Nepali culture and fitting in
Many people do not know that Nepal is a rich country in terms of cultural diversity. There is a great mix of religion and culture in Nepal. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Bon, ancestor worship and animism are all considered religions in Nepal. There are more than 123 ethnic groups in Nepal and they all live together. The country was declared a secular nation even though the majority of the population were Hindus.
123 languages are spoken in Nepal. Nepal’s linguistic heritage has evolved from three major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman and Adivasi. The main languages of Nepal are Nepali. Nepali, written in the Devanagari script, is the official national language and serves as the lingua franca of Nepali ethnolinguistic groups.
Nepal is a beautiful country and easy-going for tourists but there’s plenty of traditions and local customs to be aware of. Here’s how to make friends and not foes on your trip:
Cultural Do’s and Don’ts
- Remove your shoes before entering a private home or worship place. Leave your footwear with the soles down.
- Sit where your host/hostess indicates, because in most cases there will be a clear hierarchy
- Avoid sitting with the soles of your feet pointing at anyone, or at a sacred object. (Cover your feet if necessary)
- Don’t whistle indoors, or at night – it can attract the spirits
- Use both hands while giving/receiving things.
- Always circumambulate the monastery, stupa and temple clockwise.
- Seek permission before entering the Hindu temple
- Always ask for permission before taking photographs of someone
- The sight of men holdings hand is common, but men and women holding hands, general acts of affection are frowned upon.
- Affection between men and women is seldom expressed in public
- Nepalese do not eat beef as the cow is a national animal of Nepal and Hindu people worship the cow
- Don’t pat little children on the head, or touch anyone’s head as a person’s head is considered sacred
- Do not wear revealing clothes and sleeveless tops while visiting Nepal as Nepalese are traditional and conservative in the way they dress.
- Remember not to point with a single finger but instead use a flat extended hand especially to indicate scared object.
All this may sound complicated but you will find that such behaviour will soon become second nature. Moreover, you will gain increased respect from the Nepalese you meet, whether in downtown Kathmandu or high in the Himalayas.