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Customs and Traditions of Nepal

Marriage and Family

The Namaste Gesture. Unlike Westerners, Nepalese greet each other with a Namaste.Namaste is the traditional greeting in Nepal. A person places his or her palms together—with the fingers up—in front of his or her chest or chin and says “Namaste,” or Namaskar to superiors. Adults do not use the Namaste greeting with children. In informal situations, one might raise the right hand in a salaam gesture, which is similar to a salute, for both greetings and farewells. At formal social gatherings, a guest may be adorned with a mala, which is a flower garland, when greeted. In certain Buddhist communities, a khada (white cotton scarf) may be offered instead of a mala. The Nepalese generally do not shake hands, although some men may shake hands with Westerners or each other. In greetings, it is respectful to use titles (such as “Professor,” “Doctor,” or “Director”) or the suffix -jee (or -jye) with the last name. The Nepalese usually ask permission before taking leave of others.

Men do not touch women in public—even between married couples physical affection is reserved for the privacy of the home. However, members of the same sex often express friendship by walking arm in arm or hand in hand.

Relatives and friends get together often, and even unexpected visitors are made welcome. Hosts are patient with late-arriving guests because individuals are considered to be more important than the demands of a time schedule. Hindus believe that being kind to strangers can enhance their status in the next life, and they will not turn away someone in need. Some people may, however, be shy about inviting strangers they consider wealthier than themselves into their homes.

Tea with sugar and milk is usually offered to guests; it is usual to decline refreshments initially before accepting them. Shoes are removed when entering a home, a Hindu temple, or a Muslim mosque. Guests invited to a meal usually bring small presents for the children, especially during holidays or for special occasions, but they are not opened at the time they are received. Gifts may include food or drinks from guests without a regular income. In the south, members of the opposite sex do not usually mix at social gatherings, although this custom is not as prevalent in the north.

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