Common Decency

I do no want to appear as a know-all or reprove anybody. The following points are only meant to avoid misunderstandings that could spoil the long planned-for vacation in Nepal. Later visitors to the country should profit from earlier visitors and be treated with the same respect and friendliness that we all wish for.

I don’t believe that indigenous groups (like the “Indians and Indios” in the Americas) have a deeper insight into the meaning of life or the world and should be models for the stressed inhabitants of the “first world”. Some esoterics would like to make us believe just that – however, I think their intend is not as good as they want to make us believe but of a more commercial nature.

These indigenous groups and people have dignity, follow old traditions and lead a life according to their own rules and laws. The Nepali traditions are embedded in Hinduism and Buddhism and allow for a meaningful coexistence.

Aside from the fact that tourists cause ecological problems by leaving substances and objects in the country that cannot be disposed of in a natural way, they often bring more than just garbage into this part of the world. Much worse than trash is the cultural contamination that comes along. Just a small example: Asian governments in general have a different view of human rights than we do. However, we don’t have the right to criticize this attitude during a visit. We are guests and to be honest, human rights as we see them today were treated on not so long ago in our societies…

A visitor from an industrialized “first world” country will always be a regarded as a foreign body and therefore only be a tolerated paying guest. But money should not lead to the impression that it will buy us unseemly freedom! We should not lose our respect for the dignity and integrity of a foreign culture. Instead, we should ask ourselves why we are visiting these countries? Certainly not to find what we were trying to forget for a while. To avoid that our presence is only seen as a disturbing nuisance, common sense commands us to follow a few simple rules.


Nepal is a country of many cultures and civilizations. From times immemorial it is a land of transition for the trade between India and China with their colorful and diverse populations. The inhabitants of Nepal learned to be tolerant. And this generosity is willingly bestowed on their guests. Every visit to this country will be a blissful experience as long as this hospitality is not exploited.

Avoiding Conflicts

  • Nepal is not a theme park or a Museum, built for the edification of foreign visitors. It is a living entity. The amazing cultural sites have a long tradition and form a part of the religious believe and the national identity of the inhabitants of Nepal
  • Life in Nepal is extremely hard for the majority of the Nepali people. Lepers, impoverished families and unfortunately also stranded individuals are part of the daily life, especially in Kathmandu. Please avoid to make a show of our western wealth – and please keep in mind that “making a show of” has a different dimension in Nepal. Even assumingly small sums appear here in a different light. Therefore, please avoid showing well filled wallets or giving unjustified tips which degrade the hard work of other people and will help to generate only envy and resentment.

Dress Code

  • Please always take of your shoes when entering a Nepalese house. The dress should be clean and suitable. Don’t forget: you belong to the privileged inhabitants of this world.
  • Jeans in tatters may be cool in our part of the world, but they easily generate the image of a bighead. Understatement is foreign to the people here.
  • For men and women: do not show too much skin as it is not accepted. This will certainly not be a problem at high altitudes…


  • It is not accepted to show affection in public. The loss of face is enormous.
  • Asians are extremely concerned about their reputation. Shouting or open quarreling is a manifestation of the complete loss of integrity. Therefore, stay calm and relaxed even if a situation seems complicated or vexing.
  • Touching is very rare. Shaking hands is only an accepted western form of greeting
  • Feet are filthy. Therefore do not point at or touch persons or things with your feet.
  • The head of a person is the highest and most valued part of the body. Please do not touch the heads of children!
  • Do not ask for the cast system (the proximity to India is very important here). The hinduists of Nepal believe that this in none of our business!
  • Nepali don’t like to give negative answers. However, they usually avoid to give no answer at all as this is considered impolite. This can easily result in misunderstandings because an answer was given in spite of the lack of knowledge to save you (!!) the inconveniences of a loss of face.
  • As hard as it may seem: please do not encourage begging children. Their situation will get worse. If you would like to help, there are many institutions and organization in Nepal (for example the Hillary schools). They will use your donation to its best. Instead of money useful odds an ends like pens, etc. are always welcome.

Visiting a Temple

Always circle the temple clockwise. Take off the shoes before entering. Furthermore, please ask whether a visit is permitted at all! Many Hindu sanctuaries will not tolerate western visitors.

It is good practice to give a white shawl to a temple priest or lama when visiting. These lightweight shawls made of silk or gauze can be purchased in Tibetan stores for a few cent.

Visiting a Nepalese family

Should you have the luck and opportunity to visit with a family, please heed the following:

  • Fire is holy. Do not burn trash in it, especially in kitchens. Exception: While trekking it is accepted to burn leftovers.
  • Please avoid spoiling food by touching it with used silverware (this is already the case for you own fork)!


Always ask for permission before taking pictures! Sometimes it is possible to get the compliance of the people with a small donation. Please note: don’t force your money on anybody!

It is considered extremely impolite to not send promised pictures. You have to keep your promise!


Please consider: even if you care less about the culture of the country, there will always be new visitors every year. And they’ll find not only the trash you’ve left behind, but locals whose respect for western people is influenced by the appearance of previous visitors.

Have a fantastic time and experience in this wonderful country!