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! 🙂

Where I’m Spending My Summer

I told you in this post from last week that I was going to have a BIG surprise for you! This summer, I am going…

Wait.

Before I tell you, let’s first see what I’ve done in previous summers! You can click on the link to see the page.

As you can see, I am a firm, firm believer that summers should certainly not be “wasted”!

Anyways…

I am going to be a medical intern in Kathmandu, Nepal, during the month of July!

Here are some of the details:

  • I will be there for four weeks. Three weeks will be volunteering all day at the hospital, and one week will be for touristing and fun!
  • I will live in a group home with a Nepalese family.
  • I will be leaving from Vancouver at the end of June, and coming back in August.
  • The hospital is in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
  • I have to get shots 😦
  • My aunt Mimi and uncle Charles have been to Nepal a couple of times.
  • I will be going with Volunteering Solutions, an organization that does trips like this one. My school’s academic advisor recommended it.
  • I will definitely be blogging there (hopefully every day) to keep everyone updated, and do it in a journal form.

I know.

Have you ever done a volunteer trip? What did you think of it? If you could go back in time to a summer that you didn’t do much, would you want to travel to volunteer?

I am so excited, but nervous of course!

Check out some of the interesting information I found online 🙂

22 Cool Things About Nepal

  1. HALF the population of Nepal survives on $1 per person per day.
  2. Nepal spends $68 on each person for healthcare each year.
  3. 80% of the world’s highest mountains are in Nepal.
  4. Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, is located here. Tourists attempting to conquer the great mountain helps the Nepalese economy.
  5. In Nepal, Everest is called “Sagarmatha”, which means the “forehead of the sky” (see #11).
  6. Nepal had never been colonized, despite the many attempts. There is no independent day.
  7. Nepal is South Asia’s oldest country.
  8. Buddha was born in Nepal.
  9. Nepal is sandwiched between India and China. Nepalese people aren’t Indian or Chinese, but rather proud to be Nepalis!
  10. 45% of Nepal’s population speaks Nepali (official language).
  11. 81% of the population is Hindu.
  12. The head is considered a sacred part of the body.
  13. Namaste, said with hands pressed together, is a Nepalese greeting. No handshakes here!
  14. According to the Nepali calendar, it is now the year 2073 and Nepali New Year is celebrated in mid-April.
  15. Cows are the national animal of Nepal. Slaughtering cows is absolutely banned.
  16. Nepal has the densest concentration of World Heritage Sites.
  17. Touching anything with the feet is considered offensive.
  18. Nepal’s flag is the only national flag that is NOT a square or rectangle! On the flag, blue represents peace and red is a sign of victory in war. The triangles symbolize the Himalayan mountains, and the white symbols show the two religions (Hinduism and Buddhism).
  19. Momo, a type of dumpling, is the most popular Nepalese fast food.
  20. 75% of adult women have NEVER had alcohol!
  21. The left hand should not be used for eating in Nepal.
  22. There has never been a clash in Nepal because of a religious or ethnic riot. In other words, religion has NEVER caused war or disagreements in Nepalese history.

What do you guys think?! I am so curious about your feedback, first impressions, and ideas!