5 Etiquette Tips for Travelers to Nepal

Get to know the local customs and learn how to be polite in Nepal with these five tips from Prathap Nair.

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Photo © Mahadev Rojas Toras

As a popular tourist destination, Nepal is certainly used to the presence of tourists, so many of the local people are mostly tolerant towards various cultural differences. 

Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to keep in mind a few etiquette pointers while interacting with locals and visiting places of religious importance.

Don’t Reach Out to Shake Hands

In Nepal, a handshake is not the norm while greeting someone you’ve just met – especially when it’s a member of the opposite sex.

Physical touch is only reserved for friends and relatives while greeting (who would hug each other or touch the elder’s feet when they meet).

Instead, join your hands together and greet people with a ‘Namaste’ – just as you would in India.

It’s also ingrained in the culture to be respectful of elders, so always let your elderly host take a seat before you. Be sure to also not point the soles of your bare feet to anybody while sitting.

Always Finish Your Food

When offered a meal, try and finish food served on your plate. An unfinished plate signals to your hosts that you thought the meal wasn’t satisfying. 

If you’re worried that the food served is too much to handle, ask your host to politely remove some of it before touching it. 

Also, be careful not to cross over food or a person while they’re seated on the floor.

Etiquette For Cultural Site Visits

Though Nepal is defined as a secular country by constitution, the prominent religions of Hinduism and Buddhism permeates much of the local culture.

In some Hindu temples, such as the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, non-Hindus are not allowed to enter. Buddhist shrines, however, have no such restrictions.

While visiting a Buddhist shrine, dress respectfully – cover shoulders and knees. Shorts are also fine as long as they are knee-length.

While praying, don’t go counter-clockwise around stupas. It’s considered to bring bad luck.

Respect the Locals

Expect homeless alm seekers in all the temples, shrines, and public places you may visit.

Though this can get annoying after a while, please consider that Nepal is a poor country and old people who are abandoned by their families have nowhere to go and turn to the streets for begging.

It’s okay to throw a penny to them, as it might help them get their next meal. However, it’s discouraged to provide for children begging on the streets, as this might encourage them to pursue this as a career.

No Whistling!

Not that this situation would ever arise even in the wildest possible way, but keep in mind that it’s considered inauspicious and bad luck to whistle inside one’s house.

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