Nestled between Nepal’s snow-capped peaks, temples, treks and sherpas, is a wealth of quirks and little-known facts about this magical travel destination, writes Ainslee Harvey.
1. Fat is good
If someone calls you fat, take it as a compliment (as hard as it might be). It’s a Nepali euphemism for healthy. It means you are eating well, and if you are eating well, then you are probably doing well financially.
2. Know your hills from your mountains
Don’t confuse local hills for mountains – you will get laughed at. Although some peaks might qualify as mountains by Australian standards, you will soon understand the difference. Keep in mind that eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks are in Nepal.
3. It’s better to sniff than blow
Blowing your nose in the presence of others is rude. But don’t be afraid to spit, slurp or cough up phlegm. Cue gag reflex…
4. No helmet? No worries!
If you’re a passenger on a motorbike you are not required to wear a helmet by law. Don’t bother asking for one either because you’ll just be assured that “only the driver needs to wear a helmet”. We suggest closing your eyes, holding your breath and taking comfort in the fact that it’s not required by law.
5. The Caravan is an instant conversation starter
If you want to bond with the locals, watch Nepalese movie The Caravan (aka Himalaya). It’s an immediate conversation starter – the Nepalese love it and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.
6. Inter-caste marriages are still banned
The caste system is breaking the hearts of Nepalese. Arranged marriages are still common but the younger generations are now demanding that they be permitted to marry inter-caste for love. Given the struggles and complexities of tradition, it’s little wonder why many are fleeing Nepal to pursue inter-caste relationships.
7. Don’t order chicken if you’re in a hurry
If you order chicken at a hill station and the restaurant tells you that they are going out to find the chicken, it’s true! Free-range local chicken is a delicacy in the hills. Not an ideal meal to have when you’re on a tight schedule to get to the airport on time.
8. ‘Affair’ just means ‘relationship’
If a Nepali tells you they had an affair for five years, they simply mean they had a relationship for five years. Don’t be alarmed, there’s not mass cheating here.
9. $600 can completely change a child’s life
It costs approximately $600 per annum to sponsor a child’s education. That $600 could change their life forever – talk about good investment!
10. Don’t expect hot showers
Hot water, electricity and beds are considered a luxury here and not taken for granted, so get used to cold showers, candles and thin mattresses. You won’t hear anyone else complaining so suck it up, princess!
11. Prepare for pit toilets
There’s no way around it – going to the bathroom in Nepal is a stinky affair. Take a deep breath, squat and for heaven’s sake, don’t slip! If it is absolutely necessary that you take a breath, breathe ONLY through your mouth. Don’t forget to carry toilet paper and a torch with you, but don’t let this minor inconvenience deter you from visiting Nepal; the benefits far outweigh the toilet torture.
12. Weddings are a multi-day event
Hindu marriage ceremonies involve hours and hours of rituals. If you think a Catholic wedding mass is lengthy, I attended a local wedding ceremony for ten hours! Marriage celebrations last for at least three days with several parties and marching band processions through the streets.
13. Brides practice crying for their weddings
Marriage is a time of sadness for the bride as she leaves her family to live with her husband and his family. In fact, she is expected to cry throughout the entire ceremony. Word has it that some even attend drama classes in preparation for the event, or welcome a hard pinch from a friend.
14. Horns save lives
Learn to love the incessant car horn. Horns save lives on these roads. Get nervous when your driver doesn’t use the horn!
15. Prepare your palate for dal bhat in bulk
Using a spoon in your right hand only, get ready for some finger-licking good dal bhat (in other words, steamed rice and a cooked lentil soup)! It is not uncommon for the Nepalese to eat this local staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The amount of rice that they consume daily is quite incredible – they obviously have quick metabolisms!
16. People don’t complain
It is a hard life in Nepal and yet you won’t hear anyone complain. If you are ever in need of a little perspective fly directly to Kathmandu or even better, make your way to a rural village. It’s such a humbling experience that truly highlights that first-world problems really aren’t problems at all.
17. Saturday is for resting
It’s a six-day working week in Nepal, while Saturday is reserved for being a rest day. On Saturdays, locals flock in mass to places like Nagarkot to enjoy a picnic. Picnics are usually catered events with loud music and lots of dancing. Join in on the fun!
18. Avoid smooching in public
Public displays of affection can be rather uncomfortable and offensive to the Nepalese. Embrace the simplicity of the Namaste greeting and appreciate how cultural etiquette is so important here.
19. You won’t find a Big Mac in Nepal
Happily, the golden arches of McDonalds have failed to make a mark in Nepal. Besides, why would you want McDonalds when momos are the local fast food?
20. Nepalese people are the most hospitable people
There is nothing quite like Nepalese hospitality. They may not have much, but they will give you everything. Being such loving, genuine people, we guarantee you’ll leave Nepal with deep respect and admiration for them.