’t care, they’re just glad that we are there to help. I’m sure the people in Haiti would feel the same.

  23. Honestly, I appreciate this post.

    As an American, leaving on another trip to Haiti, I’m excited to go back and see the friends I have made on past trips.

    I wasn’t going to comment on this blog until I kept reading the various comments. One thing that struck me oddly was everyone saying how much Haitians loved to smell good.

    WHAT!?!? (Everything just came to a screeching halt)

    Am I the only one who took a moment to scratch my head on this one? I couldn’t believe how bad the odor was when encountering some of the people. One employee of the resort where I stayed carried my backpack and I couldn’t get his potent odor from the strap of my bag for a week! I was knocked off my feet by the body odor of many who crossed my path.

    However, to say “all Haitians” suffered from this complete and utter turn off, would be as lame as grouping Americans into one stereotype!

    Here’s the thing… I stayed in two hotels. One near Port Au Prince and the other in Port De Paix. The first one had a shower that wasn’t even working and the water dribbled down the wall. The second one, had a shower that spurted out water once! Imagine my joy after spending 5 days in Haiti, amongst the humidity, and finally being able to throw down my bath wipes and step into a shower–a shower shared with enormous cockroaches might I add. I had that AHHH moment of relief to be able to wash the sweat from my body.

    THEN imagine that water smelling like sewer. Yep! My shower lasted all of 30 seconds and I finished off rinsing with two bottles of water so that I didn’t carry that sewer water with me for the rest of the trip. (Smack on the head).

    Sometimes, it’s more impressive and more important to view the heart of a person rather than their appearance. Weren’t we all taught that at some point in our lives?

    Does that mean that people should travel to Haiti in their worst attire? HELL NO!

    But it also disheartens me to read this blog where it sounds like the Haitian people are heartless assholes, because the ones I met are NOT.

    I commend the heart of any individual who takes their one vacation away from working day in and day out at home to support their families, in order to travel, at their own expense, so they can provide a helping hand to those who may not have the resources available to them.

    In a remote part of Haiti, I watched 28 AMERICAN doctors and nurses perform 800 cervical cancer test in 5 days on women and girls who had never been tested before. 40 of those women were diagnosed WITH CANCER and were provided a LEEP procedure, on location, that would ultimately SAVE THEIR LIVES.

    I also watched 14 additional Haitian women being told that their cancer was TOO FAR ALONG and they only had “so much time” to live.

    Truly, who the hell cares what those doctors and nurses were wearing while they were making “makeshift beds” out of tables and desks in the extreme heat and creatively working with a lack of medical supplies in order to do such a remarkable thing for NOTHING IN RETURN!

    Let’s keep things in perspective. 40 women will go home to hug their children and continue to be the backbone of their families for years to come because a US doctor left their family to provide services abroad. SCRUBS OR NOT! TSHIRTS OR NOT. ODOR OR NOT.

    Although I appreciate this blog, its only to remind me that I’d rather focus on the heart of people than such things as shallow as clothes, body odor or any other silly thing mentioned in this post.

    Keeping it real!

  24. Lol just dress for humidity and heat. Put effort into your apperance. Basically just be like you are at home. The Haitian people are very trendy and dress well and they are also very welcoming and accepting peopl; even of they do poke fun at you behind yoir back…or right in front of you if you don’t speak kreyol..haha…my husband is from port au prince. He and all his friends and family take so much pride in they way they look and dress like very expensive designer pieces. I have never been like that but i do make sure my clothes look nice and match im clean and smell good. And i hooked that man;) point is: don’t make yourself stand out because of your hygiene or by chosing stupid clothing. Just be you, it’s quite obvious if the clothes you are wearing are your norm or not lol

  25. I’m going to address each point you make. I’m happy that you wrote about some no- no’s, but I also have a problem with some of your explanations.
    1. Amen.
    2. Safari gear. Now maybe you and Haitians have an issue with people who choose to wear clothing like this. Please remember that 1. We don’t live there, so we may need to have more pockets on our clothing to carry necessary items, including lip balm, medication, hair ties, identification, etc. 2. This might be how a person dresses all the time. Preppers are people who want to be prepared all the time, for whatever may happen. A person shouldn’t have to buy a special wardrobe just to please people. That’s not biblical. 3. Some people go to many countries to make disciples. They need clothing that will be versatile and work for many locations. Maybe some Christians can afford to buy special clothes for each place, but most people can’t.
    3. Ok
    4. All women, ample chests or not, should cover up. We are called to dress modestly. That’s biblical. You know, it seems rather bigoted to assume that Haitians have better bodies than Americans, not that I want to see either.
    5. You know, there is nothing wrong with k modest clothing. I wear peasant skirts, and assuming that I’m foolish for doing so and not caring about fashion is very unbiblical. We are called to be separate from the world. How can we be if we care about the world’s idea of what’s important, what’s trendy, etc.? Maybe, instead of trying to fit in, we need to explain to Haiti why not to.
    6. Ew, gross.
    7. Some people have feet and ankle issues and need those bulky boots. Plus, I don’t care how they do things in Haiti, but if you’re on a work site and not wearing safety boots, you’re just plain stupid.
    8. Well, gee, you already said I can’t wear my peasant skirts.
    9. Again, there are people that wear this normally.
    10. I can understand that.
    One commenter stated that clothes are typically washed by hand, so bring something you wouldn’t mind getting beat up. I don’t have a lot of clothes. I’m not sure I have anything that can afford to get beat up. Plus, I’m supposed to bring nice clothes. This is not consistent messaging, and yet you both live t there.

  26. Just got back from Haiti. I ran in to a custom that was unexpected. The children at the orphanage at which I was working, were shocked to see one of my team members (female) wearing an anklet. They told us this indicates that the woman wearing the anklet is a prostitute. Can anyone shed more light on this? Are there other cultural taboos of which I might be unaware?

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