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Tattoo Etiquette & Answers to Your Questions for Tattooed People

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As a tattoo commentator and writer, I rely on my personal experience and time working in a tattoo studio.

Back tattoo on girl with lace and roses

Back tattoo on girl with lace and roses

Tattooed people are an enormously diverse, interesting, and eclectic bunch. You'll see tattoos peeking out underneath sweatshirts on the middle-aged lady down the road, colorful sleeves at cash registers and behind many counters, chest tattoos on hipsters, and of course, the stereotyped fully-tattooed rough guy.

Remember: People with amazing tattoos have often paid a lot of money for their artwork. It's for their enjoyment, essentially. In no way was anyone else's opinion considered for a moment during the process.

Use this guide with a dash of sarcasm and a pinch of salt! It's intended to be applied to the random people you come across in the streets. The friends of friends, the ones you speak to at parties and those tattooed people you work and earn with. Anyone with tattoos. Please use it wisely.

Elephant arm tattoo

Elephant arm tattoo

Tattoo Etiquette and Rules

  • Never touch someone's tattoo without consent. In fact, stay out of their personal space altogether, it's just more polite that way.
  • Keep your fidgety fingers from reaching out to feel, rub, or pinch a tattoo. Don't rotate someone's limb to get a closer look—it's damn creepy and can freak people out.
  • Refrain from asking to see ink that is partially covered by clothing. That means don't go tugging at someone's clothes. You don't go around undressing random strangers, do you? Well, this is kind of the same.
  • Hold back from pointing out any imperfections, mistakes, or spelling errors you might find. Believe me, they haven't missed them either and they know they're there.
  • Keep your stories of your dad's, your friend's, or your second cousin twice removed's tattoos to yourself. They don't really want to know about them. . . they have their own tattoos to talk about. They may be interested in your tattoos if you want to share, but there's no need to show every single tattoo you have and tell its backstory.
  • Don't ask if they only date other people with tattoos unless you're about to ask for a date. That is a damn weird question. A tattooed person's main criterion, just like everyone else's, is to not date an idiot.
  • "Did you catch HIV from getting a tattoo?" Seriously, what the hell?!

What Is Okay to Ask and Do

  • When did you get your tattoo?
  • Does your tattoo have a meaning to you?
  • Where did you get your tattoo?
  • Do you plan to get any more tattoos?

The above general questions are polite and not too stalker-like. If you are not too over-the-top, most normal people won't mind a quick chat about their body art. After all, tattoos are not meant to be hidden from the world! Just remember, "look but don't touch."

Old School tattoo artist

Old School tattoo artist

Avoid Asking These Questions

Did it hurt?

Yes, of course it did. Anyone who says getting a tattoo didn't hurt is a big fat liar!

When a person gets a tattoo, hundreds of tiny needles pierce that person's skin and deposit ink underneath it. What is unique to every person is their pain threshold and how they handled the pain.

What will you think about your tattoos when you get older?

They will be an older person with tattoos, it's simple! As over 50% of people have tattoos nowadays, they will be hanging out with the rad 50% of older people who also have tattoos.

Yes, tattoos are for life, and they get old, wrinkly, and saggy. But they will still be a picture story of a person's life. Besides, who lives their lives thinking about when they get older?

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Do you have a job?

The tattoos had to be paid for somehow! Tattooed people come from all walks of life, and in most cases, yes, they will have a job or have held a job at some point.

A good tattoo is not cheap and can cost hundreds of dollars. Many workplaces are tolerant of tattoos, in particular when the staff members do not interact directly with the customers. When there is customer contact, often the person is asked to be discreet, or is anyway, and covers them up.

Tattoos are literally everywhere nowadays!

What about when you get pregnant and have kids?

Then they will be beach-ball shaped and walk like a duck, while growing a small human inside of them—all while having a tattoo. Since tattoos don't rub off or fall off when a person gets pregnant, your acquaintance will be both pregnant and tattooed. Then they will be a tattooed parent.

In answer to the real question, yes, tattoos stretch when you get pregnant and they do not always go back into shape.

Do you regret your tattoos?

If they did, they probably wouldn't be telling you! Although yes, people can regret their tattoos.

This can be for many reasons: it didn't turn out right, it was too big or small, in a spot too visible, the list could go on. Whatever that reason may be, it's rude to ask!

What You Might Ask

  • How much did your tattoo cost?
  • How did you find the pain of getting a tattoo?
  • Did you like your tattoo artist? Would you recommend them? Word of mouth is paramount with tattoo artists and their reputations.
  • What does your boss say about your tattoos?

Be socially aware before asking these questions because they are a little more personal. If the person has told you to "get stuffed" or looks like they're going to bop you in the nose, don't ask.

People with tattoos are the same as anyone else, they just have some pictures tattooed on their skin.

Some tattooed people like to chat, others not so much. Same as everybody else on this earth.

They are not experts on tattoos and can only give you information about their own experiences. If you want to know more about getting a tattoo, read some of the links on this page.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


AVOldGuy on April 22, 2015:

Good hub thanks for sharing it. I admire beautiful ink, I have stopped people just to tell them that I admire their artwork and tell them how beautiful it is, also I ask the artist name and where they work. I have yet to have a bad experience with asking to see someone's ink, I hope I am polite and not too intrusive. There is a little selfishness with my admiration; I am planning to get inked so I am keeping a list of artist whose work I admire; I keep asking, one - to see good ink and two - to add to my list.

Anne (author) from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on September 26, 2014:

You are so right Austinstar, regarding that some Tattoo Artist's are very bad - if only other people would see that too and do a little research before they get one!

And there is nothing wrong with not having a tattoo either. Although, if you ever do decide you would like one, your idea of starting small is very smart.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 26, 2014:

The only reason I've never gotten a tattoo is because they are so permanent. Yes, you can change them or even have them removed, but it will still leave a scar. I do think some tattoo artists are really talented!

Some people have great tatts, others, not so much. And as you say, they are expensive. I would hate to pay someone big bucks for a lousy tattoo.

I guess, one should start small and go from there. Perhaps I will still consider it one day.

importantthings on September 24, 2014:

Thank you for this hub, really. People are so annoying sometimes with their questions and curiosity.

Also sometimes they're like: "Your tattoo is amazing! Can I take a photo?" Oh my god don't do it.

Anne (author) from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on September 21, 2014:

Many thanks Misterhollywood.

John Hollywood from Hollywood, CA on September 20, 2014:

Excellent hub with lots of real information for people who may not know about ink etiquette. Voted up!

Anne (author) from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on September 07, 2014:

Thanks soo much MoonRaye, should add that one in for sure - the faded yet! Its interesting how obsessive we are about out tattoos :)

Thanks for your lovely comments!

MoonRaye from Florida on September 05, 2014:

One other question to add, though this is more directed to me from family members than the general public: "Have they FADED yet?" I haven't had my tattoos for anymore than two years, yet for some reason they're expecting them to turn into crap in the matter of a few months. Either way, I can relate to what the article is saying, before AND after I got my tattoos. Before I got them, I used to obsess over the ideas of having them, so I tend to ask a lot of questions to friends that may have gotten them - potentially to their annoyance. Hah! But nicely written hub. ^^

Ann Carr from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Great hub. I don't have a tattoo because I don't like pain and I've never really fancied one. My daughter has a butterfly on her ankle which is lovely and my partner has two tattoos. His are there for very good reasons; one is a heart with his blood group on it, done when a friend died due to medics not knowing what his blood group was. Now it looks like a tomato but that's fun! The other was done whilst he was in the army and is a medici sign (dagger and serpent); it's pretty well intact and people are often interested in hearing the stories.

My niece has a dragon; the head starts at the top of the spine and the tail goes down one leg!

I'm not so keen on seeing the whole body stuff but I don't judge the book by its cover; it takes all sorts to make a world and they undoubtedly have lots of character.

Interesting and well-thought out questions and answers - I'm sure you've experienced quite a few of them yourself! Great photos.

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