Etiquette

The Nepalese are generally very friendly and helpful people, and will readily make you feel welcome in their country. They don’t shake hands when greeting, but rather say ‘namaste’ and fold their hands in front of their chest. A quirky social custom in Nepal is to indicate ‘no’ by nodding the head, and indicate ‘yes’ by shaking the head sideways. This is opposite to Western norms, so be prepared for this confusing exchange of body language. Refusals are often cloaked in vague replies or even a ‘yes’ since to offer ‘no’ is considered extremely rude.

The dress code in Nepal is conservative, so try not to wear anything too revealing. Always take your shoes off before entering houses, temples or shrines, and be sure not to point your feet at someone or step over the feet of another person as this is considered rude. Pointing at a person or statue with your finger is also considered impolite. If you see anyone wearing all white, they are in mourning and should not be touched for any reason.

The left hand is just as polluted as the feet in Nepali society, so don’t accept anything with your left hand. Use your right hand or both hands. Don’t offer anyone food or drink that has already been tasted and don’t stand in front of someone who is eating. Overt public displays of affection are frowned upon, especially near a temple or shrine. Always ask permission if you can enter a religious site, as sometimes foreigners are not allowed entry. Leather goods should never be taken inside a Hindu temple.

Children will inevitably approach you with outstretched hands asking for rupees. Simply ignore them and they will go away. The Nepalese are very proud, and don’t generally condone begging. Photography is another sensitive issue in Nepal. This is one country where it’s a good idea to ask permission before snapping a photo. It is generally okay outside of temples and during festivals, but never inside temples or at religious ceremonies. There is no single set of rules, so is to always best to ask first.