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Many different ethnic groups coexist in Nepal, each with their own complex customs.In the Kathmandu Valley, where they mix the most, there’s a high degree of tolerance of different clothes and lifestyles – a fact that travellers sense, and often abuse.
The gestures for “yes” and “no” are also confusing to foreigners.
To indicate agreement, tilt your head slightly to one side and then back the other way.
To tell a tout or a seller “no”, hold one hand up in front of you, palm forwards, and swivel your wrist subtly, as if you were adjusting a bracelet; shaking the head in the Western fashion looks too much like “yes”. Hill Nepal is less rigid than much of India, but caste deeply ingrained in the national psyche.
Nepal “abolished” the caste system in 1963, but millennia-old habits take time to change.
Though professions are changing and “love marriage” is more popular, caste and status still determine whom most Nepalis may (or must) marry, where they can live and who they can associate with.
Foreigners are technically casteless, but in the remote far western hills they can be considered polluting to orthodox, high-caste Hindus.