Nepal Cultural Tips

Nepal is broadly a very conventional and orthodox society with deep cultural essence in Buddhism and Hinduism along with a byzantine tribal and caste system. With respects to the multi-cultural customs and taboos prevalent in the country, foreign travelers are encouraged to observe these to gain personal respect in return. Following are some cultural tips to people traveling to Nepal:

  • Namaste” with folded hands (palms pressed together like a prayer) is a way of formal greeting. Shaking hands is not the norm except for business purposes.
  • Dress up very modestly in Nepal. Women covering their arms and shoulder areas, chest, abdomen and thigh will be considerate humble.
  • It is more respectful if you address people by calling them didi (elder sister), bahini (younger sister), daai (elder brother), bhaai (younger brother), buwa (father) or muwa (mother).
  • Always finish your food served on the plate if you are a guest in a Nepali family. Leaving food unfinished on the plate indicates an unsatisfying meal to your host. If you feel that the food portion is too large for you, ask your host to remove some from the plate before you begin eating and they will happily do so. You are always welcome to add some more food later if the initial serve did not fill you up.
  • Non-Hindus are not permitted entry in some religious sites which should be respected. At places where permission is granted or in Buddhist monasteries, you are expected to dress respectfully covering your shoulders and knees.
  • Always clockwise around Buddhist sacred Stupas and monuments.
  • Bringing a gift to your hosts when you are invited to their house is an honorable gesture.
  • Showing too much skin in not considered respectful especially for womenfolk. Men usually wear shirts and long trousers while women wear sleeved shirts, long skirts, sarees, loose trousers and salwar kurtas.
  • Leather items are generally not permitted inside the Hindu sacred areas.
  • It is considered very bad if you point the soles of your feet to anyone.
  • If eating with hands, just use your right hand. Left hand is kept aloof for washing after using the washroom and not considered offensive.
  • Remember, once you’ve touched any food item to your lips, it is considered adulterated for everyone else. It is not considered hygienic if you eat from other people’s plate or eat together on a single plate. The same formula applies for drinking water or other beverages.
  • When entering a local person’s house, you are expected to open your shoes and leave them outside the door. Feet and shoes are often considered ceremonially unclean.
  • If you are trekking in the mountains, do not leave your trash behind. Pack out your litter or dispose it into the allocated bins.
  • Tipping, usually in hotels, restaurants, and to drivers, guides and porters, is a customary thing. Some bills may not include service charge, however, tips are always expected.

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