Nepalese Culture

Greetings

  • Nepalis expect people to greet the eldest or most senior person first.
  • The traditional greeting is to press the palms of one’s hands together in front of the chest and say "Namaste" (meaning "I greet the god within you"). This is accompanied with a nod of the head or a bow depending on the status of the person you are greeting. In more formal situations, one may say “Namaskar”.
  • Handshaking has become a familiar custom and may follow after the traditional greeting. Always shake with your right hand. The Nepalese grip in a handshake is usually quite light.
  • While it is generally appropriate for men and women to shake hands, one cannot be certain that all people will be comfortable touching the opposite gender. It is best practice to wait for a woman to initiate the handshake, if at all. It is considered rude for a man to make the advance in touching a woman.
  • Avoid greeting someone with a hug or a kiss unless you know the person well.
  • People are often addressed using honourifics that indicate respect, affection and familial relationship, even if there is no real blood relation. For example, those older than one’s self are referred to as ‘didi’ (for women meaning “older sister”) and ‘daai’ (for men meaning “older brother”). Similarly, ‘bahini’ addresses younger women as “younger sister” and ‘bhaai’ means “younger brother”. These titles will usually be received with a warm reaction.
  • To be more formal or respectful, add ‘ji’ to the end of someone’s name. For example: “Namaste, John-ji”.
  • The most common question to ask someone upon meeting them is “Have you eaten yet?”. This forms the same conversational function as the question “How are you?” in Australia. It is expected that you reply “Yes, thank you. I ate just before” or something similar and then carry on with discussion.
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