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Last updated : Nov 2009
Nepal Social Profile
Nepal Culture and Social Profile - TravelPuppy.com
Food & Drink

Nepal has not changed or developed a special style of cooking and its most popular food comprises, more often than not, Dal Bhat (lentils and rice). An exception is Newar cuisine that can be very elaborate and spicy. Rice is the staple diet and some typical dishes include dal (lentil soup), spiced vegetables, chapatis and tsampa (eaten by people on hills), a raw grain, ground and mixed with milk, tea or water.

Spicy snacks and sweets include jelabi, laddus and mukdals. Some local dishes include gurr, a Sherpa dish of raw potatoes, pounded with spices then grilled like pancakes on a hot, flat stone.

Tibetan cuisine includes thukba, a thick soup and momos (fried or boiled, stuffed dumplings). Meat includes pork, goat, chicken or buffalo, but beef is prohibited. There are varieties of restaurants in Pokhara and Kathmandu, elsewhere the choice is very rare. A 12% government tax will be included in all restaurant bills.

Chiya, tea brewed with milk, sugar and spices, is the national drink, while it is salted with yak butter in the mountainous areas. Another popular mountain drink is chang, a beer made from fermented barley, maize, rye or millet. Raksi (wheat or rice spirit) and arak (potato alcohol) are popular.

Nepalese beer is available, as well as good-quality local rum, gin and vodka. Local whisky is not so tasty, but imported brands are available.

Nightlife

Kathmandu features a few cinemas showing mostly Indian films. For Western films, see the programs of the European and US cultural centres. Most people have already slept by 10.00 pm.

Nightlife is rare; a couple of temples and restaurants provide entertainment, and some hotels offer Nepalese folk dances and musical performances. There are casinos with baccarat, chemin de fer and roulette, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at some five-star hotels in Kathmandu.

Shopping

There are bargains but de wary of fakes and the badly made souvenirs sold by immoral sellers.

Widely purchased items include locally made clothes such as lopsided topis (caps), knitted mittens and socks, Tibetan tea bowls, papier mâché dance masks, Tibetan dresses, woven shawls, Tibetan multicoloured jackets and men’s diagonally fastened shirts; and pashmina (fine goat’s-wool blankets), khukri (the national knife), saranghi (a small, 4-stringed viola played with a horse-hair bow), Buddhist statuettes and filigree ornaments, bamboo flutes and other folk objects.

Shopping hours: Sunday to Friday 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (some shops are open on Saturday and holidays).

Special Events

Nepalese festivals fall into several themes. Many are performed in honour of the gods and goddesses, some mark the seasons or agricultural cycles, and others are basically family celebrations.

The regular form of celebration is to take ritual baths in lakes or rivers, visit temples to offer worship, feasting and ritual fasting.

The most wonderful festivals are in Kathmandu Valley. For information about the special events and festivals in Nepal, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Nepalese Embassy (see Contact section).

Some annual events include:
February Losar (Tibetan New Year), Swayambhunath and Jawlakhel
March Maha Shivaratri, Pashupatinath; Holi
April Bisket Festival; Chaitra Daisan
May Buddha Jayanti, Kathmandu
August Gai Jantra (Cow Festival), Kathmandu
August-September Krishna Jayanti, Patan
September Teej (Women’s Festival)
October Daisan Festival (includes the years largest animal sacrifice)
November Maini Rimdu, Solu Khumbu; Tihar (Festival of Lights); Haribodhini Ekadashi (Hindu Feast), Pashupatinath
Social Conventions

As a foreign traveller, one must be mindful and respect local customs in order not to cause offence.

The following are some examples of local conventions which are advisable to obey:

Never tread on someone's feet, always walk round.

Never give food and drink that have been tasted or bitten by you to anyone.

Never offer or accept anything with your left hand, but use the right or both hands instead.

It is disrespectful to point at a person or sculpture with a finger or with a foot.

Footwear should always be removed while getting into houses, temples or shrines.

Kitchens and dining areas of homes should not be entered with footwear, because the hearth of a home is holy.

Do not stand in front of a person who is eating since it means your feet will be very close to his food; squat down or sit beside him/her.

Local Chorten are constructed to pacify demons or the dead and should be passed by in a clockwise direction, as well as temples; the earth and universe revolve in this direction.

Small flat stones with inscriptions found very close to the Chorten should not be removed as souvenirs; the Nepalese considers this sacrilege.

Keep your hands off a Nepalese dressed all in white; it means a death in the family.

Shaking hands is not a general form of greeting. The common greeting is to press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture.

A present given to a host or hostess will usually be laid aside unopened, and it is rude to open it in a guest's presence.

Casual clothes are appropriate, but not for the very formal meetings or social events.

Bikinis, shorts, bare shoulders and backs are not appreciated.

Males only take off their shirts when bathing.

Public shows of affection, particularly close to religious places, are improper.

Cities in Nepal are normally safe, but take the usual precautions with personal belongings.

Photography

Visitors must usually ask permission before taking any photographs. Generally it is permitted outside the temples and at festivals, except at religious ceremonies or inside the temples. However, the rule is not hard or fast, and to ask first is the only way to avoid causing offence.

Tipping

Tipping is only common in restaurants and hotels. Taxi drivers only should be tipped when they are essentially helpful. 10% is enough for all 3 services. Tips are not necessary elsewhere.
Useful travel links
Nepal Reference reference for Nepal