Pictured above is the main Cathedral in Puebla, Mexico. It was so beautiful and I loved being able to visit!
Churches are definitely a top-of-the-list attraction for many tourists, but how does one visit a church abroad while remaining sensitive and respectful? Here are some of my thoughts based on my experience as a tourist/student in Mexico.
Firstly, I would recommend that everyone do a short google search of the country that they are visiting and the major religions of that country. Since I was going to Mexico, I researched a bit about Catholicism and specific customs that were unique to Catholicism in Mexico. One of the towns that we visited, Cholula, is known for having many churches. We spent a lot of time going in to each church, quietly observing the artwork, and reveling in the fantastic architecture. Some of the very basics to keep in mind when entering a church: remember to take off any hats you may be wearing, keep speaking to a minimum, and of course, do not disturb services in progress.
One thing that came up a lot while we were sight seeing was whether or not we could take pictures. In many churches in Mexico, it is not acceptable to take pictures inside the church. If this is the policy, the church will usually have a sign at the front of the door saying "no photos". There are a few churches here and there that allow photos with no flash. However, they may still be picky about whether you take pictures. If you are asked to stop taking pictures, my advice would be to first apologize and then quickly put your device away. Since these churches are so opulently decorated and beautiful, it is completely understandable to want to take pictures, but our first and foremost priority as students abroad should be respecting the culture around us.