Upon arriving in Nepal, many cultural differences stood out to us. The first being how unorganized and hectic the traffic is. Despite the mayhem, there seems to be no accidents and drivers yield to each other. This was our first glimpse into how polite the Nepali people are even in the messy traffic. After arriving at the Hira Guest House and exploring around Patan, it became more evident on how respectful the culture is. Our first day in Patan, we got lost multiple times. Every time a local happily helped us find our way. Almost every local has been very friendly to us and we even got to know some of the shopkeepers around the hotel on a first name basis. The kindness and respect the Nepali people show towards even strangers seems to be rooted in their close ties to the Hindu and Buddhist religions.
A large part of what we have witnessed this week was how important religion is to the Nepali people. Along the streets, there are many temples and shrines dedicated to deities to which people bring daily offerings. We were also able to attend a celebration of the Buddha’s birthday at Swayambhunath, one of the first Buddhist temples. Many were lighting candles that symbolized unity and the spreading of happiness. We felt a strong sense of community and spiritualism from the people in attendance.
Some of the locals educated us on the origins of Buddhism in Nepal and how important it is to their daily lives. The good fortune Buddhist flags can be seen everywhere all over the city. According to the locals, Buddhism in particular stresses compassion, respect and kindness towards others, which was evident in how well we were treated on every leg of our stay so far. The incredible hospitality and friendliness of the Nepali people that roots from their strong religious beliefs are defining characteristics of their culture.
During the weekend when we trekked on the Poon Hill trail, we were able to see the culture of the population that lives in the mountains. They live a frugal lifestyle that consists of opening their homes to trekkers as restaurants/guest houses, agriculture, and raising livestock. Like many of the other Nepali people, they are extremely hospitable and friendly. Every guest house that we stayed at was incredibly welcoming and provided us with great meals and company. Our guide and porter also educated us on their culture of climbing. Many of the mountain men, called sherpas, can carry loads of up to 60 kilograms on their backs and climb the steep mountains easily while the team was struggling to complete the same task with no weight. The sherpas and porters are conditioned to climb in extremely cold temperatures and with massive amounts of weight on their backs. Many of them are former Gurkha soldiers, the most elite of the Nepali armed forces. Our sherpa, Buddhi Man, has been a sherpa for 25 years to support his family and put his daughters in college. They are hardworking and extremely passionate about climbing. We eventually reached the top of Poon Hill 3210 meters above sea level. The view was breathtaking. Hard work and being content with their frugal lifestyles are also cultural characteristics that we observed.