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Discovering the Rich Customs of Nepal: A Guide for Travelers

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 19, 2023

Nepal, a small landlocked country nestled in the Himalayas, is known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse culture. Nepal is a melting pot of different ethnic groups, religions, and customs. The customs of Nepal reflect the country’s rich history and traditions. Understanding the customs of Nepal is essential for travellers who wish to experience the country’s culture and way of life. In this article, we will explore some of the traditional customs of Nepal.

Traditional customs

Nepal has a long history of traditional customs, many of which are still practised today. One of the most common customs in Nepal is the greeting of “Namaste.” This greeting is used when meeting someone, and it involves pressing your hands together and bowing your head slightly. It is a sign of respect and acknowledgement.

Another common custom in Nepal is the use of the Tika. The Tika is a small mark made on the forehead using a mixture of rice, yoghurt, and vermilion powder. The Tika is a symbol of good luck and is often given during festivals or special occasions.

Nepal is also known for its vibrant festivals and celebrations. The two most important festivals in Nepal are Dashain and Tihar. Dashain is a fifteen-day festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil. During Dashain, families gather together to worship the goddess Durga and exchange gifts. Tihar, also known as the festival of lights, is a five-day festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. During Tihar, houses are decorated with lights, and sisters put Tika on their brother’s forehead to wish them good luck.

Clothing and attire is another important aspect of Nepali customs. The traditional attire for men is Daura-Suruwal, a knee-length shirt and trouser combination, and for women, it is the Sari and Kurta. These dresses reflect Nepal’s cultural heritage and can be seen in many parts of the country.

Food customs

Nepali cuisine is diverse and influenced by the country’s geography and ethnic diversity. The typical Nepali meal consists of Dal-bhat-tarkari, a lentil soup, rice, and vegetable curry. This meal is eaten twice a day, and it is a staple of Nepali cuisine. Momos, a type of dumpling, are another popular dish in Nepal.

Dining etiquette is also important in Nepali customs. It is common to eat with your hands in Nepal, and sharing food is a sign of hospitality and generosity.

Religious customs

Nepal is a country with diverse religious beliefs, and religion plays a significant role in Nepali customs. Hinduism is the dominant religion in Nepal, and temples and shrines can be found all over the country. Visiting these temples and shrines is a common practice among Nepalis.

Puja rituals are an essential aspect of Hinduism in Nepal. Puja is the worship of a deity, and it involves offering flowers, incense, and sweets to the deity. Puja is performed in temples and homes, and it is a way of seeking blessings and good fortune.

Buddhism is also an important religion in Nepal, and it is home to many monasteries and stupas. Prayer flags, which are colourful flags inscribed with prayers and mantras, are a common sight in Nepal. It is believed that the wind carries these prayers and blessings to all corners of the world.

Social customs

Respect for elders and authority is an important aspect of Nepali customs. Nepalis believe in showing deference to older people and those in positions of authority.

Arranged marriages are still common in Nepal, particularly in rural areas. It is believed that arranged marriages ensure compatibility and long-lasting relationships.

Gender roles are also an important aspect of Nepali customs. In many parts of Nepal, men are expected to be the primary breadwinners, while women are responsible for household duties and raising children. However, this is slowly changing, and women are increasingly taking on more prominent roles in Nepali society.

Etiquette for visitors

As a visitor to Nepal, it is important to be aware of the country’s customs and to show respect for them. Dress code is an essential consideration for visitors, particularly when visiting temples and religious sites. It is advisable to dress modestly and to cover your arms and legs.

Cultural sensitivity is also important in Nepal. Nepalis are generally friendly and hospitable, but it is important to be respectful of their customs and beliefs. For example, it is considered rude to touch someone’s head or to point your feet at someone.

Tipping practices are not widespread in Nepal, but it is common to round up the bill when paying for services such as taxis or restaurants.

Volunteering in Pokhara with GVI: A Chance to Learn More about Nepal’s Customs

If you are looking for an immersive and authentic way to learn more about Nepal’s customs, volunteering with GVI in Pokhara is an excellent opportunity. GVI’s volunteer programs in Nepal offer a chance to work alongside local communities and gain insight into their customs and way of life.

As a volunteer with GVI, you will have the opportunity to participate in cultural workshops and activities, such as learning how to cook traditional Nepali dishes, attending festivals and ceremonies, and visiting local temples and shrines. Through these activities, you will gain a deeper understanding of Nepal’s customs and traditions and how they shape the country’s cultural identity.

In addition to cultural activities, GVI’s volunteer programs in Nepal also focus on sustainable development and conservation initiatives, such as working on community projects, teaching English to local children, and supporting wildlife conservation efforts. By volunteering with GVI in Pokhara, you will not only learn about Nepal’s customs but also make a positive impact on the local community.

Nepal’s customs are an essential part of the country’s culture and way of life. From traditional greetings and attire to religious practices and social customs, Nepal’s customs reflect the country’s rich history and diversity. As a visitor to Nepal, taking the time to understand and respect these customs will allow you to experience the country’s culture and traditions firsthand. Whether it’s enjoying a traditional Nepali meal, visiting a temple or shrine, or participating in a festival, Nepal’s customs offer a unique and unforgettable experience for travellers.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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