Cultural Do’s and Don’ts when In Nepal

Even if you have the best of intentions, when travelling to a new country is it often easy to offend people without even realising it. So here’s our list of cultural do’s and don’ts when In Nepal that we have learnt over the years so you can learn a few of the local customs before you arrive here… Some are obvious and common sense, but a few are a little bit stranger!!

Cultural Do’s and Dont’s When In Nepal

· Always say ‘Namaste’ – the most common greeting in Nepal. Make sure you put your hands together in the prayer position when you say it. 

· Do not pat people on the top of their heads as this is seen as the most sacred part of the body. 

· Take your shoes off before entering a temple or some bodies home. When you do take your shoes off make sure they are facing the right way up (Nepali superstition!). 

· Don’t touch food with your left hand. This is considered your dirty hand. Most Nepali people eat with their hands rather than cutlery. 

· Along the same lines…only pass money, and shake hands with you right hand. You shouldn’t touch people with your left hand

· When sharing a water bottle, you shouldn’t let it touch your lips, but rather pour from above (this takes quite a bit of skill and practise but is a much more hygienic way of sharing water. 

· Do not point at a person (or statue) with a finger or foot. 

· Be careful with your feet! You shouldn’t sit with your soles pointing at anyone, or step over someone seated on the floor. 

· Foreigners are often not allowed inside many Hindu temples, so make sure you ask permission before you entering.

· It is common for Nepali’s to slurp their tea. It is also common for them the spit and make a hacking noise from the back of their throats. Not something I have ever gotten used to , but it isn’t considered rude. 

· Car horns are normal and actually make driving safer in Nepal. If you hear a horn, don’t jump or do anything erratic, the driver is simply telling you that he is there and about to over take you. 

· Do not eat from another persons plate, it is considered rude. 

· If you visit a family home for dinner, it is normal for the mother to serve every one (several times!) and she will eat last when everyone else has finished. 

· People do not commonly use their names here, but rather there relationship to each other. For example you wouldn’t call out ‘Tom’ but rather ‘Brother’ (Dai in Nepali)

· Cover up. Make sure you dress appropriately, especially in places of worship. Even if it’s hot, men should not walk around bare chested. 

· When women are menstruating they eat and sleep alone. They are not allowed to enter the kitchen or temples.

· Haggling is common practice in many shops (although not for water, or in supermarkets etc). Be polite and enjoy it!

· Be aware of ‘Nepali time’! Things in Nepalmove very slowly and it is not uncommon for people to be 30 minutes late. Relax, be flexible and enjoy the pace of life here. 

· No displays of public affection please between same sexes please! Although it is no problem for men to walk around holding hands. 

· Being called fat is not an insult. And you will hear it a lot, even if you are not fat. In Nepal, it is a compliment! (The word for fat is ‘Motti’ or ‘Motto’)

· You will find it hard to get beef in Nepal (only in tourist restaurants in Pokhara and Kathmandu it is served) but the local alternative is Water Buffalo. 

· You will notice many people will answer a question with a ‘head bobble’, basically wobbling their head from side to side, this means they are in agreement with you. 

· Do not be offended if a gist you are given is left unopened. It is seen as impolite to open a gift in from of the person who gave it. 

· When visiting temples make sure you go around them in a clockwise direction. 

· Once you venture out of the main cities, you will most likely get a lot of stares. They are not being rude, they are just interested, so smile and be polite.

That’s just our list of Cultural Do’s and Don’ts When In Nepal. There will be more but we feel that this is a good start.

And Finally

Nepalese have many superstitions, try to follow them where you can; if you drop rice, do not walk on it, it is considered rude to the Hindu Gods. The number 3 is considered unlucky.  If going on a long journey your family will usually give you a blessing first and only travel on certain days. Many homes and shops will have dangling chillies and lemons to protect from bad spirits. You shouldn’t cut your toenails at night.

If you think we have missed anything In Cultural Do’s and Don’ts When In Nepal, feel free to email us at and we can add them in! For more hints and tips on travelling in Nepal read our other blog posts here.

To book on one of our trips checkout our website GRG Adventure Kayaking.

For more information on cultural do’s and Don’ts when in Nepal see the Lonely Planet Guides website here.

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