Nepal: How Not to Offend Local Customs

Nepal: How Not to Offend Local Customs

When traveling in a foreign land, you run the risk of offending another culture, even though you have the best intentions. This can create an uncomfortable situation for you and your host.

Part of your travel preparations should be learning the local customs of places you intend to visit.

Many western habits are offensive to the Nepalese such as: shaking hands, using dry toilet paper, carrying around a used handkerchief, eating without washing first.


Below is a list Nepalese customs and manners.

The most common form of greeting is to join the palms of both hands together and say Namaste.


Regarding food: Do not touch cooked food that is on display. Any food that has touched the lips or tongue is considered polluted and should not be offered to another.

Don’t touch food with your left hand. Nepalese use the left hand for cleaning after defecating. Eat with your right one and also use it wipe your mouth.

Never offer or accept anything with the left hand. Never touch anyone with your left hand.

Never point at a person or statue with a finger, or even with a foot.

Shoes are the most degrading part of any apparel. Remove them before entering houses or shrines.

When you sit, make sure your feet are not pointed at anyone or any imges.

Do not touch anyone with your shoes or point the soles of your feet at them.

It’s insulting to step over someone seated on the floor; they don’t want to step over you either. So draw your legs up so that others can walk around you.

Don’t leave your shoes with the underside facing up.

Do not stand in front of a person who is eating as this means your feet will be next to his food; squat or sit by his side.

The head is the most sacred part of the body. Do not pat or touch it, even on children.

The fire and hearth are considered sacred in Sherpa homes. Do not throw any refuse into them.

When passing by a chorten, stupa, temple, mani wall (prayer wall), or mani stone, always go in a clockwise direction.

Do not remove small flat stones with inscriptions next to the Chorten or mani wall.

Avoid touching a Nepalese dressed all in white; his dress signifies a death in the family.

A gift given to a host or hostess will probably be laid aside unopened; to open a parcel in the presence of a guest is considered uncivil.

Bikinis, shorts, bare shoulders and backs may not be appreciated. Women should not bare their legs and men should remove their shirts only when bathing.

Physical contact between the sexes is frowned upon. But contact between the same sex is considered perfectly all right.


Written and contributed by Linda LeBlanc