Nepal: Health and Cultural Dos and Don’ts

Nepal: Health and Cultural Dos and Don’ts


Southern Asia, including Nepal and India, is an area where you can easily pick up stomach bugs if you’re not careful. Therefore, the following should be kept in mind:

Liquids/Drinks: Don’t drink any water unless it is boiled, treated with iodine solution, or is provided in a securely sealed, commercially-produced, bottle. Coffee and tea are OK as is beer, wine, and carbonated brand-name sodas such as Coca-Cola. Don’t accept drinks having ice-cubes in them. Don‘t brush your teeth with local water or get water in your mouth when bathing. Do not trust the water in hotels, even if staff says it is boiled or treated!

An excellent way to purify water when traveling is to put two drops of Tincture of Iodine in a glass of water, stir the water, and wait 10 minutes. Larger quantities of water in a bottle can be treated proportionately — with about 4 drops – for use as drinking water and if or brushing teeth. Or you can use Iodine Tablets (sold in the camping section of Wal-Mart as “Potable Aqua”) in your water bottle and follow the directions.

Tincture of Iodine is available at pharmacies. Put some in an empty dropper bottle for convenient use or carry an eye dropper in a small plastic bag along with the Iodine. Bring to Nepal (a) a water bottle, and (11) Iodine Tablets and/or (c) Tincture of Iodine, an eye dropper or an empty dropper bottle, and L1 small plastic bag. (Note: The water bottle should be empty when leaving the USA, since large quantities of liquid are not allowed for security purposes) Food: Eat only hot, freshly-cooked food (which is sterile). Never eat salads, since they’re not cooked and possibly loaded with bacteria and parasites. Similarly, you never know if cold food, including deserts and bread, has had flies land on it. Hot toast and freshly cooked breads are OK.

Fruits: The inside of fruits that you have peeled is OK, such as oranges and bananas.

Packaged snacks: Packaged snacks like candy bars and nuts should be OK.


Men and Women: Nepal is a very modest society. Men and women don’t touch one another in public. So don’t hug someone of the opposite sex or even shake their hands unless the person puts out his or her hand first. Instead, put your hands together (as when praying), look at the person, and  say “Namaste” [Nah-ma-ste] — which is equivalent to saying “hello” (You can also say “Namaste” when leaving, as “good-bye”)

Men and Men: Men do touch one another in a friendly way. So don’t be surprised if you are a man and a Nepalese male colleague holds hands with you while strolling down the street or a hallway.

Left and Right Hands: In South Asian countries, the left hand is used to wipe oneself after going to the bathroom. So that hand is considered to be unclean. Therefore, don’t give people things with your left hand. Use your right hand or both hands at once. Also, eat with your right hand. Don’t put things in your mouth with your left hand unless you want to be considered “odd.”

Feet, legs, and head: The feet are the most unclean part of the body while the head is the purest. So (1) don’t step over anyone, (2) don’t point the bottom of your feet at anyone, (3) don’t touch anyone with your foot (and if you do, apologize), and (4) don’t touch anyone‘s head.

Eating: Once you eat something with your hand, that hand is considered to be impure until it is washed. Anything it touches also becomes impure. So, during a meal, eat only using your right hand, so that your left hand doesn’t become contaminated and you can use it to take second helpings. Don’t take seconds using your right hand, or else the food it touches will become impure and others may not eat it. Instead, use your left hand to serve yourself.

Prepared by R. H. Pfau

28 April 201 l

Posted by Barbara L. Williams, Eastern Connecticut State University, University Trainer/Instructor


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