Nepalese people are traditionally warm and friendly and treat foreigners with a mixture of curiosity and respect. Most Nepalese speak at least some English, though smiles and gestures work well where language is a barrier. Learning a few Nepali phrases can be a great way of winning their hearts and smiles.
The culture of Nepal is diverse and traditional. In Kathmandu the traditional Hindu and Buddhist culture still thrives alongside the pervading influences of modernity. Although the Nepalese are extremely tolerant of other cultures, they will also appreciate your effort to respect their culture.
- Instead of a handshake, ‘Namaste’ (pronounced numb-ah-stay) accompanied by placing the hands in a prayer like position is the universal greeting.)
- When you give or receive something (food, money or anything else) use your right hand or both hands
- Avoid pointing with a single finger; use your flat extended hand to indicate a sacred object or place
- Ask for permission before taking photos
- Don't use your left hand to eat.
- Most Nepali people will not accept food offered from your plate, nor eat from a common pot.
- It is common to share a water bottle, but no one touches their lips to it, they pour from above their mouth
- Beef is not eaten by Hindus; the mention of it is repulsive
- It is extremely disrespectful to point a foot at another person, a sacred place or hearth
- Remove your shoes while entering a home
- The sight of men holding hands is common, but acts of affection between men and women, even holding hands, is frowned upon in village areas
Tips for Visiting a Temple or Monastery:
- Smoking and wearing scant dresses in religious places is discouraged.
- Remove your shoes
- Do not take/wear any leather articles
- Ask for permission before photographing inside temples/ cremation sites
- If you meet the head Lama inside a Buddhist gompa, you may present him with a white silk scarf called a Khata. It is traditional to include a little donation to the gompa inside the folded Khata. The Lama will remove the money. He will either keeps the Khata or place it around your neck as a blessing. Place the Khata in the hands of the Lama: do not place it around his neck.
Tips for Buddhist Chortens/ Mani Walls:
- walk to the left of Chortens (stone monuments) when you come across them in the middle of the trails
Tips for Giving:
Some people like to distribute balloons, candy, pens money to the adorable village children. A downside of this is that some children have started asking tourists for mithai (candy), paisa (money), boom-boom’ (balloon) or pens. While we do not want children to start begging, we also believe that in many cases, people will be delighted with a small gift if you wish to give them something.
- if you take someone’s photo, you may want to thank them with a small token.
- If you bring things you would like to distribute, inform your guide who will help you know how to go about it. Even small gifts, like pencils are appreciated.
Tips for Keeping Valuables:
- leave extra valuable in the security box at your hotel in Kathmandu or Pokhara
- lock your room whenever you leave it
- put valuable items out of sight when you leave your room
- don’t leave your laundry hanging outside at night
Tips for Bargaining:
Everybody barters in Nepal. If you don’t, you appear gullible and fair play for a fleecing. (Don’t try it in fixed priced super markets or on the trekking routes where a local union fixes the prices for food and lodging though.) Bargaining can save you a few rupees and be a lot of fun.
- Go early in the morning as the first sale of the day is meant to bring luck.
- Don’t be in a big hurry.
- Show some interest in a few things at a time, but don’t let your interest in one thing come across too strong.
- Don’t take the first price seriously; it is merely a test of your gullibility.
- Give a counter offer considerably less, perhaps 30%.
- Don’t take it too seriously if the vendor pulls the item back.
- Start walking away and you will know if they want to sell to you or not.
- Move on to another seller and ask for the price.
- Get their ‘best price’. Tell them it’s cheaper at another stall.
- Buy several items at one stall and ask for a discount.
- If they act uninterested, keep walking and they’ll call out to you before you’ve gone too far.
- Finally, quote a price slightly lower than the price offered by the vendor. If he accepts fairly easily, you can be sure he is making some profit.
- Remember you’re buying souvenirs that you want to bring good memories! Some foreigners take bargaining too far wanting to get the absolute minimum ‘Nepali’ price. Sometimes vendors will sell below cost because they need the cash for that day’s meal.? The ideal is that both the vendor and the buyer should be happy.