Every country has their own rules. Two spa directors offer up some tips.

By Hilary Sheinbaum
June 24, 2015
Credit: Courtesy of The Mulia

Navigating the proper spa guidelines abroad can be tricky—and uncomfortable. Courtesy standards, personal space, and tipping practices can vary from region to region, country to country, even city to city. T+L talked to two spa directors for some advice when getting treatments in foreign countries.

Prepping for Pampering

Rinsing off isn’t just a post-treatment expectation. “Showering before a massage is a must,” says Victoria Childs, Director of Spa at Langham Place in Hong Kong. Though it’s not required in the U.S., it’s a common courtesy to come clean to your appointment elsewhere. At Sanctuary Cap Cana by AlSol in the Dominican Republic, it’s recommended that guests arrive an hour before a treatment to cleanse in the sauna and stream rooms.

Wardrobe Worries

While some U.S. spas are okay with completely stripping down, and saunas in Europe are unruffled by nudity, birthday suits will not suffice for services in China. “Wearing disposable underwear during treatments is the standard in Hong Kong,” says Childs. Other accessories may include a facemask—on the therapist—if conducting a facial. “Don’t be surprised if you are asked to wear [one, too].” According to Yanni Frivaldo, Spa Director of The Mulia Spa at The Mulia in Bali, some services mandate “swimmers” (bathing suits), while others do not. One place you won’t need them: Germany, which is famous for its nude thermal pools.

Be Mindful of Tipping Practices

In many countries, gratuity is a must. In others, it’s optional. Research the rules before treatments begin. “In some European and North American countries, it’s customary to tip. In Asia, it is not expected, but it’s highly appreciated when given,” says Frivaldo.

Personal Space

Speak up if something hurts or just doesn’t feel right—especially when it comes to boundaries. “In Hong Kong, some therapists like to get onto the treatment bed when doing a deep-pressure massage,” says Childs. “They’re extremely professional and just want to apply the maximum pressure by using their body weight.” Of course, if things are too close for comfort, a kind request for some room will do the trick.