Nepali – western weddings some inspiration

Planning a wedding that incorporates both your cultures on the most special day of your life is really difficult.

The culture, ceremony and traditions are completely different and of course the bride’s dress couldn’t be more different!

In Nepal, a bride wears red and in Australia, America, England etc, the bride wears white!

That’s why I thought I would give you some links to inspire any of you planning a fusion multicultural wedding to your Nepali partner.

It’s totally up to you if you want to choose one wedding ceremony that incorporates both Nepali style and ‘the white wedding’ (what I did) or have two weddings (many couples have one white wedding and one Nepali ‘red’ wedding) or only a white wedding or only  a Nepali wedding.

With our wedding, it was logistically hard to incorporate a full traditional Nepali wedding into our Australian marriage ceremony. We would have either had to have a second full day for the Nepali wedding (virtually a second wedding which was hard to do because of location, the need to light a fire for Nepali tradition and also with so many out of town guests who couldn’t attend for two days) or we could have done something in Nepal separately (which we still haven’t ruled out!)

So we did our best at a fusion Australian Nepali wedding.

We took tikka (blessing) from our elders, played Nepali songs at both the ceremony and the party, my bridesmaids wore saris and we had a separate photo shoot of me in Nepali wedding dress where my mother in law dressed me up in Nepali sari. It wasn’t a traditional Nepali wedding by any means.

Another big issue with the white wedding dress is that in Nepal, white is actually what is worn to funeral burials as it signifies death which is why I didn’t choose to wear white with red Nepali veil or anything. This makes it so hard to include red accessories on a white dress but some choose to do it anyway.

So here is some visual inspiration for a beautiful multicultural wedding.

What do you think? Which one is your favourite? Please share any links if you have any more

 How did you incorporate both your cultures on your wedding day?

Couple 1

English girl and Nepali boy, Sarah and Sudaman

This is an absolutely stunning wedding. Seriously how cute are they.

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Photo credit: Camera Hannah and link to more photos at the Rock N Roll Bride website is here. 

Couple 2

Sarah and Amit’s second “white” wedding in Wanaka, New Zealand. Photo credit: Emily Adamson Photography. More pics here.

Hello, can you say stunning!

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Then again Sarah and Amit’s first wedding (a Nepali wedding) in Wanaka, New Zealand. Photo credit: Emily Adamson Photography. A link to more photos of their wedding is here.

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Couple 3

Cindy and Kris’ multicultural beach wedding

This couple decided to do one fusion wedding of both cultures, not two weddings like Sarah and Amit.

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Photo credit: Michael Giragosian. More pics of their wedding at The offbeat Bride’s website here.

Couple 4

Videos: Clare (Australian girl) and Bish’s two weddings. The first is a Newari Nepali wedding in Nepal, watch it here and the second is their Australian wedding in Sydney, watch it here.

Posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Intercultural Relationship, Interracial, Love, Nepal | Tagged | 6 Comments

Why a Nepali bride should cry on her wedding day

**Note I am not an expert on this topic or Nepali culture. I want to know what Nepalis know about this tradition of brides on their wedding day as I do not know a lot about it.

In every culture, weddings are joyous celebrations for the couple and family.

A few years back, though, I had a conversation with some Nepali friends and Rabindra about Nepalese weddings.

Most Nepalis have told me that when a woman is married in Nepal, it’s not good for the bride to look happy or be smiling etc and they should be looking down to the ground a lot, not making much eye contact.

Obviously this is not the case in all weddings in Nepal but it’s interesting because I’ve heard this explanation from many Nepalis, both from the village and from the city.

My first thought was “oh my, this is shocking” then secondly I thought this must be a forced marriage of some kind which she is clearly distressed about because surely every bride should be happy on her wedding day 🙂

But you see in Nepal, when a woman gets married, it signifies that she no longer belongs to her own family and instead she now belongs to her husband’s family and must live in his home instead.

Generally, Nepali society says women should be crying because they have to leave their family and go live with their in-laws permanently.

A newly married woman would most likely be worried about moving out of her parent’s home and taking on their new role as a ‘buhari’ (I can totally understand this, I would be too!)

Even my own mother in law made a comment about this as obviously I was so happy on my wedding day.

My husband translated what she said and that was “in Nepal it would be unheard of to see a bride dancing and being happy on her wedding day” (she didn’t say it in a bad way toward me, more of a ‘this is so different’ way.)

I asked other Nepalis about what they thought of this and they said, traditionally, yes a Nepali bride will cry and be unhappy because they are leaving their family.
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Some also said that in Nepal, any bride that was happy and having fun on their wedding day would be labelled as “crazy”. Geez how things are different with the western way and the Nepali way….

It may also have to do with the fact that in arranged marriages (the way most weddings are done in Nepal), that brides don’t know their future husband too well and have never lived with him before, so there would be apprehension and nerves about how they will get along now that they are married.

Most of my Nepali friends who have had arranged marriages look sad in their wedding photos.

I honestly don’t know what to feel about this. Surely, if you want to be married then you would be happy on your wedding day. Right? Yes? No?

Maybe they were upset because they were unsure about being married at that age. To me, I think, well it’s probably not a good idea to be married if you are not ready but there is no such level of thinking like this in Nepal.

I’ve been told that by crying (in a bad way, not like happy crying like I was) on your wedding day, it doesn’t mean they are sad to be married. Really?

But then I think, most women in Nepal are expected to marry quite young even though that’s not what they want and surely they would not fake cry.

I can’t help but think that surely if you are happy about being married, that you wouldn’t cry on your wedding day ??

I’m not sure if women who have love marriages cry as much or at all. That would be interesting to know if anyone has insight on this?

To my readers, is it true that in Nepali culture, women are expected to cry/look sad in photos on their wedding day?

Do they cry because they are unhappy or just apprehensive about moving out of their family home for the first time?

Do you think if a bride cries unhappily that she should be getting married at all?

Do women who have love marriages cry too? If so, why?

Posted in Cross-cultural, Differences, Intercultural Relationship, Nepal, Women | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Do I celebrate Teej?

Teej is a Hindu women’s festival celebrated in Nepal and some parts of India. The origins of Teej and its real significance is a topic of debate depending on who you talk to. You can read one version of the definition of Teej by Wikipedia and an alternative version of its modern day meaning by Indra Adhikari here.

During Teej, women celebrate by dancing and feasting then they fast and pray to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the hope of blessing them with ‘marital bliss’.

It’s also been explained to me openly by Nepali men and women as a festival by which married women fast and pray for the long lives of their husbands and single women fast and pray in the hope of ‘finding a good husband’.

After a day of feasting on delicious foods, singing and dancing, women will then fast for 24 hours by not eating anything and some true followers won’t even drink water during this time.

They will then go to the mandir, (usually the next day after feasting and dancing)  and pray and give offerings to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Traditionally, it’s thought that women who fast and pray will ensure her husband’s life is longer and that his health will be enhanced.

Adhikari who holds a Phd from Jawaharlal Nehru University writes:

“People mistakenly think that fasting during Teej will prolong the husband’s life and enhance his health. Such an understanding not only insults women but also society as a whole. By prioritising ‘living for others’ instead of one’s own progress, women are deliberately placing themselves below others. Fasting during Teej is common among practicing Hindu Nepali women but we still have not been able to make progress on the Teej discourse beyond conservative and outdated religious beliefs.

She continues…“The truth is, most women still have no say on where, when and with whom they are going to marry. Their choices and interests are still sidelined by parents who choose a husband for them. Only societal prestige, family lineage and maturity from every angle are the criteria for choosing a prospective bridegroom. This is done with the anticipation that the man will then control and take care of the daughter.  So, for parents, marriage marks freedom from their responsibility of taking care of their daughters, both socially and legally. In this situation, praying for an appropriate life partner for marriage is the only option for girls. And this supposed ‘right’ to choose an appropriate partner is linked to Parbati’s struggle to get Shiva as her husband. This central message is still relevant in Nepali society. Addionally, the mobility of women is still largely restricted after marriage.”

“Similarly, there is no doubt a close relation between the progress and the well-being of the husband and the happiness of a wife. But there is no objective, scientific correlation between a woman staying hungry throughout the day by harming their health and the well-being of her husband. So women need to prioritise their own selves to be self-dependent and influence society. Festivals should aim for the well-being of all humankind, society and civilisation.”

I agree with almost all statements made here by Adihkari. I find it ludicrous that I should fast for my’s husband long life. Of course I want him to live long but I don’t think by me not eating that I could make him live longer. Plus I think it would be different if you were not just fasting and praying for your husband, but for yourself and your children as well.

Adikhari also writes that Teej is actually a symbol of liberation and a form of rebellion, rather than submission “Teej is also a time for women to express their suffering through songs and dance. These songs and dances are a way to voice opinions about existing evil practices in society. Women, then, sing of the feelings they have suppressed for long and rejoice.”

To be honest, I hadn’t heard that side of the issue before.

Another article by a Nepali lady who does not celebrate Teej because she does not believe in it says some women want to fast for their husband and some feel forced too”.

She also did some research on the modern day Nepali woman’s observance of Teej and wrote “one article that said maybe the wives should encourage their men to go to the gym and cut down on greasy food, smoking and alcohol if they want their men to live longer. Amen to that writer.” You can read her article here.

Usually during Teej, women will leave their in-laws home and return to their maternal home (mother’s home) and celebrate with her sisters, brothers’ wives etc.

This is another school of thought on Teej; that women enjoy Teej because they get to return to their own family during Teej and get a break from the rigours of daily chores.

I think it’s up to a woman whether or not she celebrates Teej and I don’t judge others because I see both sides of the story but my personal belief is that Teej, in its traditional form, is another example of women being treated less than men. As Adhikari points outBy prioritising ‘living for others’ instead of one’s own progress, women are deliberately placing themselves below others.’

The first thing I said to Rabindra when I was told about Teej is “I will fast for your long life, if you fast for my long life. I mean, what’s the point, if you are living longer and I die younger. You will just be alone.” He laughed and agreed.

Rabindra does not believe in the overall idea of Teej. Why? He is not overly religious and believes there is no way that he will live longer as a result of me fasting and praying for him.

However Rabindra’s family celebrate Teej and he did grow up with the festival. Being abroad for as long as Rabindra has, it’s also important to maintain Nepali culture and festivals are a great way to do this.

Being abroad and in the modern day, men will usually celebrate with their wives enjoying dancing, drinking, feasting and playing cards (but not fasting or praying).

texasnepal.comPhoto caption: Nepali women celebrating Teej. Image credit: TexasNepal.com

In the modern day, there has been other criticisms of Teej.

Many women nowadays in Nepal use it as an excuse to acquire more gold, more saris and they celebrate for weeks on end with endless dancing and feasting.

Nepali women who travel abroad also question the roots of the festival because they have learnt more about women’s empowerment and women’s rights.

Nepali women abroad, my friends included, celebrate Teej but they will eat fruits and yoghurt on the fasting day because they are working in physical jobs.

They have also adapted the fasting and praying to not just be about their husband, but their children and family as well which is their way of taking of a traditional festival but modernising it their own way.

I’ve asked Rabindra in the past what he thinks about me fasting and he says it’s stupid and that I shouldn’t do it. Because I am not Hindu, I also do not pray to God however I do support him being a Hindu.

But he did say that he would like it if I dressed up in sari (he loves seeing me in sari 🙂 and that if I want to I could dance and sing to Nepali songs with other ladies as well/

I liked the idea of this and that is how I have celebrated the past few years. Like others abroad with no family, Rabindra’s friends celebrate with their husbands too, not just females.

So there you go, yes I do celebrate Teej and like many other modern Nepali women, it’s not in the traditional sense but it’s in a way that me and my husband have agreed on where we can still enjoy the festival and celebrate our links to Nepal but be comfortable about what the significance of the festival means for us rather than shunning it all together. Some might say, it’s missing the entire meaning of the festival, but anyway that’s a choice that we, and other modern couples, have made.

To my readers, do you celebrate Teej? Do you celebrate Teej the traditional way or have you adapted modern ways of celebrating Teej?

What do you think of Adihkari’s comments on Teej? Are they too harsh?

Posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Festivals, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Thinking about having an intercultural relationship? Read this first

To be honest there are some things I wish my-younger-self had known some years ago.

Sometimes when you’re in love, nothing else seems to matter and we find ourselves doing and saying things to our partners to make them happy not knowing the impact of our decisions later on.

For example, years ago when  my husband and I were contemplating where to live, we did have to consider where we might live other than Australia.

In my rush of extreme feelings I would say “we can just live in Nepal, as long as I’m with you, that’s all that matters.”

Looking back now, I wouldn’t be so hasty in my decision to leave Australia forever and live in Nepal (especially because ahhh I hadn’t even before to Nepal at that time and now I have…that was a wake-up call).

I get a lot of readers who ask me for advice on intercultural relationships and have shared with me the difficulties they are facing in their intercultural relationship.

It has made me realise that the wave of emotions I felt during the challenges in my own intercultural relationship were actually quite normal and that I wasn’t alone in my feelings.

Common questions I struggled with alone back then are common questions I now get asked by other women like Why do Nepali men not show much affection in public? Why hasn’t he introduced me to his parents yet? Why do we have to think about living with his parents and brothers and their wives and their children?

This post is about what you should consider before saying yes to an intercultural/multicultural marriage and is especially targeted at those in South-Asian / Western relationships.

Here’s a list of a few things you should talk to your partner about before you consider entering into a relationship or marriage from another culture.

Family’s acceptance
If your partner’s family does not accept their son/daughter’s relationship with you because you are a foreigner, what does that mean for your relationship? Will your partner promise to stay with you despite the family’s disapproval? How do you feel about them having to choose between their family and you? This is a question you should ask your partner about quite early on. You can read about the significance of marriage in Nepali society here including my experience of telling the in-laws.

Where to live
Where will you live? Will you live in your country or theirs? What if they want to move back to Nepal/India etc in the future permanently? Could you live in a third world country battling the physical elements and societal/cultural differences? How do you feel about that? What if they grow unhappy in your country because they miss their culture? Would you encourage them to move back to their home country… and would you go too? This is a big one and not something you probably can discuss until the time comes to deal with it.

Who will you live with?
In Western culture, this is a non-question; you live with your husband/ wife and your kids only. But in South Asian culture, it’s common for the sons and the son’s wife  to live with his parents under the same roof, often with your brother in law, his wife and their kids. Big, joint families are common in Nepal and India. How do you feel about living under the same roof 24/7 with your in-laws following their way of life and customs? What if you have a chauvinistic brother in law or father in law or a mother in law who doesn’t respect you? Would you decide to remain in an unhappy home for the sake of family or would you break the family tide and move out? How do you feel about living with your in-laws if the culture expects men and women to eat separately?

More importantly, how will you live?
How are you going to balance both cultures? Celebrating Dashain/Christmas/Easter/Teej is the easiest part. What about day to day life of who works/provides and who cooks/cleans? Will you have to do both? Will you follow caste and other societal expectations in your home? What would you do if your family practiced ‘chaupaudi’ where you are segregated from eating with your family because you have your period and are considered impure? Do you let that happen or do you speak up?

Gender roles
Nepali women are expected to behave a certain way but if you’re a foreigner married to a Nepali – there is some leeway – but not much. The gender bias and prejudice against women in Nepal is a big issue. Some Nepali girls have told me the expectations of them are: to speak with a lower voice; be a subservient woman/wife/buhari; always dress covered up; follow traditional women’s role of cooking/cleaning/childbearing while working full time (or not working) and not partake in drinking/smoking/socialising with men…gasp… and other similar “evils”. Majority of western women do not follow these strict cultural rules or at least have freedom to choose against them. Other Nepali women who have been exposed to both their home culture and western countries find a mix between these issues as do most goris. But how you feel about these customs (where relevant) if they were expected of you? If your partner doesn’t like you doing them, that could be a serious issue between you two to sort out. If your in-laws expect you to follow these traditions, there is likely to be some head-butting. In my experience these issues are usually the main cause of why intercultural relationships breakdown, mostly because it’s hard to strike an equal balance between both cultures and the in-laws’ expectations.

Money and finance issues
In many South-Asian cultures, money is shared and loaned between families and is an expected custom. If you have in-laws, cousins, brother/sisters in law back in Nepal or India, you are probably expected to financially support them in the future because they won’t be earning the kind of money you earn. I’m not talking about loaning some money here and then when they are stuck, I am talking about big money like buying them land, a house, a car, motorbike etc. This is a big issue for couples; it’s hard enough to get ahead if living abroad because of the high cost of living. So would you be willing to send $30,000 of you and your partner’s money to buy land or $100,000 to buy them a home even though you will never live in it and you don’t even have a house of your own? What about your own future and your kids future too? It’s fine if you have an income to support both families but what if you don’t? Giving money to family members and loaning money can cause a lot of strain in intercultural relationships.

Raising children
If you have children, what would you teach them your culture and your partner’s culture? What if there is pressure from your partner or in-laws to raise them ‘more’ Nepali/Indian than Western? It’s a question you will probably get asked and it’s question you will be asking yourself. Obviously it’s easy to say both but there is a blurred line here because of the depth of South Asian culture and all the rules/rituals/customs.

What will you teach them about how girls are treated? In Nepal, when a girl has her period in many families, she is not allowed to enter the kitchen. Do you pass that on to your daughter because it’s part of their culture or do you take a stand and say that will never happen to my daughter? What if your daughter is told what she wears is inappropriate and that she has to cover up? What if your teenage daughter has her period and is told by aunties/grandmothers/mothers that she is impure and cannot take tikka at festivals or be allowed into temples because she is considered ‘impure’ because she is bleeding?

Will you raise your children the traditional way that boyfriend/girlfriend relationships are unacceptable or will you encourage your children to be open with you about their relationships?  What if your 16-yo daughter wants to have sex with her boyfriend?  In Nepali/Indian culture sex before marriage is generally frowned upon. In western culture, sex before marriage is much more acceptable and many parents will educate their children about safe sex practices from a young age. You and your partner need to discuss issues like this before having a child because if you are of different values, it could turn out terribly in a marriage and as your raise children?
Will you tell them to follow caste rules?

Will you raise them as a Hindu, Christian, neither or something else? Will you give them beef at a young age or not?
Even though you had a love marriage, what if your partner expects your children will have an arranged marriage? Would you let your partner help arrange your child’s marriage? (Surprisingly many modern couples still want their children to have an arranged marriage)
How often will you take them to your partner’s home country and what aspects will you expose them to?

As you can see there is a lot to think about and while in western society it would be seen as crazy to ask your partner such in-depth questions early on in your relationship, in intercultural relationships, you seriously have to think about these things. A reader of this blog got married to a Nepali and it wasn’t until later was told by her husband that she would have to live with his parents permanently. She was shocked because she didn’t know enough about these expectations of Nepali society and he didn’t trap her because he genuinely thought it was so normal that you don’t even ask questions about it. It ended up in divorce.

Also, it’s completely normal to have arguments/differences in opinions over these matters (trust me – we’ve had our fair share) and it doesn’t mean they are deal breakers in your relationships but at some point you have to find a common ground on the core ones which affect your values. If you can find that balance by communicating and working on any issues, you will be happy together.

If you disagree strongly on most of the fundamental issues I’ve raised, it’s worth questioning whether you should be together at all. I don’t say that out of spite, I say it out of experience because I’ve been exposed to the issues many intercultural couples face.

My advice is clear: Ask your partner these kinds of things before marriage… it may save heartache and separation down the track.

What other tips would you give to those in an intercultural relationship?

Do you have any more questions to add to this list?

Posted in Communication, Cross-cultural, Culture, Differences, Family, Inequality, Intercultural, Intercultural Relationship, Interracial, Love, Nepal | Tagged | 14 Comments

How much should you change to adapt to your spouse’s culture?

I’m back!  I must admit I have been craving writing after my little hiatus away. After I said I was having a break from blogging, I had many people from around the world contact me to say that my blog had been an important outlet of advice for them, helping them to navigate many issues they have faced in their own intercultural relationship. So, thank you for all the support, I am very heartened.

My husband and I just got back from our honeymoon in Europe and on the way back to Australia, I was on the plane looking at R thinking to myself ‘look what he has done for me’.

That might sound weird, but let me explain.

Most Nepali people don’t even know what a honeymoon is.

I know a few Nepali couples who have lived in a Western country for most of their life who have gone on honeymoons but a quick poll of my 40-50 Nepali friends is evident enough- no- they didn’t go on a honeymoon.

After marriage in Nepal, it is very uncommon for a newly married bride and groom to go on a holiday together somewhere for a romantic time.

To be honest, the whole notion of romantic gestures in Nepal are rare (yes some people will disagree with me) but compared to Western culture, romantic gestures such as honeymoons are very uncommon (happy to be challenged on this if any of you have any evidence!)

So, I had to explain to Rabindra what a honeymoon is and why it’s important to me. Yes it’s part of Western/Australian culture but it’s also a helluva good idea to have a break after a stressful year with the wedding!

It took Rabindra a while to get used to the idea of a Honeymoon…(hhhhmm a good two years) but he came around and agreed to my idea of an overseas honeymoon.

Anyway, back to the point of this blog, which is this: how much should you change to adapt to your spouse’s culture?  In a recent interview I did with a magazine, I was asked about what advice I would give to others in an intercultural relationship.

My answer was something that has only come to me  very recently, only in the past year or so. It was this: “It’s important to compromise but it’s also important to hold on to our own culture and not lose who we are. If you change yourself too much to adapt to your partner’s culture, you will lose your own identity.”  

 

This is still the most powerful advice I’ve ever given myself.  

I often think about the changes both of us have made to adapt and be apart of each other’s culture.

It’s virtually impossible to not change when you are married to a person whose entire culture, background, and even basic ideologies are different from your own.

I feel like I have made many changes to adapt to Nepali culture, but Rabindra has too.

For me, learning the language, dressing up in sari etc, taking tikka, wearing sindoor, marking Nepali festivals, cooking Nepali food etc and trying to understand the different parts of Nepali culture, are just some of the changes I have made.

While I am open to making compromises there are some parts of Nepali culture which I will stand firm on because they are against my core values, something which I am not willing to change.

I disagree with many parts of Nepali culture, for example,  the exclusion of girls during their periods because they are ‘unclean’, the inequality women and girls face in all facets of life and many other patriarchal parts of Nepali society which are too extensive to list here.

Essentially, I try not to sweat the small stuff. If it’s an important matter, I will try really hard to understand him and where he  or his family is coming from. But if it’s important to me, I will express myself and not give in.

Maybe the next time you are facing an issue with your partner or in-laws, ask yourself , is this really important to me? Is it a part of my identity and what matters to me? Or is it more of a small problem which we can discuss and face together?

It may sound like simple advice, but I hope I have explained a clear enough distinction between the two.

The honeymoon is just a small example of what Rabindra changed for the sake of me. This was also not a part of his core values or ideologies therefore he could openly change.

Other parts of his culture such as not eating beef and honouring his elders, just to name a few, are part of his core values and ones which I do not expect him to change.

I honestly belief if you change your own values, it will only lead you to have regret, dissidence and resentment in the future.

In all relationships, there is give and take. But in intercultural relationships, a great deal of effort and understanding has to occur to ensure there is an equal balance of give and take.

How much have you changed for the sake of your partner’s culture?

Are there things you will stand firm on, against what your partner or in-laws believe in?

Or have you changed for your partner and regretted it later?

Have your say

Posted in Intercultural Relationship | 29 Comments

A break from blog-land

I am going to give blogging a break for a while mainly because I used to find this blog very liberating but lately it hasn’t been. I have had privacy issues, trolls and essentially a lot of negativity.

I am fine though and funnily enough, when I push away the really negative parts of Nepali culture that disturb me, I am incredibly happy with just being with my man.

All of those negatives I saw in the Nepali culture flared up in a fairly short, intense period last year and they haven’t come into our life for the last couple of months.

If I can find enough mental strength to put these negative aspects out of my mind once and for all, I will be truly free.

The next chapter of my journey consists of love, career, travel and some half Aussie/Nepali babies hopefully on the way…

If there are any girls in intercultural relationships who want to keep in touch, you can email me at aussie_chick_star@hotmail.com

Much love

C

Posted in Intercultural Relationship | 11 Comments

Being treated differently in Nepal & being refused from Hindu temples

I thought I would share some of the negative experiences I had as a foreigner while travelling throughout Nepal last year.

I feel sharing my experiences may help other foreigners to understand certain behaviours before they travel to Nepal.

Even though  it’s common for many tourists to be overcharged and ripped off whilst travelling through Asia, I must admit it was pretty ludicrous in Nepal.

It first started on one of my first shopping trips to a scarf shop in Thamel.

The price the man gave me for a handmade shawl was around $30 AUD. I left the shop and told Rabindra the price outside.

Two minutes later Rabindra went in and the salesman offered it to Rabindra for $6 AUD. So I figured this is how it was going to roll in Nepal…but that wasn’t so bad.

This was virtually repeated during most of my 6-week trip to Nepal. I don’t mind paying extra to support small shop owners -and let’s face it our dollar is worth much more than the Nepali dollar- but it riled me up when I would have to wait and hide around a corner and get Rabindra to do the shopping for the stuff I wanted to buy.

It was also pretty ridiculous having to hide in a nearby shop or street when Rabindra or his brother were negotiating our taxi fare rate across Kathmandu. It seemed every single time they saw me the price would magically increase so to get a fair price I would have to hide somewhere away from the taxi, it was pretty stupid!

Another thing that annoyed me was the fact that entry prices to museums, parks etc had two prices- a local price and a foreigner price (which was usually 500% more than the local price).

Because I was travelling with locals, it was a bit different than if I was travelling with other tourists. We could go and pay the entry fee and it would end in a big argument with the guards because Rabindra tried to argue I was a local- even with my red hair and fair skin obvious to everyone!

The arguing was not all about money. It was a matter of principle. In fact, it was about equality.

Rabindra would say: “mero budi nepali ho,” “wahaako nepali passport ho” roughly translated to “my wife is a nepali”, “she has a nepali passport.”

The guard would look at us and refuse and more arguing would ensue (even one time we got pulled into a special room – gasp-). Eventually they would let me in on the cheaper price, mostly because of Rabindra being so tall and towering over the top of them!

The common situation was us rocking up together with mummy, dad, rabindra, rabindra’s  bhai, didi, aunty and cousins all in tow and being told “that’s 50 rupees each – but hey—whose this foreigner? Let’s charge her 500 rupees!”

It’s pretty degrading to be singled out every single time and I got sick of preparing myself for another long argument of Rabindra v The Entry Guard at every new place we went.

It happened at the museum in Pokhara, the Mankanama Temple cable car, the elephant breeding park at Chitwan, the main entry of the Pashupatinath temple and a couple of other times.

But the next examples are even worse.

One day we went to Bhakatpur, and for those not familiar with Kathmandu- Bhakatpur is a public space in an outdoor area.

Yes, the area is heritage listed but it’s still a public place which has shops, temples and normal buildings around it.

To me, it was any normal, outdoor public place in Nepal. As we approached the entry in our vehicle, the guard saw everyone in our Jeep and thinking they were all Nepali, he started to wave us through without having to paying anything. But then he saw me in the back of the Jeep and asked the driver to stop.

He then told the driver it was free for all 7 Nepali people in our car but I would have to pay $30USD to enter a public place.

By this time, I’d really had enough. It was bad enough having to pay a different “foreigner” price at private companies but this was a public place and there was no cost for Nepalis.

For about 20 minutes my Nepali uncle (who is actually my friend’s father-in-law) argued with the guard about how discriminatory it was before I finally got let in at no charge.

He has travelled throughout Australia and other countries and said it was a disgrace that that happened to me.

But more discrimination was yet to come.

While I was in Nepal I rolled my ankle and had to get x-rays. Our friend went to a doctor’s practice in Pokhara and asked how much it was for an ankle x-ray to see if my foot was broken.

Our friend returned and told us the price and that he had booked an appointment for me in the afternoon.

When we went back that afternoon, the receptionist told me that an x-ray on my foot would be almost four times the price my friend was originally quoted.

Straight away we knew it was because they saw me and thought they would jack up the prices.

My friend had a boisterous argument with staff at the practice and roughly translated he said something like “She doesn’t have a f***** iron leg mate”!

Suffice to say it was a bit of a drama.

But actually my most negative experience that really made me upset was when I was refused from every Hindu temple I tried to enter.

It happened on three occasions- twice in Kathmandu and also in a very remote region of the Himalayas.

Before entering these temples, it never once crossed my mind or Rabindra’s mind, that I would not be allowed in.

When I went to enter the guard would tell us it was not their policy to allow foreigners (read: white people) inside temples.

I guess it’s because most of us ‘white’ people eat beef and cows are the Gods of Hindus. It may also be because many believe you are not a true Hindu unless you are born a Hindu, and you can’t convert to Hinduism.

It made me think about the many cross-cultural relationships in the world where one partner really respects and begins to follow their partner’s religion/culture. If you were serious about the religion and this happened to you, it could cause problems in your relationship.

It also made me think about the genuine ‘white’ Hindus who have converted to Hinduism and may practice the religion much stronger than other ‘brown-looking’ Nepalis.

What about if we have kids and they have white skin but they have been brought up as Hindu? I wonder what the guards would do then.

Anyway, the first time we went we didn’t want to make a scene so I just waited outside by myself while Rabindra and everyone else went inside. I wasn’t that affected by it.

The second time I could tell it really upset Rabindra. I was also sad and he only went inside for a minute or two before leaving and coming outside.

Rabindra confronted the guards on the second two times and made a very important point.

He said to the guards:  “look at my face. How do you know I am not a Nepali Christian or a Muslim. You can’t tell by the look of my face just like you can’t tell by the look of her face what she is. How do you know I don’t eat beef?”

I was really proud of Rabindra for sticking up for me and he made a really strong point to both guards.

Yes, they don’t accept foreigners but why? Is it because we eat beef? Or is it because we have white skin even though Hinduism may be all we’ve ever followed.

The policy of rejecting foreigners is extremely flawed in Nepal. While I can understand them not wanting non-believers in their temples, people who ‘eat’ their Gods, their policy is blatantly racist as you can’t tell by the look of someone if they are of one religious persuasion or another. For all they knew, Rabindra could have been a beef-eating Christian!

The funny thing is that as a result of all that rejection in Hindu temples, I was whole-heartily welcomed in every Buddhist temple. Rabindra now jokes he is a Buddhist not a Hindu as it is a much more accepting religion, and I have to agree.

So, there you go, I experienced plenty of discrimination whilst in Nepal.

I made some poignant points to Rabindra and my other Nepali friends which I hope is shared amongst other Nepalis in the world.

  • In Australia, Asians or other “foreigners” would never be singled out and expected to pay a separate, inflated price simply because of the colour of their skin. In Australia this would be called blatant racism.
  • Public places in Australia (except for events that are held in public places) do not have a guard at the front picking and choosing who looks “Australian” and who does not. I have never ever heard of someone letting in Aussies for free and charging a price for different looking “Asians” , once again a case of racism.
  • In Australia, whilst shopping in most stores, tourists will generally pay the exact same price as a local. No bargaining over here.
  • And lastly, even whilst I am certainly not a religious Catholic by any means, no Catholic church would ever refuse any man or woman from entering their church (unless they were dangerous, drunk, violent etc)- no matter whether their skin was black, white, blue or green.

No double standards in that regard.

Can anyone related to my experiences?

Did you experience discrimination in Nepal, India or another country?

Do you think I’m overreacting to my experiences or should all tourists expect this when they travel through Asia?

Please share your thoughts here.

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