Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Nitpicking in Nepal


Every time human beings find themselves in a different cultural milieu than the one they are familiar with, they suffer from a phenomenon known as culture shock and need expert guidance in local customs and etiquette.

This is especially true of countries like Nepal where the habits of easy-going natives may not be familiar to first-time visitors: like the tradition of taking a forced three-day nationwide holiday twice a month. The rules of the road are fairly simple: Two Legs Good, Four Wheels Bad, Three Legs Bad Unless It Is Three Wheels And Has Wings. Rollerblades Are OK, Cablecars Are Not. Rickshaws Are Fine, Autorickshaws Are Not.

See, if you didn't know these quaint local customs you would be completely lost in Nepal. That is why we have taken the liberty of presenting a list of simple do's and don'ts and the general rule of thumb which is: while in Nepal, be as disgusting as us.

Public Grooming
Nepalis love to nitpick and can be seen doing this in public on the sidewalks, on terraces and balconies at all times of day and night. Usually anyone can nitpick anyone else, but since looking for lice on someone else's hair is an indication of some degree of mutual intimacy it is frowned upon if it involves two or more individuals of the same sex. It is perfectly acceptable, however, to approach a stranger sitting next to you in a long-distance bus and after necessary introductions start looking for nits in each others' hair. Besides being a great way to pass the time, it is also mutually hygienic.

Toothpicking is another favourite past-time and, luckily in Nepal, there are no rules governing how people with advanced halitosis should pick their teeth in polite company. This is why many foreigners opt to make Nepal their home because they don't have to worry about exhuming items of food from their molars within earshot of guests sitting around the table. We are proud to say that there is complete freedom within Nepal's territorial waters as far as self-exploration of the oral cavity is concerned.

The nose is another orifice that we Nepalis are proud to call our own. Thanks to our ancestors who risked life and limb to explore its uncharted upper reaches, the terrain map has been handed from generation to generation through word of mouth so that today we modern Nepalis are quite familiar with our nooks and crannies. The probe of choice for nasal expeditions is the pinkie with a nail that is designed to grow into the shape of a tiny shovel that can efficiently mine nuggets of precious booty deep inside our snouts.

Because of space constraints we can't go into the conventions of etiquette governing the grooming of other body parts. Suffice to say that Nepal also has a laissez faire attitude about expelling body fluids. A visitor to Nepal need not be unduly concerned about clearing the throat in public. It is done with a quick intake of breath to dislodge the primary target area in the oesophagus, pneumatically roll it into an aerodynamically stable glob, and then with the same technology used in shoulder-fired heatseeking missiles expectorate this biological warhead at an innocent bystander.

Next week we will be looking at the endearing Nepali passion of rummaging through the toolbox in public.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)