New to Nepal?

Do you love the outdoors, trekking, rafting, and general extreme living?  Are you an REI member?  Head to Nepal!

Nepal may be one of the poorest countries in the world but it is home to some of the warmest people on this earth.  In no time, you will feel like part of your Nepali host family drinking countless cups of tea, gorging yourself on the local dal bhat, and bathing with a bucket.  You’ll also enjoy breathtaking views of the Himalayas, thrilling jungle safaris, and edge of your seat trips on public transportation!

“Nepal’s location between India and Tibet, the diversity of its ethnic groups, its isolating geography and myriad languages have resulted in a complex pattern of customs and beliefs that make it hard to generalize about ‘Nepali people’.” – Lonely Planet, Nepal

There are a few things that all volunteers should know before arriving in Nepal.  First, Nepal is a country that has many religious beliefs but the people are remarkably tolerant of other’s beliefs. According to the 2001 census in Nepal, the country is dominated by Hinduism with 86.2% of the population practicing this religion. The remainder of the population is comprised of Buddhists (7.8%), Muslims (3.8%), and Others (2.2%).

There is still an active caste system in Nepal. While it is more acceptable to marry someone from a different caste or intermix socially with people from different castes, it is still a pervasive part of daily life. Arranged marriages remain the norm in Nepali Hindu society although among young Nepali people, particularly in urban areas, there is an increasing number of “love” marriages. In Nepal, it is not polite to ask a person about their personal relationships unless you have a close friendship.

Education has just recently landed on the national agenda. In 1950, Nepal’s literacy rate was less than 2%. Today, according to a Unicef poll from 2003-2008, 57% of the adult population is literate with many students going on to college and university. That being said, the country still needs to make tremendous strides in developing curriculum and standards to prepare their students for today’s global economy.

Nepal’s political situation has been turbulent for the last few decades. In 1996, the Maoists went underground and waged a civil war in Nepal for almost 10 years. In 2005, they realized that violent struggle wouldn’t bring them power and sought to act through appropriate government channels. In April 2008, as the largest political party, they ruled for almost 9 months before leaving the seat of power. Now, there is a 22 party alliance in the government with support of the Nepali Congress. They have a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

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