What I’ve learned about people by living in Nepal

First and foremost: this does not refer only to Nepali people, but people in general, including moi. Though, I find it more prominent here, probably because I am unfamiliar still with people, customs, normality. I most likely keep my eyes open for all the funky things going on around me that I wouldn’t even blink to back home. Regardless, let me share my, what I consider, vast knowledge of people. Though I presume it’s nothing but a bunch of obvious observations.

1. People are always in a rush … to get nowhere

I see this a lot around me, especially in traffic. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, wants to be the first one to reach the intersection/traffic light/roundabout. And it’s not because they’re in a hurry. No no. It’s because they want to be the first in line. As soon as they are done overtaking you in an overly treacherous manner, they will slow down to about a turtle speed and bask in their success. Now they are full 10 centimeters in front of you. Win!

Bikes will drive a motocross of a sort to squeeze between you and the bus to your left; will risk their life in the process, and will then pull over right in front of you, block your way, and get off the bike. They will then walk away towards the chia shop so slowly that you would think they recently had a hip replacement surgery. Well, they obviously weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere on time. Just wanted to be in front of you to show they are better (maybe, or something to that extent !?).

People on bicycles want to get in front of you through impossibly small cracks even though you will overtake them again in several seconds. Fellow shoppers will look for an opportunity to cut the line and get to the register before you do even though you have one product and they have hundred and one.

Perhaps people in Nepal do this because the population is so large they are simply forced to push and shove their way everywhere. But who am I to make such conclusions? Not an anthropologist over here (though I took one undergrad class in it, does that count?).

2. People are very extremely adaptable creatures

You give us electricity, central heating, running water, premium infrastructure, we’ll be happy. Makes sense. You take all those things away from us, we’ll complain and grunt for a while, but then we’ll be happy again. I really need to give credit to Nepali people – they seldomly complain about things and they make something out of nothing. No light – no problem: let’s bring on the generators and diesel and make those lights shine again. No running water – no problem: let’s haul huge barrels on top of our roofs, fill them with rain water and let the gravity take care of the rest. No central heating – no problem: let’s wrap ourselves in blankets, light up some candles and drink hot water (may or may not have some whiskey in it). No gas for the car – no problem: let’s just walk everywhere, it’s healthier anyways.

People can adapt to anything, and Nepalis are stealing the show in this category. Good on them.

People, people everywhere

People, people everywhere

3. People are curious nosey wherever you turn

No matter where you live, you must’ve come across curious people. Oh let’s all be very honest. We all are curious, nosey people. Yes, you too. If you live in an apartment building you run to peek through the peephole when you hear commotion in the hallway. If you live in the house, you discretely peep through your curtains when you see your neighbors buzzing about. We’ve all been there. On one or the other side of the door/curtain. We all know the feeling. But Nepalis are taking it to the next level. Just like I explained here, or Nepalilovestory here, there is hardly any privacy in Nepal. The interesting thing is that people actually always want to know things about you – they are genuinely interested in you. Sometimes it feels really nice. Other times people just openly stare at you. Like for example, if you are a white girl driving a car in the middle of Kathmandu, or shopping by herself in a grocery store. There is no escaping curious looks and nosey questions around here. People want to know everything about you, and the more they know, the more questions they have. One good thing is, no matter how shy or introverted you are, Nepalis will make you talk. Good hosts!

On a downside, there is no thing you can hide around here, no matter how hard you try. Somehow all your embarrassing stuff you buried deep inside you, will surface as a result of Nepali questioning strategy. I’m starting to think they would make really good detectives. Maybe CSI should have a new season: Kathmandu. I think I’m onto something here.

 

Nepal 101: Reaching Kathmandu

So you finally made your decision – you will come to Nepal for your holidays (or permanently, or semi-permanently)! How do you actually get here though? Well, it’s not that simple, as you may remember from my article about Turkish Airlines. Here are some options for you (particularly if you are coming from the European side):

1. Turkish Airlines.

Do I even discuss this one? Well, I guess it’s only fair. Only because I am boycotting it, doesn’t mean others shouldn’t try their luck. Anyhow, Turkish Airlines has a rather good connection from Istanbul to a number of major European cities. There is a direct flight from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Simple. Cheap. Best option? Maybe. Read this again and decide whether you’re going to try your chances.

2. Delhi route

Now, this route is relatively good, though you want to make sure your layover in Delhi is not too long. That airport is HOT! And rather small so it can get pretty boring. Kathmandu has several daily flights to Delhi so it’s really easy to get there. Delhi is directly connected to most major European cities. So far, I flew Air India, Austrian Airlines and FinnAir to Delhi, and Jet Airways, Spice Jet and Air India to Kathmandu. Nothing special, but nothing to complain about either. Consistently average route without major surprises or hassles. Clearly takes a bit longer than the Istanbul way, but I’ve never had any problems. If you don’t mind two layovers, this is the way to go. For your flight to Delhi you can choose almost any of the major European airlines, and biggest Indian ones too. There are many daily flights. Apart from the stated airlines flying to Kathmandu, there is also IndiGo, which I hear is good and cheap!

3. Qatar Airways

This is a good airline to fly. Very good. However, goodness comes with a price. I am not always able to afford this route. It’s fairly simple and quick though. Kathmandu to Doha, Doha to Europe. Efficient and comfortable. No complaints, no hassles, no problems. As long as you have the funds, go for it. Oh what the heck, book that business class while you’re at it.

4. Etihad Airways

Never flew this airline myself, though I’ve heard only good things about it. All I can say is that it belongs in the Qatar Airways category. Not for budget travelers I guess.

Austrian Airlines is always fun. They got seat covers and blankets in colors of India!

Austrian Airlines is always fun. They got seat covers and blankets in colors of India!

5. Oman Air

OK, so this is a gem I discovered on my last trip to Croatia. It is NOT the simplest or the fastest route, by any means. It was pretty long and tiring, but Oman Air is wonderful! Their prices to Europe are low (so so low), and their service is amazing. I have no complaints whatsoever, on the contrary, I only have words of praise for their service and fleet. No mater what airline you fly, when you go to a third-world country, service will be at its lowest. I have to say – Oman Air does not do that. From and to Kathmandu the service was superb and I noticed they treated everyone on the plane in the same manner (which was a refreshing and welcoming change in comparison to Turkish Airlines). I got great service with a smile, and so did a poor Nepali worker sitting next to me. That made me very happy, and it boosted Oman Air in my eyes by one million percent. Great job Oman Air!

On the downside, Muscat airport is not the best around (it’s very clean, and air-conditioned, but so very small – not fun for long layovers). However, I saw they are building a huge new airport, which looks more like a city, so I think in a year time Muscat will be THE transfer airport of choice in Middle East.

For everyone traveling to USA, Canada and that part of the world: I’ve heard from others that east-bound flights are usually better and faster than the west-bound ones. Transfer airports usually include Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur… Airlines flying from Kathmandu to that side are Thai Airways, Air Asia, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, China Southern Airlines, SilkAir…

This is definitely not an extensive list of airlines flying to Kathmandu, just the ones I know about/have heard about/or travelled with. The whole thing is my opinion only, and I am just trying to be helpful, no no hate mail please. If you know of a particularly good/bad route/airline share with everyone in the comment section. There’s never enough of good advice when traveling.

Wishing you all successful plane ticket hunt!

Love,

Ms. Z.

What to do when culture shock strikes

You would mistakenly think that culture shock is something that hits you in the first week of your stay at a new place. In fact, culture shock is a sneaky little devil that creeps up on you just as you start to relax. I have been in the first, and the best stage, Honeymoon stage, for quite a while. I liked everything; happily enjoyed all that Nepal had to offer. Then I slowly started easing into the Withdrawal stage. You see, in that particular stage you start finding things around you different, strange and frustrating. I went through a whole bunch of bad days (not to be negative and say weeks and months), and I thought I was finally over it. I thought I was surely making my way to the Adjustment stage which would offer me some relief from the frustration I was feeling.  Then my two trips to Croatia happened. They were lovely. No wait, that’s wrong. They were amazing! And also, they made me focus on the bad sides of Nepal again upon my return. And then back I am in the Withdrawal stage. Boy, it sucks.

I got good days; don’t get me wrong. I also got excellent days. I got days when I am in love with Nepal, Kathmandu, my family, my job,  my life. Then there are the bad days. There are days I don’t sleep because of heat, or dogs, or mosquitos, or all three combined. There are days I don’t understand why people drive like maniacs; why plumbers/carpenters/painters don’t actually know how to do their jobs; why sun is so strong that it’s killing my freshly planted tomatoes; why ground is uneven and I keep tripping. The last two are totally logical, right? Yup, such is the culture shock. And there’s nothing I can do to fight it. Only time promotes you to the next stage. I feel like I am half way there. Just the last small push and I will be Adjusted. After that, only the straight road ahead: onto the Enthusiasm stage where, apparently, only milk and honey flow.

This is, in fact, an outside wall of the bathroom, that needed no remodeling. Now it does. Joy.

This is, in fact, an outside wall of the bathroom, that needed no remodeling. Now it does. Joy.

Nepal 101: Clothing for dummies

Nothing ever makes me happier than a warm, sunny, spring day. You know, that perfect day with puffy cotton-like clouds, birds chirping and smell of flowers in the air. Days seem to be of that kind in Kathmandu lately. Winter is definitely gone. Somehow we managed to go literally from boots and coats to tank tops and flip flops. From 1 degree Celsius to 31. I’m not complaining. My phase of “permanently frozen” is over and I don’t mind a bit of sweat on my forehead instead. Warm weather in Nepal screams for one and only question: What to wear? As in many (most?) other Asian (Eastern) countries, modest clothing is preferred, even if it’s boiling outside. What’s it like in Nepal and what should you pack when you are visiting?

One thing is for sure: you will want to leave your hot pants at home. No one is going to say anything if you actually wear them, but you might get quite a bit of odd stares in the street, or maybe even a whistle or two from passing guys. You can live without those pants – glances in the street are pretty uncomfortable. Long pants/skirt/cropped pants and a T-shirt are perfectly fine for a stroll in Nepal. Wearing traditional Nepali clothing like kurti is also fine, though not really neccessary. You can see a lot of Nepali girls in casual western clothes. If you really have your heart set on wearing a traditional Nepali clothing, you got two options.

Option no. 1: ready-made kurtas and sarees. Be prepared for them to not fit perfectly and to pay a higher price. Good side is that you can buy them and wear them the same day. It’s quick and simple.

Option no. 2: stitching. You can have kurtas and sarees stitched at the tailors, however, that could take a bit of time (usually about 7-10 days). On the other hand, it would cots only a fraction of a price of the ready-made ones and would fit perfectly.

The choice is yours.

One thing I definitely have a hard time digesting is all the foreigners in hippie clothing. OK, if that’s your style and you usually wear it back home – go for it. But it seems like there is a huge number of people visiting Nepal and assuming that’s what Nepalis wear so they go and buy and wear this ragged clothes sold only in Thamel. It’s surely not what Nepalis wear, and if you want to fit in with your clothes, hippie is not the road you should take.

Going back to revealing clothes. If you go out in Kathmandu on a Friday night, you are bound to witness some Nepali girls in extremely skimpy attires. I urge you not to think this is the norm or OK in any way. These are exceptions, and to be quite honest with you, I have never heard people make polite comments about those girls. You don’t want to be one of them. Particularly not if you are planning to take a taxi home late at night. You can dress in style, but be respectful to Nepalis. Skimpy clothing makes them shy and uncomfortable.

My humble opinion is that you can wear whatever you like in Nepal, as long as it’s not too tight or revealing. Make it light, airy and comfortable. Unless you’ll be going for a party, leave your heels at home. Kathmandu streets are not tailored for walking in a pair of those. Guys are lucky as anything goes for them!

I wonder if this was brought on by a foreigner in skimpy clothing on a micro bus. How many times it happened before they had to put up a sign?

I wonder if this was brought on by a foreigner in skimpy clothing on a micro bus. How many times it happened before they had to put up a sign?