Nepal is well known for hosting Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, but Nepal is also known for its friendly people, cultural and religious pride, and simple ways of life that is a nice distraction from the rush of the 21st century. Nepal was a monarchy until very recently and has three medieval kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. A mix of influences from Indian and Chinese cultures, Nepal is also unique in that it is the birthplace of Buddha; Lumbini is the pilgrimage site where Buddhists all over the world come to visit, situated right in Nepal. Covered with monasteries and mountains, Nepal is a slice of life that encompasses all the best of Asian culture.
Nepal is located in between India and Asia in the Himalayan Mountain Range. The population is about 27 million people and the nation encompasses ten of the world’s tallest mountains. Kathmandu is the country’s capital city and largest metropolitan area; the city is surrounded by four large mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri.
While Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha, Buddhism is only practiced by nine percent of the population. Nepal has the highest population of Hindus, at 81 percent. Islam, Kirat, and Christianity are also practiced.
Just over half the population has been recorded as literate in recent years. Though men outnumber women in literacy by close to 25 percent. There is a very high enrollment rate for primary education, however it is low for secondary school.
Spring in Nepal is mildly warm in the lower regions but moderate in higher altitudes. Temperatures range from 16 to 23 degrees Celsius, or 61 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. During Spring rhododendrons, the national flower of Nepal, bloom all over the countryside. In the summer, the weather is hot and humid with temperatures between 23 and 25 degrees Celsius (73 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).
Summer is also monsoon season in Nepal. Monsoons in Nepal are not like other monsoons in Asia; it rains anywhere from 7 to 15 inches during the summer in Kathmandu. Rain normally occurs during the evening leaving the mornings bright and clear. Wearing a lightweight rain coat or having one nearby is beneficial in the summer instead of carrying around an umbrella.
Autumn is the most popular time to visit Nepal because temperatures are pleasant at 15 to 24 degrees Celsius (59-75 degrees Fahrenheit). It is also the best time for hiking and enjoying the mountain views. Winters are cool, getting in the single digits (or low 40s in Fahrenheit). Snow is rarely seen outside of the mountains, and even then it is occasional. Hiking in lower elevations is popular during the winter months.
Nepalese people have a humble way of living and it is reflected in their food and celebrations; they find that embellishments are unnecessary and only distract from what is most important. Only about half of the country’s population owns a radio, around a third have a television, and only a few handfuls in certain regions own a computer. The Nepalese mostly get their information and news from the many newspapers in circulation. Folklore and storytelling is a huge part of Nepalese culture, and therefore many of these traditional stories are acted out through dance or music. There are many religious sites including the three medieval kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. Lumbini is a holy site for Buddhist pilgrimage; construction around its perimeter is limited to only monasteries.
The official language of Nepal is Nepali and the writing is in Devanagari script, however there are over 100 mother tongues spoken in Nepal. Below are some useful phrases in Nepali:
“Tapaaii/Timi lai kasto cha?” - How are you?
“Subha din” - Have a nice day
“Dhanyabad” - Thank you
“Yo kati ho” - How much is this?
People greet each other by saying “Namaste” with palms pressed together at chest level, commonly accompanied by a slight bow and followed by a soft handshake. Men should always wait for the woman to initiate the handshake, if at all. Eating, shaking hands, and giving gifts should always be done with the right hand. Thankfulness is expressed mostly through facial expressions and belching after a meal is tribute to the meal and the chef. Unlike most western cultures, shaking of the head means yes and nodding up and down means no; this is common in India as well.
The currency in Nepal is the Nepalese rupee. One Nepalese rupee is equal to 10 cents in the United States.
Dal Bhat, spicy lentil soup served over rice, is a very common dish in Nepal. Momo, a steamed or fried dumpling with minced meat, is also popular. Curry, boiled rice, vegetables, grilled, roasted, or minced meat, and a lot of seasonings and spices are staples in Nepalese cuisine. Dessert is usually yogurt or curd, sometimes with dried fruit.
Autumn is the most popular time for tourists to visit and enjoy the many religious celebrations. Dashain is a 15-day long festival and is the largest in the country, celebrating the reign of good over evil and based on a popular myth. People celebrate by flying kites to tell the gods to allow only bright skies. Locals also use this period of time to play cards, as this is the only time of year they can gamble in public legally. It is also traditional to make bamboo swings.
Nepal has a low literacy rate in adults and children compared with the rest of the world; the literacy rate is especially low for women and girls. Teaching individuals how to speak, read, and write are the most common lessons for international teachers.
The school year begins in September. Students have shorter summer breaks and more religious holidays than most western school systems. Primary education is very highly valued in Nepal, but hard to attain in more rural areas or among low-income families (who are usually the most needy). Ecoteer Responsible Travel offers a program where international teachers volunteer at a school in rural Nepal and parents of students volunteer two days every month instead of paying tuition fees.
While teaching the English language is a common subject for international teachers, some programs may ask their teachers to add elements of what they are skilled and passionate about, such as science or art, to expand learning.