We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Nepal
Greet people with a warm Namaste (or “Namaskar” formal version – to an older or high-status person) with palms together, fingers up. It is used in place of hello or goodbye. Don’t say it more than once per person, per day. The least watered down definition of the word: ‘The divine in me salutes the divine in you.’ Show marked respect to elders. Say Thank you: Dhanyabaad /’ð?nj?b?:d/ (Dhan-ya-baad) Feet are considered dirty. Don’t point the bottoms of your feet (or your bum!) at people, or at religious icons. In this vein, be sure not to step over a person who may be seated or lying on the ground. Be sensitive to when it is proper to remove your hat or shoes. It is proper to take off your shoes before entering a residental house. The left hand is considered unclean because it is used to wash after defecating. Many Nepali Hotel & Guest House toilets have bidet attachments (like a kitchen sink sprayer) for this purpose in lieu of toilet paper. It is considered insulting to touch anyone with the left hand. It is proper to poke someone, take and give something with the right hand. Circumambulate temples, chortens, stupas, mani walls, etc. clockwise. (ie, with your right side closest to the object or respect) When haggling over prices, smile, laugh, and be friendly. Be prepared to allow a reasonable profit. Don’t be a miser or insult fine craftsmanship, it’s much better to lament that you are too poor to afford such princely quality. Many Hindu temples do not allow non-Hindus inside certain parts of the temple complex. Be aware & respectful of this fact, as these are places of worship, not tourist attractions. Being a non-Hindu makes you moderately low caste, but not an untouchable. Avoid touching containers of water; let someone pour it into your drinking container. Likewise avoid touching food that others will be eating. Make sure you are invited before entering someone’s house. You may only be welcome on the outer porch, or in the yard. Shoes are routinely left on the front porch or in a specific area near the front door. Wash hands before and after eating. Touch food only with the right hand if you’re not left-handed.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Nepal, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Nepal food and drinks:
Local food you should try in Nepal and No miss drinks in Nepal.
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Nepal? Please comment below.