What to Wear

Though you will undoubtedly see a range of outfits in Bali, anything from traditional Indonesian to tourist beachwear, we as an organisation strive to maintain a professional appearance when working overseas. Our image and our reputation to our partners is incredibly important and the way we present ourselves is the first step toward creating that image and reputation.

We request that all of our volunteers dress appropriately and modestly when around their homestay community and when attending projects. This includes having your shoulders, knees and any cleavage covered. We ask that your hair be a natural colour for the duration of your placement as fun colours likes blues and pinks are pretty, but no considered professional. At the weekend you are free to travel out of your local community and to wear what you choose. 

We’re not trying to be the fashion police, but this is our pilot program in Indonesia and it’s so important when forming relationships with new partners and with communities that we respect their culture and their ideals. That can start so easily by presenting ourselves in a professional manner. 

Living and working in another country is different to being on holiday there. The only reason that the dress code is there is so that we can continue the work we do in an effective and respectful manner. In this document you will find appropriate examples of outfits for working in Bali. 

For the majority of projects volunteers are required to wear smart attire with a smart collared shirt. The Mental Health project at the psychiatric hospital specifically requires smart attire. We’re talking collared shirts, long trousers and closed-toe shoes. Try to think about what medical professionals in your home country would wear to work in a psychiatric hospital and follow suit.


Ladies

At the centers in which we work staff will often be wearing military style uniforms and it is important that we maintain this same level of professionalism in how we turn up for work. Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to wear a uniform, just dress as you would for any other job. Check out this video to find out what we advise our volunteer’s heading to Bali to pack.

Often our clothes don’t cope as well with the sun as we might think. Dresses, skirts and tops can have a habit of going see through in the intense sun. Hold your clothes up to a window to check if they are suitable. We get it ladies, the struggle is real, but please do this test to make sure your clothes are 100% Indonesia appropriate. Please avoid patterns and opt for plain colored clothing, as loud patterns are not acceptable. Closed-toe shoes are important, no flip flops! Here are a few things that past volunteers have suggested you be mindful of when getting ready to pack that case.         

The main things to consider are:

  • Is it opaque?
  • Does it cover your shoulders/cleavage/knees?
  • Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help. Cottons and Linen tend to be favourable. 
  • Does it look smart and presentable? Would you see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it. 
This shirt would be great it if it was plain but the stripes can be distracting for the service users. Full-length, loose trousers and a loose plain shirt are key! 

This shirt would be great it if it was plain but the stripes can be distracting for the service users. Full-length, loose trousers and a loose plain shirt are key! 

Full-length, loose trousers and a loose top are key! 

Full-length, loose trousers and a loose top are key! 

An opaque, full-length skirt is a priority to pack for any temple projects. . 

An opaque, full-length skirt is a priority to pack for any temple projects. . 

This outfit is not professional enough to work in the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects.

This outfit is not professional enough to work in the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects.

Any t-shirts should be loose with a high neck.

Any t-shirts should be loose with a high neck.

A pair of nice, flat, smart sandals will complete any of these looks. 

A pair of nice, flat, smart sandals will complete any of these looks. 


Too often skirts and shirts that look OK in a store are totally see-through in the sun. Hold your clothes up to a window to check if they are suitable. Always grab vest tops to wear under shirts to make sure you're covered. 

You can see right through that skirt! Please hold your clothes up to the light to avoid these accidents. 

You can see right through that skirt! Please hold your clothes up to the light to avoid these accidents. 

This shirt is totally adorable and is otherwise appropriate, but it's see-through. Avoid sheer materials! 

This shirt is totally adorable and is otherwise appropriate, but it's see-through. Avoid sheer materials! 

These trousers are great for weekend travel, but 3/4 lengths are not appropriate on projects.

These trousers are great for weekend travel, but 3/4 lengths are not appropriate on projects.

You'll need to grab some nice sandals to wear to your projects too, as ones like these aren't professional enough. Invest in something more sturdy and smart. 

These are considered "bathroom slippers" and are not suitable for projects. 

These are considered "bathroom slippers" and are not suitable for projects. 

Tight clothing is also a "no-no." Keep it loose, you'll not only be culturally appropriate, but more comfy too.

This t-shirt is too low and not very professional, and the trousers are way too tight! 

This t-shirt is too low and not very professional, and the trousers are way too tight! 

Please avoid any low necks too!

Please avoid any low necks too!


Gentlemen

We work in Government run special needs centers as well as community based ones and schools. Teachers and staff at these centers will generally wear shirts, ties, shoes, and trousers or even military style staff uniforms. Its important that we maintain the same level of professionalism when working with these staff, starting off with how we turn up to work. Here’s a handy video with great advice from previous male team members.

We know cleavage isn’t likely to be an issue for you, but those naughty knees are, so please keep them covered with smart, full-length trousers. Please also bring a smart pair of shoes for the psychiatric hospital. This is a very respectable institution and we are all viewed as mental health professionals. It is hot and humid out there guys, but when on projects it isn't appropriate to wear shorts, so during the working week please make sure you have enough smart trousers or chinos to wear.

The main things to consider are:

  • Is it too casual? Though it might be a bit more comfy to sport a t-shirt and ¾ lengths or shorts, it's unfortunately just not appropriate in the work setting (no matter how warm it is).
  • Is it opaque?
  • Are any tattoos covered? Tattoos can also cause us some difficulties; so take a look below for some more info on tattoos and piercings. 
  • Does it look smart and presentable? Would you see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it. 
This outfit is not smart enough for the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects. Just lose the glasses, cool guy. :) 

This outfit is not smart enough for the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects. Just lose the glasses, cool guy. :) 

Looking great! Loose trousers and shirt are the way to go! 

Looking great! Loose trousers and shirt are the way to go! 

All good here! 

All good here! 

You just need some nice sandals to finish off your look! 

You just need some nice sandals to finish off your look! 


Tattoos and Piercings

Check out this YouTube video for advice on body art.  

Though this video is specifically talking about our work in Sri Lanka we request that participants follow the same guidelines when working in Bali. As we’ve said before, we’re attempting to create a strong a reputation in the Balinese community like we have in Sri Lanka. The number of times we are commended for simply being dressed appropriately is staggering. As a result, tattoos and piercings need to be covered up and taken out whenever you are on projects. 

If you have additional ear piercings, a facial or tongue piercing you’ll have to take it out whilst at projects or wear a clear plastic retainer. Enlarged lobes must be replaced with flesh coloured or clear retainers. 

No visible tattoos are permitted. Our volunteers with tattoos cover them up with clothing or with strategically placed bandages and tube grips. Yes, we look like the walking wounded, but we have been requested by certain projects to follow these procedures and at the end of the day our presence in Bali is to support these projects. Henna tattoos are also not appropriate whilst working. Please refrain from getting Henna tattoos whilst on placement. 

We promise we’re not disciplinarians creating rules for the sake of it. Every ‘rule’ has been put in place for a reason, and part of living and working in another country is blending in and adhering to cultural norms. 

Now you know the score: volunteers simply cannot attend projects if dressed inappropriately or if tattoos and piercings are visible. If anyone breaches dress code on multiple occasions they will be asked to leave the placement. I know it sounds harsh, but we need to be able to continue the work we do, and breaking the dress code puts the future of our organisation at risk.

David’s not injured, but he does have a large tattoo on his forearm that needs to be covered up.

David’s not injured, but he does have a large tattoo on his forearm that needs to be covered up.

Tattoo or injury? We'll never tell! 

Tattoo or injury? We'll never tell! 

If you've got tattoos, this is your best friend! 

If you've got tattoos, this is your best friend!