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.

 

Random facts about Nepal

1. People in Nepal like to squat. Everyone is squatting: kids squat in mud making pies; old men squat by the road watching passing traffic and smoking; women squat doing laundry, beating rice, cooking and sometimes just chit chatting with neighbors. I’m not gonna go that far to say that even stray dogs squat in Nepal, but I am pretty sure there might be a dog squatting right now somewhere in Kathmandu.

The whole squatting deal looks pretty comfortable so I tried it myself on a couple of occasions. I can claim with certainty it’s not as easy as it looks. My knees got sore pretty soon and I had to crawl to the nearest chair to manage to get myself up and standing again. I am impressed by the flexibility of Nepali people.

2. Nepalis congregate for no apparent reasons at most odd times. All it takes is for someone to stop in the middle of the road and with great interest look in any one direction. Pretty soon another person will stop, and another, and another… and they will all look in the same direction attentively. It won’t be long before cars start stopping and the traffic jam forms. Ladies coming back from the market will drop their bags and run to the crowd to see what is going on. Suddenly a traffic officer will come to deal with the traffic jam, but will instead join the crowd looking at … well, nothing really.

Old guys squatting by the road will make comments on the thing that everyone is looking at, shaking their heads in disbelief and blaming everything on politics. At this point everyone is looking in the same direction, pointing and wooing and wowing, when there’s really nothing there. The group disperses only when couple soldiers come to deal with the traffic jam situation.

3. It’s not a secret that public transportation in Kathmandu is beyond any foreigners’ comprehension. That system (if it even exists) is impossible for me to understand. There are buses, micro buses, rickshaws… and they all have one thing in common: they drive like maniacs with no apparent routes, stops, or schedules. However, even more than the systems itself, I am fascinated by the embellishments on the vehicles. Big buses are usually very colorful with a ton of knick-knacks hanging from every mirror, and a kid’s shoe (Yes, that’s right!) from the back of the bus.

These are only a tourist attraction at Durbar Square in Kathmandu. They cannot really be seen on the roads of the city

These are only a tourist attraction at Durbar Square in Kathmandu. They cannot really be seen on the roads of the city

Micro buses are the really interesting ones though. In essence those are simple white, I’d say 12-seater, vans. All of them bear a certain message on the back. Sometimes it’s a quote from an American movie or a song, or the name of a singer or a band from the 70s. Sometimes though, they have very educational messages on them, clearly intended for population control, such as the one I saw on my last trip to Nepal: I’m a virgin. One mistake, game over.