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My neighbour is Nepali

Nepal is a landlocked, mountainous country located between India and Tibet. It is well known for the impressive Himalayan range and deep valleys that shape the landscape. 

Most Nepalis live in the lower valleys and plains where the climate is very warm. There are very few urban centres outside of the capital city of Kathmandu. A majority of the population still lives in rural areas.

Nepal is largely underdeveloped with limited social services and public infrastructure. Poverty in Nepal is complex and approximately a fifth of the population live below the poverty line and earn less than USD 1.90 per day. 

The monarchy was dissolved in 2008, and the country was declared a democratic republic.

Life in Australia

The Nepali community has become one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in Australia, growing from just over 3,800 people in 2005 to more than 90,000 in 2020. 

Australia continues to be a country of choice for Nepali students. Families will often make large sacrifices to send their children overseas for education. This places a huge burden on the student, as they may be struggling to survive here, plus paying for their education and working part-time while supporting the family back home in Nepal.

Nepali people in Australia are very time poor. If people seem busy, they often are. Persevere with your efforts to connect.

Although 78.8 per cent of Nepalis hold some kind of higher qualification, many educational qualifications are not recognised in Australia and that can make it challenging to obtain a job. Some Nepalis who have migrated here may also have a spouse or parents who may not be as well educated. 

The Australian Nepali community has settled mainly in Sydney and Melbourne but there are also Nepali communities in rural areas due to residency requirements.

Family life

“The family” refers to a wide network of extended relationships for most Nepalis. While single family units have started gaining preference in urban areas, the multigenerational household is still most common. 

In Nepal, family reputation and status are very important. Respect for age is a longstanding tradition and value in Nepali society. Traditional values around marriage are rapidly changing. Children are expected to defer to and obey their parents and older siblings.


While Nepali is the official language, the 2011 census in Nepal reported 121 ethnicities speaking about 123 languages.


Nepal’s cultural heritage is deeply influenced by religion – predominately Hindu with a significant Buddhist influence. 

The importance of religion influences the Nepali approach to problem solving. It is common for people to take a fatalistic attitude, assuming the cause of problems to be the result of a god’s or spirit’s work.

In Australia 81 per cent of Nepalis are Hindu and 1.4 per cent are Christian. The Christian church in Nepal is less than seventy years old, so most believers are first-generation or second-generation Christians.

When meeting people of Nepali ancestry, please consider…

Nepalis love companionship. People rarely go anywhere alone, particularly women.

The most common question to ask someone upon meeting them is, “Have you eaten yet?” This forms the same conversational function as the question, “How are you?” in Australia. However, there is no expectation that you will give a pat answer or lie. It is expected that you reply truthfully, “Yes, thank you. I ate just before,” and continue the discussion.

Being hospitable is a very important quality in Nepal and it is an honour to host. Nepalis generally don’t eat food without sharing it. Even in the context of the office lunch or a snack, they will offer what they have to others.

Be aware when you invite Nepalis to your home it is good to ask what people eat beforehand. For the most part, they do not eat beef. It is quite offensive to be served beef as the cow is worshipped in Hinduism. Some Hindus are also vegan, and some don’t eat pork.

It’s polite to always offer to take your shoes off before entering the home. Nepalis usually socialise most before eating. It is polite not to walk into someone else’s kitchen until they have invited you to.

If you are the guest, expect to be asked to eat first. It is also polite to accept seconds and to eat everything on your plate, so if they give you too much, give some back at the beginning. In fact, give enough back that you think you will have room for seconds. 

Nepalis will not normally accept food or drink till it is offered a few times. This means even if you say, “No” they will keep offering a few times before they are sure you really don’t want anything. Similarly, if you only offer something once, they may not accept and will sit there hungry. 

When the meal is finished, people usually leave quickly afterward.

Nepalis are very polite but may ask questions that feel blunt or direct. People often reach out to friends for personal favours and support. Objects should be passed, offered and received with the right hand or both hands together.

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