Last updated on May 30th, 2023 at 08:16 am
Nepal is a multicultural nation filled with unique cultural practices and customs. I am sure you must have already researched some facts about the various ethnic groups, Hindu temples, and religious settings of the country to have a smooth trip this season. Despite the variations, Nepalese people have some standard etiquette and social norms to follow. So, to further make your trip free from cultural shocks, I suggest you read some do’s and dont’s in Nepal and get acquainted with the standard rules of the local people.
Although the wondrous country, becoming a famous tourist destination in recent years, has loosened its strict norms and have welcomed people from various culture, it is only respectful and kind to exercise the unwritten rules. So, let’s get started.
Do’s And Don’ts In Nepal
It is essential to realize that Nepal is filled with not one but multiple cultures, traditions, and religions. With Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, and the Pashupatinath temple of Lord Shiva, Hinduism and Buddhism are amongst the dominant cultures and religions. People in Nepal follow unique customs and sometimes beyond scientific reason. Thus, considering the diverse cultural practices, we recognize some general etiquette everyone respects and follows.
Do’s In Nepal
Here is a list of guidelines you must follow while doing something in Nepal. The Do’s are pretty simple, and once you get accustomed to them, nothing will bother you during your trip to a country full of rich culture.
1. Do Greet People
No matter which Asian country you are traveling to, one common thing in every nation is the culture of greeting each other. Nepalese people always greet people to show respect and friendliness. Hence, you are sure to see local people greet and smile at you, even if they are strangers. In such cases, you are expected to smile back and greet them.
The most common greeting in Nepal is by taking your palms flat in a prayer-like gesture and saying “Namaste.” Check out greetings In Nepali to learn more about common vocabulary and the language.
2. Do Dress Conservatively
Always dress as modestly as possible. Although tourism has brought many changes in the minds and societal norms regarding dress codes, it is still a very religious country, and people generally cover as much skin as possible. So, ensure you wear long skirts that reach below the knees, shirts that cover your chest, and pants that are not too short. Especially when visiting religious sites like a Hindu temple or Buddhist monastery, never wear a revealing scant dress. Try and wear traditional attire as a gesture of respect. Also, try not to wear leather belts or any leather items, as they are strictly prohibited in temples.
3. Do Use The Correct Hand
In Nepal, using the left hand to receive or give others things is considered extremely rude. In Buddhist and Hindu cultures, the left hand is used for dirty work and is helpful only when it comes to cleaning our bodies. So, when we offer or accept gifts from someone, we should use our right hand or take both hands. Even eating with the left hand is considered uncivilized and rude.
4. Do Remove Shoes And Hats
Another common pan-Asian rule is to remove shoes before entering someone’s house. No matter how clean your shoes are, you are supposed to only walk inside without them. Until and unless the owner asks you to do so, you must take them off without failure.
Such a rule also applies when it comes to temples or shrines. Never enter with your shoes and hats on; always remove them and keep them aside before entering temples or any sacred place.
5. Do Seek Permission For Temples
Many Hindu temples have strict rules regarding who can enter the shrine. Westerners, non-Hindus, and lower castes are mostly prohibited from entering the temple. So, to avoid unintentionally offending or hurting religious sentiments, always seek permission before stepping onto a religious site.
6. Do Carry a Flashlight At All Times
Coming to some non-ethical requirements, it is essential always to carry a torch or a flashlight whenever you roam the country. Even in the capital city of Nepal, the source of electricity can never be reliable. There are power cuts now and then, both during day time and night. So, the best advice is to carry a torch and be free of any fear.
7. Do Change Your Nepalese Currency
If you did not know, using Nepalese currency outside the country is illegal. It is a restricted currency; hence, exchanging all your currency back to US dollars or Euros is best. It can be done quickly at Kathmandu airport before your flight. However, make sure you keep your receipts safe. If you lose your transaction receipts from the past or exchange receipts, your money might not get accepted, accusing it of being taken from the black market. Be careful.
8. Do Bargain
For the best prices, always remember to bargain. Especially when you go street shopping, know that nothing has a fixed price. Always negotiate and try to lower costs and reach a mutually beneficial rate for the things you want to buy.
9. Do Be Careful Around Priests And Monks
Lastly, always be careful around holy men. Women should especially avoid coming in physical contact with monks. Buddhist monks are held in high positions and are deeply revered. So, whenever you see one, show respect and keep your distance. You are also not allowed to hand things directly to them. The same goes for Hindu priests. Sometimes, even the monk’s mother is restricted from hugging their son. In short, monks are prohibited from touching women.
Don’ts In Nepal
Now, we will walk through some rules you should follow to avoid doing culturally and practically inappropriate things. Follow them to avoid the hassle.
1. Don’t Eat Beef
Not eating beef is the most important religious rule you must be careful about. The cow is a sacred animal in Hinduism and Buddhism. They consider the cow to be the holy animal of the gods and respect it; it is the national animal in Nepal too. So, never eat beef in public or in front of religious people. Even in restaurants, always ask if they serve beef. If not, it is better to control your cravings for a while.
2. Don’t Show Public Affection
Nepal is still a conservative country. Publicly kissing, hugging, or even holding hands with your partner can make locals uneasy. Society has just hit the wave of westernization, and dating and public displays of affection are still taboo. Boys and girls are not expected to linger around with their hands on each other in public or private. Nepali culture has strict rules when it comes to marriage and love life.
3. Don’t Touch Any Sacred Object
As mentioned, Nepal has many religious places. So, you will see many small circular or rectangular stones or metal mandalas on the ground of most shrines. Please do not step on them or touch them without thinking twice. Don’t touch Buddha images or Hindu god statues. Especially for non-Hindus and westerners, such objects are off-limits, and it is better to maintain distance. Even when a Hindu carries things for offerings, please do not touch them. Once someone touches them, it is considered impure and unacceptable by the temples.
4. Don’t Take Photos Without Consent
As tourists, you will have the urge to capture every moment and keep it saved in your phone memory. However, it would help if you were very careful in Nepal. There will be many sites that you will find interesting and would want to capture it. But when it comes to temples, shrines, and ethnic people, make sure you get their permission and consent. Most sacred places and holy shrines are off-limits and not allowed to be captured. So, always ask for consent before rolling your camera and taking photos.
5. Don’t Help Beggers
Being a third-world country, you will find numerous beggars and orphans in the streets of Nepal, especially at tourist sites. Don’t help them immediately. Even if they ask for just one rupee, don’t help them because it encourages them to drop out of school and tilt towards beggary and illegal work. There are also adults behind pitiful child beggars who force them to beg and then make use of the money for illicit jobs.
6. Don’t Touch Someone’s Head
In Buddhism, the head is considered sacred, and the feet are dirty. All the spiritual forces are believed to be stored in the head, so one is not allowed to touch another’s head. While patting around the head is quite common in the western lifestyle, be aware of the cultural differences in Nepal. You can come out as a rude and ignorant person if you touch someone’s head. Even pointing your feet or touching something with your feet is not acceptable.
7. Don’t Eat From Common Pot
One of the essential dining manners in Nepal is that you never eat from the standard pot. You always serve your own plates and start eating with your hands. Using spoons and forks is not common in the country. Moreover, never touch a shared drinking vessel with your lips. Once it touches your lips, it is undrinkable for others and becomes your personal.
8. Don’t Drink Tap Water
Very important for your health, always avoid drinking water from the tap. No matter where you live, never drink tap water, as it can be contaminated and not purified for drinking. Ask local experts or guides if they can help you out if you are still looking for purified water.
9. Do Not Smoke Publicly
While smoking or drinking in public is not a big deal in the west, Nepal has strictly prohibited smoking in public, especially for girls. It is mainly concerned when it is a religious setting. Avoid smoking in a pilgrimage site or anywhere with a large crowd.
10. Don’t Lose Your Calm
Unlike Westworld, time in Nepal runs slowly. So, whenever there is a delay in service, or someone is making you wait for more than usual, don’t lose your calm or show anger on your face. It is standard. Showing frustration will not bring you any help. Patience is the key.
Over To You!
Now that you know all the unwritten rules, nothing can stop you from having a wonderful time in Nepal. However, I am sure reading so much about the culture has ignited a spirit in your mind willing to learn about the Nepali language. If I am right, I have the best suggestion for you!
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