Basic etiquette, common practices in Nepal: the dos and don'ts

  • Mar 22, 2020
  • Hemanta Maharjan

Table of Contents

Ethics in Nepal

Nepal is a country of diversity and it’s easy to see that a harmonious coexistence is present despite the differences. This can be attributed to the respect that different groups have for the customs and traditions of each other and also for the tolerance to the oddities. Although the Hindu population amounts to be the highest in the country, Buddhism is seen to bear a heavy influence in the religion. Other major religions followed in the country are Islam and Christianity.

The Nepalese people are friendly and hospitable; however, travel in Nepal would be more pleasant and productive if certain common etiquettes are followed. Most people in the trekking routes are familiar with foreigners and are acceptable of the difference in actions between a local and an outsider. So following proper etiquette is not mandatory, and does not promise any reward or direct benefit. However, it does make people friendly and helpful, adding enjoyable experiences from the hospitable populace.

Namaste! The usual way of greeting someone in Nepal is an instant way to build a rapport. You can join your hands together, upright and palms facing each other while greeting in this way. It is like saying “Hi” but in a respectful way. Shaking hands is often practiced in younger men and women, however often not between the sexes. A “Thank you” can be expressed by the Nepali word “dhanyabaad”. Generally terms like Dai=older brother, Bhai=younger brother, Didi=older sister and Bahini=younger sister can be used to address people that you meet during your travel. Though this may sound odd to foreigners, it will make Nepalese people more comfortable and ready to start a conversation.

If you are participating in a religious ceremony and special occasion such as marriage, proper clothing is expected. Attending a religious gathering or puja in short dresses may not be suitable in most cases. However, foreigners are not expected to dress exactly like the locals attending the ceremonies, so there is no need to go shopping for that single occasion, if you don’t feel like it. Provocative dressing might be taken negatively, especially in rural areas of the country. Taking the shoes off outside temples and before entering the kitchen or other rooms in the house of the local people is expected.

Some more Dos and Don'ts in Nepal

Nepalese people use the right hand for handshakes, to pass money or food, and for eating. The left hand is not considered pious or clean. Also drinking water from the same glass is considered dirty and people pour it from above the mouth while drinking from a bottle. Dal-bhat is eaten with the right hand but if you feel it is difficult to do so, you can use available cutlery which is quite understandable.

Beggars and street children could be a problem for tourists in Nepal. It’s not a sensible thing to give money to children who are begging, as they may use the money to buy drugs. Also, a simple “No” would do the job most often to get rid of awkward circumstances. It’s better to channelize help in cash or kind through trusted organizations working for the poor and the needy.