| Frequently Asked Questions: Travelling to Nepal
Culture and customs in Nepal run deep. Some of them you will find interesting, some strange and others beyond logic. But as long as you show respect and sensitivity to local traditions, willingness to learn and adapt to Nepalese ways and values, you will be fine. For a people so deeply rooted in traditions and culture, Nepalese are remarkably open-minded and easy-going. If at any time, you have doubts, ask or simply do what other Nepalese do.
Refer to Pilgrims Book House on Nepal for details on day to day street-level guide on cultural issues. The list here is just a simple, brief introduction and in no way exhaustive:
a. “Namaste” is a common act done by putting the palms together in a prayer like gesture to greet anyone in Nepal. Do not take it seriously if any Nepalese hesitates to shake hands because it really hasn’t been very long since western traditions crept into the Nepalese way of life.
b. Use your right hand to eat and deal with food. Nepalese use their left-hand to wash themselves after defecating. Also remember that most Nepalese use their fingers to eat and using spoons and forks is not common, specially when you are having “Daal Bhat” the staple Nepalese diet.
c. Once your lips have touched a food item or its container, it is considered Jutho (polluted) for others. Don’t eat off someone else’s plate or offer anyone food you have taken a bite out of.
d. Major Hindu temples are usually off-limits to foreigners. Don’t enter them or take pictures unless given permission to. Do not take leather articles inside the temple precint as they are prohibited. Also there will be small circular or rectangular stones or metal mandala on the ground in front of most shrines. Do not step on them.
e. Men should not walk/trek around bare-chested. Shorts are acceptable, but long pants are better. Women are recommended to wear long skirts. Exposure of women’s legs can bring unnecessary, so avoid wearing shorts and short skirts. See FAQ on Trekking for more detail on appropriate clothing during treks.
f. Public display of affection between man and woman is frowned upon. Kissing, cuddling, hugging in public is absolutely discouraged.
g. Time in Nepal moves very slowly. Everything is approximate. Nothing happens on time. Be patient. Anger and impatience will rarely make things better, if not worse. Also, double and triple confirm important arrangements, Nepalese have a way of taking everything very cool.
h. Bargaining is very common in Nepal. You would often need to bargain while shopping and riding cabs in Nepal.
i. Finally, be aware that the tradition of “bakshish” –a word that literally means “gift” but is euphemistically used to refer to a bribe given in order to receive special consideration– thrives very well in Nepal. Especially when dealing with poorly compensated public officials, a couple of rupees in bakshish, offered in a quiet and discreet manner can lubricate things up surprisingly.