Nepal is a land of many treasures that blends in many different traditions, ethnicities, and religions together to present a beautiful combination of cultural riches. With over a hundred different and distinct dialects spoken across the country followed by the amalgamation of harmony and tolerance of each other's traditions and the practice of mutual respect, Nepal presents to its visitors a beautiful cultural experience. The birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha, Nepal, is truly a prime example of harmonious coexistence.
The majority of the population in Nepal is Hindu, followed by the Buddhist, Islam and Christian religions. Amongst the population, there also exist discernable ethnic groups and indigenous natives. The Nepali language is the official language and the people of Nepal are known for their hospitality and friendliness. Foreigners are heartily welcome in the country. Correspondingly, like each country, Nepal also has certain etiquettes that are greatly appreciated by the people. The visit to Nepal is certainly enhanced if the etiquettes are followed, and it is definitely easier to build a good rapport with the local people if certain mannerisms and basic common rules are followed. Learning the proper etiquette is a sign of respect towards people and that is always an admirable quality to have.
Equally important is avoiding certain mannerisms that might harm or offend the Nepali people. Here are 15 things not to do in Nepal-
1. Do not give money to beggars
Beggars can sometimes become a bit of a problem for tourists. Giving money to children begging isn't deemed sensible as they may misuse it to buy drugs. Therefore, it is better to donate money or other essentials to trusted organizations instead who work in the improvement of the poor and the needy. A simple "No" to the beggars can suffice and can help avoid awkward situations.
2. Do not give Nepalese people money or gifts with your left hand
This etiquette is a reversible one if people are left-handed. Nevertheless, the right hand is deemed as the dominant hand for the majority of the population in the country and kindly receiving and exchanging gifts or money with the right hand is seen as much kinder than doing so with the left. The right hand is also used for eating and for handshakes. This etiquette is based on the tradition that metaphorically deems the left hand as not being pious.
3. Do not drink tap water directly
The tap water in Nepal is not suitable for direct consumption. Doing so can lead to health problems. That is why it is best to not drink direct tap water. It is best to only drink bottled water or water that has been through the purification system, like boiling. The tap water is unsafe for drinking and is mostly used for cleanliness and hygienic purposes. In the mountains and rural areas, the rivers, lakes, and other natural forms of water reservoirs and sources are used instead of a direct tap line. You can carry a portable water purifier if you want to be on the safe side of your travel.
4. Do not go where you are asked not to
Nepal has many religious and holy sites and many of them also have restricted areas that do not allow foreigners and people of other religions to visit. Going to the restricted part of religious sites and temples can be seen as offensive. Thus, it is best to follow and respect the rules of the religion. Many holy sites also require one to take off shoes before entering, and certain sites also have the rule of not taking leather items inside the holy premises. There are also other moral standards of each religion and culture, which, you should meet or respect.
5. Do not touch women and holy men (Among Hindu)
Nepal is a country that is racing forward towards further development while at the same time still has its grip firmly held to traditions and cultural norms. It is not seen as appropriate to touch women and holy men amongst the people, and this etiquette extends to people of all religions. Kindly saying phrases like Dhanyabad (Thank You) and Namaste (Greetings) are great to build good relation with Nepalese. It is best to avoid physical contact with the opposite sex in general.
6. Do not wear provocative clothing
Provocative dresses can be offensive in public in Nepal, especially in the rural areas of the country. Dressing appropriately is best and wearing modest clothing that does not show much skin is the general etiquette. In the city, people's dressing norms are mixed hotpot, while traditional clothes are worn in rural areas.
7. Do not enter holy sites wearing your shoes
Nepalese people and culture consider shoes to be unclean to wear around inside the house. Taking one's shoes off while entering the house or the kitchen is the general practice. In the temples and monasteries and other various places of worship as well, it is a sign of respect to take off one's shoes before entering. Doing so can be a new experience to you but is a common practice in Nepal to respect other cultures and individuals.
8. Do not offer food to Nepalese after tasting it
The Nepali people have the concept of Jhutho, which is the etiquette of not eating or drinking food and water that has already been tasted and eaten by others. This has a loose bending of the norm amongst family members and friends, in some cases, but among people who are not family or friends, Jhutho food and water being eaten or drunk by people is generally frowned upon.
9. Do not walk around Stupas anti-clockwise
While the process of circumambulating the stupas and monasteries is a popular concept among the people who visit Nepal, the significance of a clockwise circumbulation is not that well known. The popular belief of the direction of the circumambulation being arbitrary is also assumed and that is not the case. In the Buddhist tradition, clockwise circumambulation is a sign of respect and one of the traditional rules of the religion.
10. Do not buy antique replicas without a receipt
Archeological items of interest more than 100 years old and heritage treasures are not allowed to be taken out of the country. While shopping for antique replicas and other tourist items, a receipt is certainly important as the customs at the airport can ask for receipts for the purchased goods. Having a clear cut receipt can save a lot of hassle. Always make sure to get a proper and authentic receipt while shopping.
11. Do not take photographs of holy sites (If prohibited)
It is important to follow the signs regarding photography when visiting holy places. Although the signs may not be in English, the signs are still tourist-friendly as tourists are usually the ones who take photographs. In some holy sites, photography is completely prohibited, and at other places, it is allowed for a certain fee. Unless the signs clearly mention the freedom to take photos, we advise you to refrain from taking photographs randomly.
12. Do not leave Nepal with Nepalese Currency
It is a good option to change back the Nepali currency before departing Nepal as Nepali currency might not be acceptable at the airports of other countries. Thus, to avoid this problem, change the Nepali currency to dollars or Euros while still in Kathmandu at the end of the visit before departing.
13. Do not touch someone’s head or sit showing the bottom of your feet towards them
Echoing the point made earlier about physically touching people of the opposite sex, it is etiquette in Nepal to not touch the head of people as it is seen as demeaning. You should not also sit in a position that puts your bare feet bottom towards people. Both of these are discourteous practices as per the prevalent cultural practices and traditions.
14. Do not consume marijuana in Nepal
Cannabis and Marijuana in Nepal have been illegal since 1973. In the 1960s, the "Hippie Trail" pulled in young Western adventurers through Nepal and the stable traditional cannabis and marijuana economy reached an influx because of high demand due to heavy usage by visitors. In 1973, however, Nepal canceled the licenses of all cannabis shops, dealers, and farmers.
15. Do not try dance bars in Kathmandu and other major cities
If occasional nightlife is to be enjoyed, then popular tourist places like Thamel in Kathmandu and the lake-side in Pokhara are options to consider, but other dance bars in the city are not good places to visit as one can get scammed. The dance bars might also have ulterior motives and it is best to avoid sleazy places. Rather, enjoy the places which offer cultural practices of the ethnic communities in the country.
Like each country, Nepal has its traditions and norms and set of rules that need to be followed. Nepal is best enjoyed when the traditions and etiquettes are maintained and the sentiments of the Nepali people are not hurt. Nepal is friendly and amazing, and following the norms of the country can lead to a beautiful experience.