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.


16 thoughts on “What I’ve learned about people by living in Nepal

  1. It’s true. I’ve been on the other side. We just feel too curious (nosey). Maybe one of the reasons I’m reading your blog. 😐
    I’d like to ask your permission now.

      • Thanks :). I feel like confessing something. If your’re curious to know what they’re so curious about, here’s a peek into my younger curious mind that didn’t know anything about the outside world. These are from memories of me seeing foreigners. I had no idea of foreigners living in Nepal, I thought they all were tourists!
        1. Where are they from?
        2. I heard they come to see nature, is it all concrete outside? If it’s not, what is it really that they come to see?
        3. Why are they suffering in a public vehicle when they can surely afford a taxi? Of course I’m standing but their seat must be so uncomfortable.
        3. Have they gone outside Kathmandu to a prettier place, I hope so!
        4. Why is our commute passing through all these dirty places today? Oh no, they must be thinking we all buy our meat there. Somebody pull a curtain over their windows!
        It’s embarrassing, but I think I still have some of this syndrome, like “I can’t think of anything to speak, is that rude?” “Did I speak too much, is that rude?”, “This food is crunchy and my teeth are making sound, is that rude?”, being unknowingly conscious that I’ll establish a negative stereotype. (And also, “Do they think I’m an Indian? :/”)

  2. As always making me laugh.., and as you said, no matter where you are, Croatia, Canada or Nepal, you’ll always run into some nosy people… I can just imagine you answering all those awkward questions 🙂

  3. What is the situation in Nepal about staring at somebody? So, when I was in India, of course everybody was staring at a pale, white girl with green-blue eyes. But that is ok there, staring in India is not a bad thing. Staring in Croatia is considered rude. God forbid you catch somebody looking at you – they instantly look away. But just the other day, there was a lady staring at my Indian husband in Croatia so much she almost hit a pole in front of her. Needless to say there aren’t many non-Caucasian people in Croatia.

    • Oh staring, yes, that’s a common thing. In the beginning I felt so uncomfortable as absolutely everyone would stare at me. And they still do, but at some point I decided to ignore it. I simply don’t look at people, I just walk/drive by as seeing them staring at me would make me really self-conscious. This way, I can at least pretend it’s not happening. As long as I don’t see it, it’s not there, right? 🙂

  4. Kathmandu that I remember was not as hectic as you describe it, but traffic was murder. For some odd reason I couldn’t get annoyed by any of it. Aside from using a taxi – that never worked.
    Traces of OCD could be seen in some details, like socks being ironed when returned from a laundry. Or hosts making sure they prepare at least 10 course meal when they invite you for a dinner.
    But otherwise … I worked and lived among that people and of many other nations that I also had a pleasure to become familiar with, the Nepali were the kindest folks by far and wide.
    Nosy? I’d say simple. They are simply not so uptight as we westerners are.

    Perhaps the opposite to the noisy Nepali would be Catalan people. There is a saying that when a Catalan asks a beautiful girl for time, she can be 100% sure he asks precisely for time and nothing else.

    A tip for the traveller: learn some basic Devanagari script, no fancy ligatures just basic letters. When you encounter something written in Devanagari, most probably it is some kind of English in disguise 😉

    • Simple is a really good way of describing Nepali people. Simple and nice.
      That’s a good advice on learning the basics of the script. It helps a lot!

  5. This is a really well written post and totally hits the nail on the head. it touches on some of the thoughts in this book I am reading called “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. Have you read it? He makes comparisons between the western world and India that really, really make sense. He also makes a lot of poignant points on life in general. There are very heavy thoughts about society and the differences between western and Indian people that were life-changing for me. You could apply it to Nepal and Nepali people too. some of my fave quotes in it are:
    “The simple and astonishing truth about India and Indian people is that when you go there, and deal with them, your heart always guides you more wisely than your head. There’s nowhere else in the world where that’s quite so true.” so true isn’t it? like you want to be angry about stuff but when you see others accepting it and being happy, you go with your heart instead of your head…

    “If there were a billion Frenchmen living in such a crowded space, there would be rivers of blood. Rivers of blood! And, as everyone knows, we French are the most civilised people in Europe. Indeed, in the whole world. No, no, without love, India would be impossible.” – this is so true in Nepal. if we had the population of Nepal in the same amount of land space, we would all be rude because everyone is fighting for themselves.

    “Sometimes, in India, you have to surrender before you win.” think about all the struggles you have gone through in Nepal- it’s a shared ideology amongst many.
    A few more quotes here:

    • No, I haven’t read that book, but it sounds very interesting. I will make sure to read it soon. The quotes are amazing and so totally true. Can’t wait to read the book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. As I start my 5th week here in Pokhara I am just curious why so many people spit – and it seems routine. What gets me is they don’t always look first and thus a few near misses I have to say! What is it that drives the necessity to spit openly in public? Its even worse when they kind of choke first….

    yours curiously,


    • Oh hahahaha! This really made me laugh! Thanks 🙂
      And I do often wonder the same thing. I mean, how hard it is to swallow your own saliva!?
      I was told on couple of occasions that the reason is the pollution and people feel like they need to cough stuff out. Though, I am not very convinced this is the reason for spitting. Oh well, cultural differences I suppose.

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