How To Adapt To Our Clients´ Culture as a Massage Therapist?

Many of us who are working in the Spa, Wellness and Health industry, meet people from different cultures and traditions throughout our professional lives. We might experience this multiculturality through our own career movements (travels and working in different countries or regions) or through treating clients from very different backgrounds, or even both. In his post I want to reflect upon how we can and should adapt ourselves to best help and serve our multifaceted client group.


When in Rome…

All of us who travel around the world offering our services as a health, massage, or wellness professional, or have a steady job in another country, need to try to adapt ourselves to our new surroundings. This means trying to adapt ourselves to the culture and ways of doing things of the society in general. This does not mean that we need to stop doing things that are important for us (routines, habits), but we need to make sure that we always respect our host country´s culture and religion. We will also enjoy our new environment more if we try to integrate ourselves in it, for example try to adapt ourselves to their daily rhythm and schedule for waking up, meals, etc., tasting their food, spending time with the locals, visiting important sights and places where people gather together.

Adapting ourselves also means trying to integrate ourselves in the local work culture, and if we are working for example in a Spa as a massage therapist or physical therapist, try to become another member of the staff. This requires spending time with the staff, following their schedules and protocols, and in general being flexible and eager to fit in. This can be tricky at times as each organization has their own rules and protocols, apart from the influence of the local culture, but keeping in mind all the things we can learn from this experience, will motivate us to make our best effort to fit in.

Obviously this is not a one-way street, in the sense that our only goal is to adapt and to learn, as in many cases we can also contribute to the host culture, sharing our professional knowledge and experiences as well as our best practices. The different perspective we might have on things, might enrich their work culture.



Adapting to our clients at home

The other side of the coin is the diversity of clients or patients that we face each day in our Spa, massage, bodywork, physiotherapy, or energy healing practice. We need to be attentive to our clients, and treat each one as an individual, taking into account not only their physical state, but also their cultural background, religious beliefs, and emotional state. If we respect our clients and really listen to their needs, they will be grateful and become loyal to us.

Sometimes we will even need to redesign our treatments in order to adapt ourselves to our client needs or requirements. For example swap a fully body oil massage to a massage done over the clothes, or even just changing the background music or beverages we offer post-treatment. This will help us grow professionally and to diversify our offering, so we should see this as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

So all in all, in a nutshell: adapting to our clients and the surroundings will help us to grow professionally, enrich our own as well as hopefully also other professionals´ practice, and most importantly, offer the best service to the people that we want to help and heal.

Do you have experience in working abroad, or do you have a very diverse client base? I would love to hear your own stories and tips!

Warm regards,

César tejedor


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14 thoughts on “How To Adapt To Our Clients´ Culture as a Massage Therapist?”

  1. I’m not completly agree, I think that there things we could change like (music or use of incense) but others not as the type of treatment, for example, I’m an ayurvedic practioner and I received a woman that don’t like oil and massage on the chest area, maybe Ayurveda wasn’t good for her and I can’t change my massage in this case or if I receive a person with Vata imbalance even if he/she ask for something strong, fast and vigorous I can’t satisfied the person ’cause I know that it’s not the right choice.

    1. Dear Claudia, I maybe did not express myself properly.
      I agree with you, that you should always look for the benefit of your client or patient, and never apply anything wrong to them, or anything that might not be beneficial for them, even if they ask us to do it. But what I try to explain in this post, that I wrote after spending one month working in Kuwait, is how we as professionals should adapt our knowledge in order to find the best for each client, in each culture and environment. If I, as a man, can not apply an oil massage to a woman, because it is part of their culture, as a professional that I am, I should try to find another way to help my client…so in this case, I will never use an Ayurvedic massage on her, but maybe I will try to use a vibrational massage with singing bowls, a traditional thai massage, or another technique that could fit on her needs and culture. I will try to apply whats best for her, but adapting myself and treatments to her culture. Fortunately, after more than 20 years in this profession, I have knowledge in many techniques and disciplines, and I am able to reach the same effects from many different ways. And this is basically what I tried to share with you in this post…sorry if I did not explain myself clearly enough. Have a wonderful day ahead! 🙂

  2. Laurine Rybarczyk

    I totally agree! One size does not fit all when it comes to massage. More massage therapists should be flexible with seeking what’s best for their clients.

    1. Camilla Ilves

      Thanks for your comment Laurine! Yes totally agree, we need to offer truly personalized treatments as well as service to our clients! If you have any own experiences of this please feel free to share!

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    And I thought massage therapy can be a part time job. Never realised it can be a mainstream work and this you have to put yourself into this much study to become a massage therapist. Sounds great to me.

    1. Hi Anna! Yes of course you as a professional need to act according to your knowledge and best practices…but we do believe that always when possible we should try to adapt our treatments as much as possible to our client needs and surroundings. But sometimes this is very challenging of course…

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    I became a massage therapist to help people. I found that there were people in my life that needed help but even if I became a doctor there is only so much that can be done. No matter how much you can give of yourself the final say is in the hands of the creator.

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  7. Good blog Cesar ! Yes as massage therapists if we travel to different countries massages can be different. There’s places where the client is totally in the nude ..No sheets.. or places where your client is on a cold marble slab.. and massaging breasts is part of the massage and expected!or happy endings included! It depends how far you are willing to go. I personally couldn’t do any massage like That no matter the pay ! My advice is to thoroughly check out a place before you work for them. Sometimes things are not how we perceive them to be !

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