Culture and Etiquette

Culture and Etiquette

 

 

Culture and etiquette
many diffrent ethnic groups coexist in nepal, each with their own complex customs. In kathmandu valley , where they mix the most, there is a necessarily high degree of tolerance towards diffrent clothes and lifestyles-a fact that travellers sense, and often abuse. Away from the tourist areas , however , ethnic groups are quite parochial, and foreign ways may cause offence. That , said, many taboobs relax the further and higher you head into the mountains, as hindu rules of behaviour are only partially shared by buddhist and animist ethnic groups.
The do's and don'ts listed here are more flexible than they sound. you'll make gaffes anything. The list is hardly exhaustive, either: when in doubt, do as you see nepalis doing.
Common courtesies
Nepalis grow up surrounded by other people , they like to be with others, and will assume you do too. As a foreigner, you'are likely to be an object of curiosity to anyone who rarely has the chance to travel far, and you may be joined in the stret or on the trail by someone who just wants to chat. Nepalis will constantly befriending you, wanting to exchange addresses, teake photos and extracting solemn promises that you will write to them.
Giving the Nepali greeting, namaste("salute the god within you"), your palms held together as if praying, is one of the most attractive and addictive of nepalese customs. it isn't used freely or casually: think of it as "how do you do?" rather in "hello!" if you want to show great respect, namaskar is a more formal or subservient variant.
Another delightful aspect of Nepali culture is the familar ways Nepalis address each other: it's well woth learning didi("older sister"), bahini("yournger sister"), Daai("older brother"), Bhaai("younger brohter"), buwa("father") and aamaa("moter") for the warm reaction they'll usually provoke. To be more formal or respectful , just add ji to the end of someone's name, as in "namaste, naba-ji".
The word Dhanyabaad is usually translated as thank you but youll rarely hear it, except in urban or tourist areas. it is normally reserved for an act beyond the call of duty-so if you feel you have to say something, "thank you" in English widely understood.
The gesture for "yes" and "no" are also confusing. To indicate agreement, tilt your head slightly to one side and then back the other way. To tell a tout or a seller "no" hold one hand in up front you, palm forwards, and swivel your wrist subtly, as if you were adjusting a bracelet, shaking the head in the western fashion looks too much like "yes". To point use the chin, rather than the finger.
caste and status
In nepal, where Hinduism is tempered by Buddhist and other influences, caste doesnot seem to dominate social interactions to quite the extent that it does in india. Nevertheless, caste is deeply ingrained in the national psyche, as even non-hindus were historically assigned places in the hierarchy. followoing india's lead, Nepal "abolished" the caste system in 1963, but millennia-old habits cannot be dismantled overnight, the maoist may be virulently opposed to the system , but many of their leaders come from a high caste background. though professions are changing and "love marriage" is more popular , for ost Nepalis, caste and status still determine what they do for a living, whom they may marry, where they can live and who they can associate with.
In a Hindu society, foreigners are technically casteless, but they can be considered polluting to orthodox, high- caste Hindus. In Nepal, this is really only a big deal in the remote far western hills, but wehrever you travel you should sensitive to minor caste restrictions: for example, you many not be allowed into the kitchen of high -caste Hindu Home. Status(ijat) is an equally important factor in nepalese society. meeting for the first time, Nepalis observe a ritual of asking each other's name, hometown , and profession, all to determine relative status and therefore the correct leval of deference. As a Westerner you have a lot of status, and relatively speaking you're fabulously wealthy-be prepared for questions.
Eating:
Probably the greatest number of Nepali taboos0to an outsider's way of thinking-have to do with food. One underlying principle is that once you've touched something to your lips, it's polluted(jutho) for everyone else. if you take a sip from someone else's water bottle, try not to let it touch your lips(and the same applies if  it's your own -you're expected to share). don't eat off someone else's plate or offer anyone food you've taken a bite of, and don't touch cooked food untill you've bought it.
Another all-important point of etiquette is, if eating with your hands -use the right one only. In most Asian countries, the left hand is reserved for washing after defecating; you can use it to hold a glass or utensil while you eat, but don't wipe your mouth, or pass food with it. it's considered good manners to give and receive everything with the right hand. In order to convey respect, offer money , food  or gifts with both hands, or with the right hand while the left touches the wrist.
clothing and the body
Nepalis are innately conservative in their attitudes to clothing. clearly , you'are not Nepali, but it's woth knowing how you many come across. The following hints apply epecially in the temples and monasteries.
Men should always wear a shirt in public , and long trousers if possible (short are for low caste or home, but ok in tourist area). For women in villages, a sari or skirt that hangs to mid-calf level is traditional, though trousers are acceptable these days. Girls in kathmandu and pokhara do wear shorts or short skirt, but this is new and you still run the risk of being seen as sexually available, so be prepared for what it brings. More surprisingly, perhaps, shoulders should also be covered up-a T-shirt is much more appropriate than a vest, looking clean shows respect-ungroomed traveller are distasteful and confusing to Nepalis , who will wear the best they can afford.
Nudity is a sensitive issue. only women with babies or small children bare their breasts. when Nepali men bathe in public, they do it in their underwear, and women bathe underneath a lungi(sarong). Foreigners are expected to do likewise. In nepal, the forhead is regraded as the most sacred part of the body and it is impolit to touch an adult Nepali's head. The feet are the most unclean part, so don't put your on chairs or tables, and when sitting, try no to point the soles of your feet anyone. it's bad manners to step over the legs of someone seated: in a crowded space Nepalis will wait for you to draw in your feet so they can pass.
Nepali views about displays of affection may seen counterintuitive. it's considred acceptable for friend of the same sex to hold hands in public, but not for lovers of the opposite sex. cuples, who cuddle or kiss in public will at best draw unwelcome attention. at worst , you've offended everyone around you and reinforced the dangerous notion that foreign women are sex objects. Handshaking has increased with the maoists' popularity, but not all women will feel comfortable to shak a man's hand.
Temples and homes
Major Hindu temples or their innermost sanctums are usually off-limits to nonbelivevers, who are a possible cause of ritual pollution. It may feel like unfair discrimination , but respect the rule, it's small part of a highly complex set of beliefs.
where you allowed in , be respectful , take your shoes off before entering(it's worth wearing slip-ons if you're doing a lot of temple-visting),don't take photos unless you've permission, and leave a few rupees in the donation box. try not to touch offering or shrines. Leather is usually not allowed in temple precincts.
similar sensitivity is due at Buddhis temples and monasteries. if you're granted an audience with a lama, it's traditional to present him with a katta(a cremonial white scarf, usually sold nearby). walk around buddhist stupas and monuments clockwise -that is keep the monument on your right . if invited for a meal in a private home, you can bring fruit or sweet(your hosts may not drink alcohol), but don't expect thanks as gifts tend to be received without any fuss. take your shoes off when entering, or follow the example of your host. when the food is served , you may be expected to eat first, so, you wont be able to follow your host's lead. take less thean you can eat-asking for seconds is the best compliment you can give. The meal is typically srved at the end of a gathering ; when the eating is done, everyone leaves sherpas and some other highland groups regard the family haerth as sacred, so don't throw rubbish or scraps into it.
Hustle and hassle
Indian style hustle is on the rise in nepal you'll get a major dose of it at the airport or any major bus station, whre touts bearing guesthouse cards lie in the wait to acost arriving tourists. They also cruise the tourist strips of kathamndu, offering drugs. for the most part , though, nepali touts aren't as parasitic as their indian brethern , and if you're entering Nepal from north india, wehre aggressive touts have to be dealt with firmly, adjust you attitude. ignore them entirely-try to look occupied with somethins else -and they're likely to ignore you. if that does'nt work, most touts will leave you alone isf asked nicely , wheres they 'll take a rude brush-off personally.
The tourist zones are full of other lone enterpreneurs and middlemen-touts by any other name. Ticet agents , rikshaw-walahs, innkeeprs, and guides are ever-anxious to broker services and information . Naturally they take a cut , but as with touts, they usually, get their commission from the seller, your price is bumped up correspondingly. if you don't know wehre to spend the night or change money, a tout's srvices are certainly worth a few rupees, but in general , cutting our the middleman give you more control over the transaction. you should find, without being too mercenary aobut it, that a few rupees(and smiles)give to people whose services you may require again will smooth thee way and make your stay much more pleasant.
Beggars
As in most developing countries, dealing with begars is part and parcel of travelling in nepal. The pathos might intially get to you , as well it should, but you will  probably adjust to it fairly quickly. A thornier dilemma is how to cope with panhandling kids.
A smaller number of bona fide beggars an honest living from Bakshish(alms). Hindus and buddhist have a long and honourable tradition of giving to lepers, the disabled, sadhus and monks. It is terrifyingly easy for a Nepali women to find herself destitute and on the street, either windowed or divorced perhaps for falling to bear a son or from a dowry sispute. Tehre no unemployment benefits in nepal Rs 100 a year, anyone who cannot work and has no family support generally turns to begging(or prostitution). few would do so if they had an alternative.
In the hills, aliling locals will occasionally aproach foreigners for medicine: it's probably best no to make any prescriptios unless you'are qualified to diagnose the illness. Howerver, before leaving the country you can donate unused medicines to the destitute through the dispensary at kathmandu's  Bir Hospital, or to the Himalayan Buddhist mediation center in kathamndu, which gives them to monk. However, our agency Mountain Air Guided Adventures(p.)ltd. helps to all the task of yours.
Children
Throughout Nepal-but principally along the tourist trails-children will hound you. Repeatedly shouting "namaste" or "hello" at the weird-looking stranger is universal and often kids will ask you for "one rupee", "chocklate" or "pen". sometimes They'are cute, sometimes a pain. They'are not orphans or beggars, just ordinary school-kids who've seen too many well-meaning but thoughless tourists handing out little gifts wherever they go.
A laugh and firm-but-gentle honaholaa!! ("i don't think so!") is usually enough. Few children would ever ask a Nepali for money, so reacting  like one will quickly embarrass them into leaving you alone. sometimes they will tag along for hours, giving you the chinease water-torture treatment, but the best defence is a sense of humour: better theat they laugh with you than at you.
many diffrent ethnic groups coexist in nepal, each with their own complex customs. In kathmandu valley , where they mix the most, there is a necessarily high degree of tolerance towards diffrent clothes and lifestyles-a fact that travellers sense, and often abuse. Away from the tourist areas , however , ethnic groups are quite parochial, and foreign ways may cause offence. That , said, many taboobs relax the further and higher you head into the mountains, as hindu rules of behaviour are only partially shared by buddhist and animist ethnic groups.
The do's and don'ts listed here are more flexible than they sound. you'll make gaffes anything. The list is hardly exhaustive, either: when in doubt, do as you see nepalis doing.
Nepalis grow up surrounded by other people , they like to be with others, and will assume you do too. As a foreigner, you'are likely to be an object of curiosity to anyone who rarely has the chance to travel far, and you may be joined in the stret or on the trail by someone who just wants to chat. Nepalis will constantly befriending you, wanting to exchange addresses, teake photos and extracting solemn promises that you will write to them.
Giving the Nepali greeting, namaste("salute the god within you"), your palms held together as if praying, is one of the most attractive and addictive of nepalese customs. it isn't used freely or casually: think of it as "how do you do?" rather in "hello!" if you want to show great respect, namaskar is a more formal or subservient variant.
Another delightful aspect of Nepali culture is the familar ways Nepalis address each other: it's well woth learning didi("older sister"), bahini("yournger sister"), Daai("older brother"), Bhaai("younger brohter"), buwa("father") and aamaa("moter") for the warm reaction they'll usually provoke. To be more formal or respectful , just add ji to the end of someone's name, as in "namaste, naba-ji".
The word Dhanyabaad is usually translated as thank you but youll rarely hear it, except in urban or tourist areas. it is normally reserved for an act beyond the call of duty-so if you feel you have to say something, "thank you" in English widely understood.
The gesture for "yes" and "no" are also confusing. To indicate agreement, tilt your head slightly to one side and then back the other way. To tell a tout or a seller "no" hold one hand in up front you, palm forwards, and swivel your wrist subtly, as if you were adjusting a bracelet, shaking the head in the western fashion looks too much like "yes". To point use the chin, rather than the finger.
In nepal, where Hinduism is tempered by Buddhist and other influences, caste doesnot seem to dominate social interactions to quite the extent that it does in india. Nevertheless, caste is deeply ingrained in the national psyche, as even non-hindus were historically assigned places in the hierarchy. followoing india's lead, Nepal "abolished" the caste system in 1963, but millennia-old habits cannot be dismantled overnight, the maoist may be virulently opposed to the system , but many of their leaders come from a high caste background. though professions are changing and "love marriage" is more popular , for ost Nepalis, caste and status still determine what they do for a living, whom they may marry, where they can live and who they can associate with.
In a Hindu society, foreigners are technically casteless, but they can be considered polluting to orthodox, high- caste Hindus. In Nepal, this is really only a big deal in the remote far western hills, but wehrever you travel you should sensitive to minor caste restrictions: for example, you many not be allowed into the kitchen of high -caste Hindu Home. Status(ijat) is an equally important factor in nepalese society. meeting for the first time, Nepalis observe a ritual of asking each other's name, hometown , and profession, all to determine relative status and therefore the correct leval of deference. As a Westerner you have a lot of status, and relatively speaking you're fabulously wealthy-be prepared for questions.
Probably the greatest number of Nepali taboos0to an outsider's way of thinking-have to do with food. One underlying principle is that once you've touched something to your lips, it's polluted(jutho) for everyone else. if you take a sip from someone else's water bottle, try not to let it touch your lips(and the same applies if  it's your own -you're expected to share). don't eat off someone else's plate or offer anyone food you've taken a bite of, and don't touch cooked food untill you've bought it.
Another all-important point of etiquette is, if eating with your hands -use the right one only. In most Asian countries, the left hand is reserved for washing after defecating; you can use it to hold a glass or utensil while you eat, but don't wipe your mouth, or pass food with it. it's considered good manners to give and receive everything with the right hand. In order to convey respect, offer money , food  or gifts with both hands, or with the right hand while the left touches the wrist.
Nepalis are innately conservative in their attitudes to clothing. clearly , you'are not Nepali, but it's woth knowing how you many come across. The following hints apply epecially in the temples and monasteries.
Men should always wear a shirt in public , and long trousers if possible (short are for low caste or home, but ok in tourist area). For women in villages, a sari or skirt that hangs to mid-calf level is traditional, though trousers are acceptable these days. Girls in kathmandu and pokhara do wear shorts or short skirt, but this is new and you still run the risk of being seen as sexually available, so be prepared for what it brings. More surprisingly, perhaps, shoulders should also be covered up-a T-shirt is much more appropriate than a vest, looking clean shows respect-ungroomed traveller are distasteful and confusing to Nepalis , who will wear the best they can afford.
Nudity is a sensitive issue. only women with babies or small children bare their breasts. when Nepali men bathe in public, they do it in their underwear, and women bathe underneath a lungi(sarong). Foreigners are expected to do likewise. In nepal, the forhead is regraded as the most sacred part of the body and it is impolit to touch an adult Nepali's head. The feet are the most unclean part, so don't put your on chairs or tables, and when sitting, try no to point the soles of your feet anyone. it's bad manners to step over the legs of someone seated: in a crowded space Nepalis will wait for you to draw in your feet so they can pass.
Nepali views about displays of affection may seen counterintuitive. it's considred acceptable for friend of the same sex to hold hands in public, but not for lovers of the opposite sex. cuples, who cuddle or kiss in public will at best draw unwelcome attention. at worst , you've offended everyone around you and reinforced the dangerous notion that foreign women are sex objects. Handshaking has increased with the maoists' popularity, but not all women will feel comfortable to shak a man's hand.
Major Hindu temples or their innermost sanctums are usually off-limits to nonbelivevers, who are a possible cause of ritual pollution. It may feel like unfair discrimination , but respect the rule, it's small part of a highly complex set of beliefs.
where you allowed in , be respectful , take your shoes off before entering(it's worth wearing slip-ons if you're doing a lot of temple-visting),don't take photos unless you've permission, and leave a few rupees in the donation box. try not to touch offering or shrines. Leather is usually not allowed in temple precincts.
similar sensitivity is due at Buddhis temples and monasteries. if you're granted an audience with a lama, it's traditional to present him with a katta(a cremonial white scarf, usually sold nearby). walk around buddhist stupas and monuments clockwise -that is keep the monument on your right . if invited for a meal in a private home, you can bring fruit or sweet(your hosts may not drink alcohol), but don't expect thanks as gifts tend to be received without any fuss. take your shoes off when entering, or follow the example of your host. when the food is served , you may be expected to eat first, so, you wont be able to follow your host's lead. take less thean you can eat-asking for seconds is the best compliment you can give. The meal is typically srved at the end of a gathering ; when the eating is done, everyone leaves sherpas and some other highland groups regard the family haerth as sacred, so don't throw rubbish or scraps into it.
Indian style hustle is on the rise in nepal you'll get a major dose of it at the airport or any major bus station, whre touts bearing guesthouse cards lie in the wait to acost arriving tourists. They also cruise the tourist strips of kathamndu, offering drugs. for the most part , though, nepali touts aren't as parasitic as their indian brethern , and if you're entering Nepal from north india, wehre aggressive touts have to be dealt with firmly, adjust you attitude. ignore them entirely-try to look occupied with somethins else -and they're likely to ignore you. if that does'nt work, most touts will leave you alone isf asked nicely , wheres they 'll take a rude brush-off personally.
The tourist zones are full of other lone enterpreneurs and middlemen-touts by any other name. Ticet agents , rikshaw-walahs, innkeeprs, and guides are ever-anxious to broker services and information . Naturally they take a cut , but as with touts, they usually, get their commission from the seller, your price is bumped up correspondingly. if you don't know wehre to spend the night or change money, a tout's srvices are certainly worth a few rupees, but in general , cutting our the middleman give you more control over the transaction. you should find, without being too mercenary aobut it, that a few rupees(and smiles)give to people whose services you may require again will smooth thee way and make your stay much more pleasant.
As in most developing countries, dealing with begars is part and parcel of travelling in nepal. The pathos might intially get to you , as well it should, but you will  probably adjust to it fairly quickly. A thornier dilemma is how to cope with panhandling kids.
A smaller number of bona fide beggars an honest living from Bakshish(alms). Hindus and buddhist have a long and honourable tradition of giving to lepers, the disabled, sadhus and monks. It is terrifyingly easy for a Nepali women to find herself destitute and on the street, either windowed or divorced perhaps for falling to bear a son or from a dowry sispute. Tehre no unemployment benefits in nepal Rs 100 a year, anyone who cannot work and has no family support generally turns to begging(or prostitution). few would do so if they had an alternative.
In the hills, aliling locals will occasionally aproach foreigners for medicine: it's probably best no to make any prescriptios unless you'are qualified to diagnose the illness. Howerver, before leaving the country you can donate unused medicines to the destitute through the dispensary at kathmandu's  Bir Hospital, or to the Himalayan Buddhist mediation center in kathamndu, which gives them to monk. However, our agency Mountain Air Guided Adventures(p.)ltd. helps to all the task of yours.
Throughout Nepal-but principally along the tourist trails-children will hound you. Repeatedly shouting "namaste" or "hello" at the weird-looking stranger is universal and often kids will ask you for "one rupee", "chocklate" or "pen". sometimes They'are cute, sometimes a pain. They'are not orphans or beggars, just ordinary school-kids who've seen too many well-meaning but thoughless tourists handing out little gifts wherever they go.
A laugh and firm-but-gentle honaholaa!! ("i don't think so!") is usually enough. Few children would ever ask a Nepali for money, so reacting  like one will quickly embarrass them into leaving you alone. sometimes they will tag along for hours, giving you the chinease water-torture treatment, but the best defence is a sense of humour: better theat they laugh with you than at you.

 

 

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