“Strange” perceptions- Nepal- part 1

All cultures have different customs, behaviours and rituals.

In my view, Rabindra has some very strange customs and traditions. And he perceives some aspects of my culture as very strange so it works both ways.

I shouldn’t call them “strange” because after all, it’s all in the eye of the beholder and how we’ve been brought up. We don’t know any different.

I was laughing at Jubee’s story about Chicken Pot Pie and hot milk and I couldn’t resist posting my views on Rice Pudding!!

Apart from all the obvious differences about clothing, culture, village life and religion, I wanted to share a few of the lighter, “oddball” type differences.

To be fair, part 2 will be all the strange things Rabindra perceives about my behaviours and practices.

1. To me, rice pudding is a dessert.

Like icecream. Like custard. But in Nepal they eat it for a main meal i.e FOR DINNER. The first time Rabindra suggested we make rice pudding, I thought that’s nice to have some dessert. BUT HE ACTUALLY MEANT FOR DINNER. Ok I was shocked, because first of all, he doesn’t really like sweet things and secondly, because he wanted this for dinner. BUT IT GETS WORSE. He then starts cooking a vegetable curry to go with it. He serves it up on the same plate (a mammoth amount of rice pudding and vegetable beside it) and eats a little bit of each as he goes. I couldn’t do it. To me, it’s like putting icecream on my plate beside my vegetables or chicken. So I ate my vegetables, waited, then had a very small amount of rice pudding after the vegetables. To me, it’s just too weird. This is not just a once off. He lovvesss rice pudding. So now I eat “dessert” as a dinner at least once a fortnight. Oh the things you do….

Rice pudding with no vegetables...the way it should be

2. Breakfast, what breakfast?

In Nepal, people don’t really eat breakfast, they normally have tea or a biscuit in the morning. Then around 2-3pm they have a fairly large meal like rice or noodles. Then they eat a big dinner quite late, sometimes at 8pm, but usually, for Rabindra, not till 10 or 11pm. A couple of months in to our relationship we went on a holiday and Rabindra did not want breakfast so I didn’t either. By 1pm he still wasn’t hungry and I was starving. He’s the complete opposite to me. I need most of my energy up until 2pm so that’s why I have a decent breakfast, but I don’t need a big lunch or dinner. I’ve got him onto toast and cereal or fruit for breakfast which has been a small win. When I stay in Nepal, I’m going to have to get used to this change to fit in with his family. I think I’ll need to take a stash of muesli bars in my suitcase!!

3. Eat with your hands

Still on the food topic- OK so most people know, Nepalese people eat with their hands. But when I saw Rabindra eat with his hands for the first time, I was in awe of the technique and because I’d never seen anyone eat with their hands before (except little babies). It’s a very fast motion where they scoop it all up and slurp it into their mouth. At home Rabindra prefers to eat with a spoon or fork nearly 99% of the time. But sometimes I ask him to eat with his hands because I think it’s nice to maintain parts of his culture (and also so I can stare at that technique!). When his mates come around, a few of them ask my permission to eat with their hands. I don’t mind at all. I’ve tried a few times to eat with my hands but I’m very slow, I can’t get enough on there, and it’s just messy.

4. People choose not to use toilet paper.

We have always used toilet paper in our house and Rabindra prefers this, but he told me that even though his family is middle class, a lot of them do not use toilet paper. I can understand how very poor families can’t afford it but I didn’t realise many people chose not to use it even if they can easily afford it. I suppose I just think it’s unhygienic, but really I should not discriminate because it’s their culture and that’s why they use their right hand for eating and their left hand for the toilet. And in many ways, Rabindra is alot more hygienic than me especially with washing food before cooking.

5. Never turn your shoes upside down.

Shoes upside down...bad luck

This is a big no-no and is considered bad luck. Rabindra noticed all my shoes turned over when we first lived together, he kept going around the house and turning them up the right way telling me it wasn’t good. How was I to know?? Anyway I’ve learnt my lesson.

6. To dress up or not

When we go out to dinner Rabindra doesn’t dress up. He just wears casual clothes and shorts. I like to dress up in my heels and straighten my hair because we don’t go out for dinner often and it’s a nice when we do go out for dinner. He says no-one we know will see us. However if we go down to the local Coles, fruit and vegetable market or just going walking around the city area, he dresses up in a button up t-shirt and nice pants cause we’re likely to see someone we know. This was a bit of a random one, lol, I don’t know why but it frustrates me.

These are just a few, I’m sure there are like a million more…

Please share any funny cultural behaviours and customs that you’ve found ‘strange’ in your partner’s culture or whilst travelling overseas.

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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Differences, Food and cooking, Funny, Intercultural, Intercultural Relationship, Nepal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to “Strange” perceptions- Nepal- part 1

  1. Heather says:

    When there is a birthday in the Netherlands, it is customary to congratulate everyone related to that person. So, “congratulations with your sister”, “congratulations with your grandma”, “congratulations with your girlfriends, sixth cousin removed”. Family members will call up on your birthday to wish you a happy birthday and then congratulate your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife. At a family party this is done by going around the whole room and congratulating each person as you arrive and giving them three kisses, one on each cheek. As you can imagine, this ends up being a lot of kisses.

    Unless I am at a party, I usually forget to congratulate my boyfriend for all of the birthdays that happen throughout the year. However, I do of course notice when he doesn’t say it to me. 😉

    I never actually remember

  2. Jubeee says:

    I think I would love rice pudding as a meal!

    It took me awhile to get used to the whole not wearing shoes in the house thing but the funny thing is the first time A went to my parent’s house, he wouldn’t take his shoes off!

  3. Heather- i like the birthday story, it’s amazing the things people do and jubbee- im so against hot milk so i guess rice pudding isn’t too bad hahaa

  4. I cant think of any of the top of my head… not cultural ones. One non cultural one is JF sometimes talks through his teeth. I think thats pretty weird! lol Like hes too tired to open his mouth.

    I used to be like Rabindra, I wouldnt get hungry till noonish, but now I try to eat some breakfast. I think if someone made breakfast for me (I love Indian breakfasts) then I would be more inclined to eat. 😀

  5. Grace says:

    Not wearing shoes in the house isn’t really cultural it is just preference….

    It might also be done because of a religious context – often people that keep holy books in their homes are far more strict with ritual and it may well be seen as disrespect to wear shoes in their home.

    In my Mother’s home we don’t wear shoes in the house, in my Father’s we do.

    In all of the families I visited throughout India it was 100% common place not to remove your shoes unless of course you live there or are staying. If that is the case, you can still wear your shoes in the house but most people change to flip flops for comfort!

    I have not been in an Indian home – in Aus or India where the residents go barefoot!

    Surely Rabindra’s family don’t use their hand to wipe their bums!
    They would in all likelihoods use water instead of paper – which is often times more hygienic!

    Check out this post on wipe VS wash….

    There are so many weird customs, but in my family too!

    My mother is a clean freak, doesn’t like to have guests and no matter where you have been it is compulsory to shower when you come home!! Even if you went around the corner to see Grandma!

    I found the wearing flip flops to be kind of annoying considering I grew up in a barefoot home…

    I also found it weird that fold out beds are commonplace and that they are used like portable outdoor lounges in Summer! Vishav’s parents would even sleep on the top balcony on a metal fold out bed as opposed to their bed!

    Cold showers – a lot of older Indians don’t have hot showers, even in winter.
    For the two months I was there I had cold showers, barring some days where I had to, had to have one. Mind you it was blistering hot so the hot water system wasn’t needed!

    I will never get over the whole wet bathroom thing, constantly having servants around and the never ending social obligations in an Indian household!

    • Jubeee says:

      My A is Muslim, its a a religious practice for Muslims not to wear shoes in doors, it took me awhile to get used to.

      • Grace says:

        As I said – it is not cultural, rather done in religious context.

        I don’t think you will find that all Muslims follow that practice – there would be a reason that A does it and probably related to cleansing the home more than anything.

        Before prayer Muslims have to wash a huge amount of their body – as I am sure you are aware.

        I think it is a great habit to get into, keeps the home much cleaner and save you having to mop/vacuum as much!

  6. Grace says:

    PS http://badbhabhi.com/?p=479 that is the link I mentioned on wipe VS wash…

  7. americanepali says:

    When I’m in Nepal P’s mother gives me yak cheese, tea and biscuits and sometimes a hard boiled egg for breakfast. I forget how or where she learned about Americans liking cheese, so there is always a block of yak cheese for me… ha ha. His family isn’t big on breakfast either, mostly tea and biscuits, but the last time we were there P joined me for cheese and eggs as well 🙂

    And eating with my hands… I wrote about this once before
    “By then it was dinner time. P’s mom ushered me upstairs and I sat at the table in the kitchen. She put a big spoon on the table in front of me and P’s dad smiled. He had eaten with P and I in the US at the apartment where a group of us were living the summer before, and he knew I had the “special” South Asian skill of eating with my hand. “She doesn’t need a spoon!” he said triumphantly, “She knows what to do.”

    I’ve talked about eating with P’s family before. The sheer amount of rice is a bit daunting. I’m also a slow eater (always have been, always will be), plus as the center of attention for the meal, I was even more self-conscious. Again my stomach was doing flip flops, and I had to eat at extra slow speed just to keep the food down and settled. It was delicious, I was just nervous, and tired, and still worried about making a bad impression.

    Declaring that I could eat without a spoon made everyone even more intent to watch me, making me even more nervous, making me eat even slower. By the time the rest of the family had finished dinner (including P’s young cousin), I had barely eaten anything, prompting questions like “Do you like the food? Are you feeling okay?” and finally to my own embarressment, “Do you need the spoon back?”

    Alas, demoted.”

    • “Do you need the spoon back?” ahhh classic. love it

      • Grace says:

        It is great to see you two giving perspective on Nepali homes…

        Breakfast was always a huge deal in the homes I visited, aloo parathas, aloo mattar – veg always because of Vishav’s parents but always heavy!

        Nom nom!

        I am the bad one that skips breakfast and Vishav has got into the habit of chai and toast – however considering it is a glass of milk as opposed to water like western tea it fills his tummy!

  8. jnkparmar says:

    HAHA, that is too funny AmericanNepali, because Jayesh’s mom had the same idea that all Americans LOVE cheese… and I think that she got this idea from Jayesh because he always comments on the amount of cheese that people cook with and put on everything!! Now I am not complaining because I do like cheese, but I hardly cook with it! And his family did the same thing to me every time we ate, they would ask all of the same questions, but I am told that they keep asking if you like the food so you will eat more 🙂

    The whole wipe vs wash thing really scares me and my visit to India, because I can’t imagine not using toilet paper… Jayesh assures me that we will have toilet paper in the house just for me! He has to compromise while in the U.S. since our system of pottying is not the same… let’s just say he takes a shower everytime he uses the potty… Aren’t we glad our fellas aren’t on here so they can see what we say about them? 🙂

    • Grace says:

      HAHAHA…

      Vishav is here, I got some fantastic comments about bathroom habits on my blog…

      A friend’s guy had been using the hand towel she used to remove make up to fix himself up!

      :O

      Another guy couldn’t access a water bottle and thus used coke instead – all very amusing!

      Thankfully everywhere I went I had toilet paper, however baby wipes are an awesome alternative and when you do make it to India I implore you to use the ‘fountain’ – you might like it!!!

      I squatted, I held, I paid 20RS to use a bathroom!!

      Best 20RS i ever spent, whereas the boys just stopped on the side of the road and peed in the bushes!

      A weird thing I noticed was how many people you see ‘doing their business’ no 1 and 2 on the side of the road!

      😛

  9. love all your comments everyone. see all the things we have to deal with!!

  10. Pingback: “Strange” perceptions- Australia- part 2 | white girl in a sari

  11. Beth says:

    Hi, I just started reading your blog, and I especially liked this one so far so I had to comment.

    When I started dating D, I was hanging out at his apartment and I stepped on a piece of paper, I’ve also have done this when you drop a coin on the ground and you step on it to stop it from rolling away. He then proceeded to tell me to not step on any kind of paper and absolutely not money.

    I pretty much forgot the exact meaning, since it was a long time ago, but what I got out of it was that paper and money should be respected. So when I’ve now started to not step on paper that is sometimes littered in my room from school, and with money as well.

    Another one was, when you would find money on the ground, e.g. streets, you pick it up but don’t spend it. D said that when he was in Bangalore he would find loose money and then donate it to the temple. Now I’m Roman Catholic but I respect his religion, I find it very interesting, so when I find money I keep it with me and I stack it in front of a picture of Krishna that he brought back to me when last visited home. I told him this and he just laughed to himself and said that it was sweet. I don’t know what I’ll do, I only have like a few pennies and such so far, maybe I’ll donate it one of these days.

  12. ~rangi-changi~ says:

    Wow, if my husband’s family ate as late as Rabindra’s I think I would go crazy – I need to eat something within 2 hours or so after waking up. Luckily his family eats a small breakfast like fruit and dahi, then they eat the big Nepali khana around 11-12, maybe a small ‘khaja’ around 4 and a smaller dal bhat(leftovers from lunch) in the evening.

    You’ll like this story:
    http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Nepal-Sky-News-Reporter-Kitty-Logan-Spends-24-Hours-With-A-Nepalese-Family/Article/200808115062771

  13. alisha says:

    ahahaha! reading this made me laugh out loud. see, im a nepali girl living in australia and i can understand both yours and rabindra’s perspectives. i dont have that many nepalese friends here so i’d forgotten a few things about our nepali ways, so reading this was refreshing! by the way, everyone of of rabindra’s points about the “strangeness” of your culture, i can understand and relate to.
    i think i am going to enjoy reading your blog! 🙂

  14. Gurung says:

    Americanepali : The size of an American steak is almost as daunting as the amount of rice in a Nepali meal 🙂 And I think, may of us Nepali find it difficult to have a meal without any rice !

  15. Step says:

    One cultural thing that confused me at first was the head wobble as a way of confirmation. It is the same in India. Back home in the west, this would be thought of as kind of sassy, and maybe confrontational, like someone with a bad attitude was blowing you off. I remember when I first encountered this at customs I thanked the customs officer after he stamped my papers. What a jerk, I thought. But in the end I think that anyone who visits or lives in Nepal for any length of time finds themselves doing the little head wobble out of habit even after they get back home.

  16. she says:

    Wrote about it in the next post. People don’t use toilet paper, but they wash down with water. I’m finding it unhygienic here that water is not used, water after using toilet paper would be the best way to go.

  17. she says:

    And… the “lunch” or heavy meal time is usually 9-10. People go to work after having lunch. At holidays and when people are staying home, they can put it off till noon.

  18. sudeep says:

    Hey I want to comment about eating by hand.at first u have to know in Nepal there are more than 80% of Hindu,according to Hindu culture food are respective thing and there is believed that there is unknown energy on five fingers of right hand so we eat food by our fingers.it give more satisfaction.and u feel first temperature by hand then by mouth.
    yes ricepudding is actually dessert and in Nepal some eat as breakfast but not as dinner or lunch..
    and dressup its varies from people to people.some like all time change n change but some font .u cant compare whole tradition with some people habits.
    n last breakfast….u would salute nepalese breakfast if u really eat.

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