1. You become used to explaining to people back home that Nepal is not Tibet or India.
I had a friend who was convinced I lived in Tibet. I’ve never been to Tibet, and have rarely (if ever) mentioned the place in conversation. No matter how many times I referred to Nepal, she would respond with ‘Tibet’. Others assume that I’m living in India because of some of the things I post on social media — photos of Hindu temples, curry, and women in saris.
2. You come up with creative ways of avoiding having to eat dal bhat.
Lentils and rice are such inoffensive things in themselves, and together make a tasty, nutritious meal: dal bhat. But when you stay at your Nepali boyfriend’s place for a week and you’re served dal bhat twice a day, you’ve got to come up with some alternatives that won’t offend your hosts. Ask for a smaller serving of rice; ask for extra spinach or potato curry; mix it with pickle; request chapattis instead of rice; suggest that noodle soup might be a nice idea. If all else fails, play the foreigner card and just say you’re not used to eating several kilograms of rice and lentils every day, especially in hot weather.
3. You become much more aware of using resources.
You will wonder how you could ever have been wasteful of electricity or water. Residents of Kathmandu know that leaving the tap running when you brush your teeth might mean that you don’t have any more water with which to flush your toilet or wash your hands later. Leaving a light on could drain the back-up power supply, meaning no more electricity until the nine-hour load-shedding window is over. And hairdryers?! Forget about them. I’m pretty sure I caused a neighborhood black-out the last time I tried to use mine.
4. You’re more afraid of dogs at night than people.
Although assaults (including sexual assaults) are occasionally heard of in Kathmandu, most of the time you feel safer than in the vast majority of Western cities (and definitely the majority of US cities). This includes at night. While it’s still not recommended to walk around alone in the middle of the night, especially if you’re female, if you’re walking home after a late night with a friend, you’re more likely to run into an aggressive dog than a problematic human being. Those street dogs that look sweet while napping in the sun in the daytime do a Jekyll-and-Hyde about-face at night. They become territorial and often aggressive.
5. Your fashion sense will… change.
Returning to Australia for a visit, the customs official asked me where I’d been. When I told him Nepal, he looked me up and down and said, “Yeah, you look like it.” In Kathmandu, if it’s clean, you’re good to go. And realistically, it doesn’t even need to be that clean. You’ll be covered in dust/mud soon enough anyway. My Nepali wardrobe is comprised of several pairs of cotton leggings; one pair of zip-off cargo pants/shorts (strictly for travel only); a few kurtis (tunics) that cover my bum; numerous cotton, silk and woolen shawls; a pair of hiking boots and some slip-on flat shoes. And that’s about it.
6. You develop different attitudes towards traffic rule enforcement.
After long enough in Nepal, you aren’t surprised when fifteen people crammed into the back of a pick-up truck (yourself included) at 11 PM careen through the almost-deserted streets of Kathmandu on the way to a bar, pass the police checkpoint, and are not stopped. That checkpoint was for breathalyzing only. Whatever rules your vehicle might be breaking are someone else’s problem. Or not, as the case may be.
7. Your stomach never feels quite right.
It’s unlikely — although not impossible — that you’ll pick up anything really nasty from the food and drink as long as you take care, but many long-term expat residents of Kathmandu admit to never feeling quite 100% here. Stomach grumbles and loss of appetite signal that your body is fighting off the bugs.
8. The phrase ‘Nepali time’ is both a comfort and a curse.
When you’re running late, you don’t need to worry. You can just say you’re running on Nepali time and everyone will understand. When your bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu is stuck in a two-hour traffic jam just outside the Valley and your conductor shrugs and says that you’ll arrive in Nepali time, you’re less amused.
9. You become very intimate with the ‘loading’ icon on your computer.
That infuriating little circle that keeps on going round and round and round… and round… while your internet connection wakes up, considers whether it feels like getting up this morning, and then goes back to bed. You’ve become very familiar with the patio seating and wait-staff at Dhokaima Café because their Wifi usually works (unlike Café Soma’s, which usually doesn’t).
10. You don’t expect 24 hour power.
In fact, you’re not even sure it’s necessary. It’s simple enough to time your daily microwaving, kettle boiling, computer using, TV watching, hot-water showering and battery charging around the generous four hours of scheduled power.
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