Nepali Customs and Etiquette

Shelby LemonWritten by Shelby Lemon

“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.”

Along the way Govinda has pointed out and educated us on a few essential customs. Take note for when you travel to Nepal! We are still learning a great deal ourselves.

A General Overview

– 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 very often, 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 or frustration as compared to the U.S.
– toilet paper isn’t used, so bring some if you’re a traveler! 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) in their homes, but you will see public littering quite often.
– some places, like Kathmandu, don’t allow giving out plastic bags for trash/waste reasons. This is an attempt to reduce litter that the community has little recyclable use for.
– walk on the left side of the road (they drive opposite of us in the United States).

Customs We Have Encountered in Eating

– Nepali people don’t use utensils very often. 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 no “traditional breakfast” – 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 9 AM the family eats Dal Bhat 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 9 PM. It is amazing how many variations of Dal Bhat there are depending on the spices and various greens. Some of the vegetables we have had include okra, potatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lentils, jack fruit (quickly becoming a favorite), cauliflower, and squash.

– They do not eat off each other’s plates because they eat with their hands. We found this out on the first day that they used 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 we haven’t used our hands in the traditional fashion. Govinda’s family looked concerned and he quickly explained that it is still clean food because we were using the spoons. Whew, thanks for the save Govinda!