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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Nepal


In Nepal, the feet are considered dirty. Don't point the bottoms of your feet 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.

The left hand is considered unclean because it is used to wash after defecating. Nepalese carry a small jug (called a lota) of water for this purpose in lieu of toilet paper. It would be insulting to touch anyone with this hand.

Circumambulate temples, chortens, stupas, mani walls, etc. clockwise (i.e. 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 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 and 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.

Wash hands before and after eating. Touch food only with the right hand. The left hand can be used to hold glasses, bowls, and probably eating utensils. Outside the main cities, be prepared to eat rice meals with your (right) hand as Nepalese do, or bring along a fork and spoon.

The role of the majority of women is a traditional one. In most areas, especially rural ones, women are seem as caregivers, mothers, and not much more. In urban areas there are women in the workforce, but salaries are lower and opportunities are limited. Foreign women are usually given more slack in terms of dress, but travellers should avoid wearing anything to tight or revealing.

Meeting & Greeting

All meetings generally begin with palms pressed together at around chest level and saying, “namaste”, which means, “I salute the god/goddesses in you". Handshakes are common after the initial namaste, for those familiar with western customs. Always use the right hand when shaking hands.

It’s best for men to avoid initiating a handshake with Nepalese women as this may be considered rude, especially in villages. Always wait from the woman to initiate, if at all.

Hand shakes are more gentle than strong, so don't feel the person isn't interested if the grip is weak, it's just their way.

Communication Style

When communicating it’s often the case that the Nepalese will tell you what you want to hear (in order to be polite). It’s best to be patient and see what actions follow the communication.

Often times answer to a question will not be given with a direct “no”, even though that is what the true answer is.
Conversations are less quiet and restrained than those in western countries and people generally start a conversation by asking personal questions; asking the price of your possession is rude in western countries but it is accepted between strangers here. If you feel embarrassed by this say you don’t know as it was a gift.

Although you will be asked a lot of personal questions, it is best not to ask these questions yourself until you know the person well.

The word “no” has harsh implications. Evasive refusals, being polite, are more common. Because of this people may say, “yes” in order to please you but have no intention of doing so; When giving instructions, it is wise to repeat them several times, preferably, step by step and check to see if they have understood.

Thankfulness is expressed by facial expressions rather than verbal expressions. One should not assume that a person is ungrateful because he/she does not say thank you

Calling people by names like Dad, Mum, Sister, Brother, Uncle is very common. For example, you say 'Amaa' (Mother) or 'Buba' (Dad) to your friend's parents but never call them by their names.

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