60 Things An American Learned From Living In Nepal

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The cultural wonderland, oceanless nation of Nepal has completely captivated me like no other country has before.

I express it quite a few times in several posts. It’s really got a hold on me–even with its faults. A beautiful country, but also dirty in some aspects. The citizens are friendly, although they like to save face and don’t always tell the whole truth. They may have zany superstitions that some locals will admit, holds them back from progressing, but I still love them for it. It’s gotta be the people, above all else that continues to compel me.

I’ve lived in Nepal (Sarangkot, Pokhara mostly) long enough, on and off over the span of three years. I now feel that I can give solid, personal opinions and facts about what I learned from living there.

60 of them to be exact, off the top of my head:

1. I noticed most Nepali will make a long ‘e’ sound in front of several nouns that begin with the letter ’s’. So instead of simply saying words such as star, spray, or school—many would instead pronounce it as “e-star”. “e-spray”, and “e-school”. Not sure why they do this but I told the students and teachers there to knock it off.

2. On the notion of spelling, Nepalese are HORRIBLE spellers when it comes to English. Take a walk around Kathmandu or Pokhara and I bet you will find a hundred misspellings across their signs, posters, menus, advertisements, etc. But…

3. They have the neatest, cleanest, most satisfying penmanship I have ever seen. They legit could be a new font family.

4. They literally have dal bhat (lentils, vegetables, and rice) for breakfast (or in their case lunch) and dinner, every day of their lives. Thankfully, it tastes amazing!

5. Arranged marriage is still a thing, but it’s not entirely enforced. Speaking of…

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6. It’s common to never have a girlfriend or boyfriend throughout their lives. Many just simply wait to get arranged to someone and then boom–three weeks later, they’re married…

7. …And then it’s custom for newlyweds to dip their feet in a bowl of water, which then immediate family members must come and take a sip from it. Ew! I went to a wedding once, worried I would have to do this. Amish informed me that only immediate family has to do it. Thank the Lord!

8. It’s typical for Nepalese to drink a tiny spoonful of cow urine when they are ill. They don’t do it often, but most of the locals have done it at least once or twice.

9. If you ever visit a village in Nepal, be prepared to have the most tea you’ve ever had in your lives. Usually either black or milk tea. Sometimes ginger tea as well.

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10. Snickers, Oreos, and Kit-Kats are all the rage to Nepalese children.

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11. Nepalese are super friendly, BUT they don’t always tell you the whole truth and I found much left important information out when I needed it.

12. They eat their dal bhat with their hands. It weirded me out at first, but then eventually I preferred using my hands. Weird. Strictly right hands only though. Their left hands are for poopy purposes…catch my drift?

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13. I’ve had many cakes over many different birthdays in Nepal and they all taste the same–damp, spongy, and bland as heck. I always tell them how much their cakes taste like shit compared to most Western countries, but they just have no idea. Most will never know. They look like they taste great, but they never do.

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14. The men (and some women) in Nepal are OBSESSED with Clash of Clans, an app for touchscreen phones. They also got me hooked on it, unfortunately.

15. Everyone has crappy Samsung phones that are always cracked and beaten up.

16. The electricity ALWAYS goes out unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient times.

17. Soon after puberty, boys have a special Bratabandha ceremony where they must completely shave their head, except for a small patch on the back, and essentially become men. This means they are now able to get married. I’ve attended three while I was there amongst all of their friends and families. It’s a huge deal.

18. Nepalese constantly wash their feet.

19. Transportation is always a nightmare. Traffic is congested. There’s always construction. There’s always dust. Many roads are unpaved. Since Nepal is a mountainous country, vehicles are constantly twisting and turning, sometimes just inches away from a cliff.

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20. Speaking of construction, constructing anything usually takes freaking FOREVER.

21. It is common for people to pass out sweets to all of their family and friends on their birthday. When my birthday rolled around, I had to pass out sweets to the entire school!

22. Red tikka on your forehead is a sign of a blessing and good luck. Red tikka and rice on your forehead is usually something extra special. Yellow tikka on your forehead means you are mourning the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Women may have a red mark at the top of their forehead which means they are married.

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23. Many children in Pokhara sway back and forth when they are studying. I asked them why they do this but none of them gave me an understandable reason. Some weren’t even aware that they do it. They just do.

24. Most of my sarcasm flew right over their heads. Only the ones that knew me best eventually learned the art of sarcasm.

25. From personal experience, I never worried about any locals mugging me or stealing any of my possessions. As a matter of fact, whenever I lost something, they returned it to me promptly. I didn’t realize I lost my wallet one day until a student ran to my home after school and told me he found it on the road. And there was so much money in there. Very trustworthy people when it comes to personal belongings.

26. Nepalese are generally peaceful people. They usually do their best to avoid any confrontation.

27. I’m friends with a shit ton of Nepalese on Facebook and 80% of them don’t use their real names or their own profile picture. I’m always confused as to who messages me. Also, they always tag me in photos that I’m not even in. My friends at home let me know that they are constantly seeing photos of Nepalese people on their newsfeed because they are always tagging me in them.

28. Flies are an issue during the warmer months, but it didn’t bother anyone as much as it bothered me. So pesky! There were spiders everywhere too, but they were harmless.

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29. Nepalese are ridiculously superstitious. I was once told I couldn’t bring a group of students back home from a trip on a certain day because it was bad luck. I was informed this AS I was already bringing them back home. I brought them back anyway.

30. I’ve noticed that the education isn’t as engaging as many developed countries. A good amount of it is simply just copying and memorizing everything word-for-word.

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31. The Nepalese-English alphabet song is almost identical to the American one, except they repeat the letters “l-m-n-o-p” and “x-y-z” twice throughout the song. I’m still baffled as to why.

32. Everyone always refers to the uncles on their father’s side of the family as “paternal uncle” and the uncles on their mother’s side as just “uncle”. Whereas we in the US refer to both sides as simply “uncle”.

33. They have sooo many holidays/festivals, with Dashain being one of the most auspicious ones. Around 40 of them, with some lasting for several days! They celebrate evvverrrything.

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34. It is super common for Nepali to find “deep” random quotes pertaining to life, in English somewhere from the internet, and then post a photo of themselves on Facebook with that quote as their caption. They all do it. Some prime examples:

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35. Nepal CANNOT do desserts properly. On a side note, there is NOTHING German about their so-called “German Bakeries”. Actual Germans would consider them a true disgrace to their own famous bread bakeries.

36. Teaching a Nepali kid from the mountains how to swim is like teaching a rock how to fly. This requires tons of patience. They are mountaineers, not swimmers.

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37. If a Nepalese considers you a brother or sister in their country, then they usually mean it for life and will make an effort to keep in touch, no matter the distance.

38. Many of the students have long hikes up and down the mountain to get to school six days a week, yet you won’t ever hear them complain about it.

39. Eating off of someone else’s plate is not a thing here and is considered unclean. I once accidentally flicked a single grain of rice from my plate onto little Aakash’s plate and he was completely disgusted and pushed his plate aside.

40. Although many taxi drivers have meters in their cars, most of them will say, “it’s broken” and then you must negotiate a more expensive price than what it should be.

41. It’s fairly common to see babies and toddlers in Nepal with a black dot on their forehead. A black dot on their “third eye” is for protection against evil spirits.

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42. Everyone has really amazing teeth.

43. Normally when I want to show a single photo on my phone to a local, they always proceed to casually take the phone from me and then start going through ALL my photos. Always.

44. Unless you go to a western style accommodation, the shower is never separate from the rest of the bathroom. Thus, when you take a shower, the whole bathroom gets completely soaked.

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45. Nepalese never end a phone conversation properly. They just hang up. No “bye” or “Talk to ya soon”. Just “click”. At least with all of the phone calls I’ve had with them.

46. Many of the students don’t know their birth dates. That’s because they only know it according to their own Hindu calendar that they share with India and not the Gregorian calendar that is widely used internationally. As of this post, it is the year 2074 in Nepal.

47. Nepal and India share a love/hate sibling rivalry type of relationship, very similar to the USA and Canada.

48. It is common for the youngest male child to never leave home, in which they take over once the parents have passed. The daughters traditionally always move into the homes of their new husbands to help tend to the daily housework and taking care of their husbands’ parents. It’s kind of a crappy deal for the women, but its been tradition in Nepal for a long time now. Slowly, that tradition is becoming less of a thing as younger generations continue to break the mold.

49. I am considered a god in Nepal. Guests and visitors to Nepali homes are treated as such.

50. Get used to local prices vs tourist prices, just like many other countries. However, the differences aren’t as ridiculous as they are in India.

51. Nepali “like” EVERYTHING on Facebook. You can post a blurry photo of your armpit and they’ll “like” it.

52. The major touristy parts of Kathmandu and Pokhara are full of cover bands. You’re likely to hear a multitude of bands play the same freaking songs, night after night after night. I don’t ever want to hear “Hotel California” or another Red Hot Chili Peppers song again! Bob Marley gets a pass.

53. Fast wi-fi is not a thing in Nepal.

54. Nepali bob their head sideways when they mean to convey ‘yes’. This confused me for the longest, as I interpreted it as an “Eh…”. Kind of like a shrug. Their side to side head tilt signifies more of an ‘okay’  than a sure-fire ‘yes’. I found myself tilting my head whenever I said yes even after leaving Nepal.

55. I found that Nepali women are generally uncomfortable with shaking the hands of men and to an extent, hugs. Whenever I go for a hug to one of my host mothers, it really is the most awkward thing ever. So now I don’t hug anyone anymore.

56. Nepali kids love Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean.

57. Nepali dancing is similar to India’s Bollywood dancing, except a lot more twirling and arm-flailing. My buddy Caesar and his sister Bindu below!

58. If a local Nepali calls a tourist “fat”, it usually is a good thing. It means you eat well. They don’t mean any disrespect.

59. Cows are their holy God, but the many cows roaming (and sitting) in the streets of Nepal are malnourished and always eating out of the trash on the side of the road. You would think if they were so holy, they would be taken care of a little better… Plus, it’s difficult, for me at least, to tell the difference between their buffalo from their cows.

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60. Apparently, many different songs are played on the local buses, but they all sound exactly the same with what sounds like the same lady or dude singing in each of them. I challenge any foreigner to try to spot the difference.

If anyone, especially anyone from Nepal, would like to add some insight or combat me on any of these, feel free to let me know.

Nepal is far from being the perfect country…

…but it’s perfect to me.

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Author: Adventure Born

I'm Daniel. A cereal lovin', traveling machine from Michigan on a solo journey around the world, documenting and sharing my unexpected tales from abroad. My aim is to inspire people like YOU to discover your very own adventures. The world is truly too big not to explore it!

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