Nepal: Cultural Differences

As you may have already seen on my brand-new NEPAL 2016 page, I spent four weeks in the city of Kathmandu, Nepal, where I completed a 2.5-week medical internship with an international program called Volunteering Solutions.

I lived in a volunteer house with a host family and numerous other volunteers and spent three hours every weekday (including Sunday, which is a weekday in Nepal), shadowing doctors at Kanti Children’s Hospital, Nepal’s only pediatric hospital. For half a week, I volunteered in the Physiotherapy ward, where many children were treated for sternocleidomastoid tumours or burns. For the remaining two weeks, I observed various surgical procedures in the Surgical Ward, where children received operations in the Operations Theatre and recovered with their parents in the ward.

After volunteering, and on weekends, I would often visit tourist attractions like the famous plaza, heritage sites, temples, and Buddhist monasteries. One weekend, I was even lucky enough to go paragliding in Pokhara,  a city known as the City of Lakes, which is an 8-hour bus ride from Kathmandu, the capital city.

Nepal is a beautiful country with many cultural differences to both Canada and Taiwan (where my parents are from). Below, I have listed a few of the cultural differences that I noticed during the month.

  • People regularly wake up at around 4:00 AM and go to bed at 8:30 PM. They wake up early to do chores and enjoy tea and a meal before going to work/school, and the sun rises and sets quite early.
  • Tea and biscuits are often enjoyed for breakfast at 7:00 AM. The main meal of the day is lunch, which is eaten and 9:00 AM and includes rice, dahl (lentils), vegetables, potatoes, and curry. Tiffins are snacks that are enjoyed at around 1:30 PM, such as noodles, momo (dumplings), or more biscuits. Dinner is eaten at 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening, and would typically look the same as lunch – rice, dahl, vegetables, and more.
  • You’ll never see any females wearing clothes that reveal shoulders or knees. Men rarely wear tank tops, and even on the hottest days, dress in t-shirts and jeans. Unlike in Canada, Nepali men will never go shirtless in public!
  • Men hold hands all the time without being gay. On the streets of Nepal, one will often see young men (friends) with their arms around each other, or with intertwined fingers.
  • People are open to bargaining in all kinds of stores. While bargaining is looked down upon (and may even be seen as disrespectful) in Canada, Nepalis view bargaining as a way to incorporate casual small talk. Without bargaining, tourists might end up paying triple the regular “Nepali price”!
  • The signal for “okay”, or for agreement, is a double tilt of the head in Nepal. Initially, I was confused and thought this gesture meant “no”.
  • Showers are taken weekly, every Saturday, because water is so scarce. In addition, clothes are washed once a week by hand and hung up on lines to dry.
  • Water vessels are shared by everyone at the table, and the jug never touches anyone’s lips. Instead, Nepalis pour the water into their mouths from a “public” jug of water.
  • Toilet paper is practically nonexistent – I had to carry around my own! Instead, Nepali toilets have an attached water hose that is used for cleaning rather than wiping.

Overall, my time in Nepal was unforgettable and I am really looking forward to spending more time there in the future. The Nepalis I met were truly helpful and thoughtful people, and I felt 100% safe in this developing country. I would certainly love to complete another medical internship or to see Nepal once more.

Don’t forget to check out my Nepal page for many more photos of travelling, housing, and food! 🙂

11 thoughts on “Nepal: Cultural Differences

      1. Aww thanks! No prob! I mostly have been working still with my design jobs, though going away for a weekend has been tricky. There have been deaths in the family last month and recently the past week, so plans have been tough. I’ve been able to see family at least, which is a nice change as everyone is so busy or elsewhere along the east coast here in the States. I still am trying to get to the beach hehe!

        Liked by 1 person

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