Geography: Nepal is a mountainous country landlocked between China and India. With an area of 147,181 sq. km., it is about the same size as Arkansas. It contains 8 of the highest mountain peaks in the world, including Mount Everest. The population is approximately 30 million people. The capital city, Kathmandu, has a population of 1,037,073.
People: Nepal has over 100 ethnic/caste groups. Caste is often as important of a distinction as ethnicity in this strongly Hindu culture. Over 125 languages are spoken in Nepal due to ethic/caste differences. Nepal is a relationship-oriented society; therefore, families are extremely close, and in order to be accepted into the culture, you must establish a relationship first.
Economy: Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with about one-quarter of its population living below the poverty line (less than $1 a day). Subsistence agricultural occupies up to 75% of the population and accounts for 37% of GDP.
Politics: Ruled by an ancient hereditary monarchy for centuries, Nepal’s political isolation from the outside world ended in 1951. The 1990’s and 2000’s were characterized by painful and disruptive civil unrest provoked by Maoist rebels. In 2008, Nepal became a federal democratic republic. Though much has improved, the government remains insolvent, and constitutional reform has been delayed further.
Religion: Once the world’s only Hindu Kingdom, Nepal is now officially a secular democracy. However, 81% of the population still practices Hinduism, and temples for idol worship are prevalent on every street corner. Christianity accounts for only 1.5% of the population.
Food / Drink: Nepalese typically eat two meals a day. A standard meal consists of rice, lentils, and vegetables, with meat, eggs, and bread prepared on an occasional basis. Tea time is an important part of the culture. Milk or black tea is typically served three times a day. Because of the relationship-oriented culture, meal/tea times last longer than a typical American meal time.
Location / Culture / Attire: People in the city live primarily in apartment buildings or houses that use a flat system. Most people use public buses or walking for transportation. In large cities, many people have motorcycles/ scooters, with a minority of people having cars. The main roads in Kathmandu are paved, but in the villages, all roads are dirt. Nepali people are hospitable and typically welcome you for tea. Men wear pants and T-shirts (collared shirts for teaching) and ladies wear kurtas (Nepali suit with long shirt and pants).
Climate: Because of the vast altitude differences in Nepal, the climate is also different depending on location and time of year. In Kathmandu, the weather averages a high of 50F in the winter (Dec-Jan), a high of 70F in spring/fall (Feb-Apr / Sept-Nov), and a high of 90F in summer (May-Aug). During monsoon season (Jun-Aug), humidity is extremely high and rain is constant.
Risks: There are protests/strikes against the government from time to time, which causes businesses to close down and puts limitations on travel. Foreigners traveling to Nepal are at risk for traveler's/bacterial diarrhea due to poor food sanitation.