This blog post was originally written for Open World Cause at this link: http://openworldcause.com/nepali-customs-and-etiquette/
I encourage you to read the other posts and check out our Open World site. It might inspire you to get involved!
CUSTOMS WE HAVE LEARNED SO FAR/ QUICK TIPS
-no stepping over other people if they are sitting on the floor, it is impolite
-don’t wear shoes in the house that you wear outside because they are unclean
-don’t flip your shoes upside down, it is bad luck
-they don’t shake hands, they say namaste. Different greetings. It isn’t bad, but shaking hands is very much a western thing.
-modest clothing. When in public adults, especially women, cover their legs (pants or long skirt)
-they use car horns as a device to maneuver around other vehicles…often. It is not always out of anger like in the U.S.
-toilet paper isn’t used, so bring some if you’re a traveller! Use sparingly.
-Saturday is their holy day and the day children have off school. They begin their school week on Sunday.
-plastic bottles are taken by large trucks to India to recycle them (MAKES ME SO HAPPY)
-trash cans aren’t a thing. They compost food and burn some trash. They generally have less trash and packaging (something many of us need to work on)
-some places, like Kathmandu doesn’t allow giving out plastic bags for trash/waste reasons. They don’t know how to dispose of them and just throw them anywhere
-walk on the left side of the road (they drive opposite of us in the United States)
CUSTOMS WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT EATING
-Nepali people don’t use utensils. They eat by mixing the different food items into the rice their their right hands. They do not eat with the left hand because it is considered unclean.
-They do not eat the same times we do in the United States, though the family we are staying with very kindly altered our eating times to feel more familiar. There is not a traditional breakfast, but instead they drink milk tea. The milk tea tastes similar to a black spiced tea or chai with milk and sugar (be sure to read Ashley’s blog post about it!). Around 9am the family eats Dal Baht which is generally eaten twice daily. It is white rice with lentil soup poured on top. It is accompanied by various curried vegetables and potatoes. Around mid afternoon they take their 2nd meal and dinner is eaten around 8:30 or 9pm.
It is amazing how many variations of Dal Baht there are depending on he spices and various greens. Some of the vegetables we have had include okra, potatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lentils, jack fruit (quickly becoming a favorite), and squash.
-They do not eat off each other’s plates because they eat with their hands. We found this out because one day they made pasta. Being gluten intolerant I was unable to eat the dinner and shared it among my other travel mates. We have used spoons for each meal, so it wasn’t as though we were using our hands. Govinda’s family looked concerned and he quickly explained that it is still clean food because we are using spoons instead of our hands. Wew, thanks for the save Govinda!
-when offering seconds they don’t serve right out of the pot. They first put it in other bowls.