Why does my house feel like a train station?

To say that Nepalis have a different understanding of the concept of ‘personal space’ from the English is a huge understatement, certainly if today was anything to go by. If an Englishman’s home is his castle, I was under siege today. An assortment of (mostly uninvited) people has been popping in and out of my flat since early this morning. First, I opened my bedroom door to find a child from down the road standing in the hallway demanding chocolate. Thinking that I was alone in the house, he scared the living crap out of me, but did introduce himself very politely once I had recovered my composure. Throughout the morning a we had a procession of members of the landlords’ family from downstairs coming up and down the stairs and hallway with ritual objects for a puja on the roof for the first day of Dashain (To be fair, the only way that the family downstairs can get to the roof is by going through our flat). When their kids got bored of the puja the came and played in our hallway and had a good old laugh at the strange foreigners working on their laptops in the living room/office.

The security guard likes to wander in and out too. Actually ‘wander’ is the wrong way to put it; he likes to make an entrance by saluting, stamping his foot and wearing such a serious facial expression that you expect him to deliver some line like ‘the Queen, my lord, is dead’ rather than ‘your new gas cylinder just arrived.’ The guard is like a kid who has been cast in the as a messenger in a school play and wants to make up for being given a meager role by saying his lines with as much gravitas and volume as he can muster. He frequently scares the living crap out of me too and is just one of many reasons why wandering around in my pyjamas is out of the question here.

Nepaliketi seems to be a bit bemused by Nepali attitudes to private/public too:

In Nepal the public is public and the private too is public….Texting my mom in the micro I can feel the heavy breathing of a random man as he pores over what I am writing. Trying on shirts in a store the clerk feels the need to comment on the texture of my hair and even recommend possible remedies. Paying the bill at Saleways and the guy behind me is also counting how much cash I have left in my wallet. Threading my eyebrows and the beautician forces me to play 20-questions – about my life, love, trials and tribulations.

In the early evening, thinking I was alone (which you’d think I’d have guessed by now is never a wise assumption) I was starting to write this blog post when a little voice whispered in my ear ‘please give me chocolate’, and this time I didn’t nearly have a heart attack when I found the kid from down the road standing right behind me. I’ve gradually come to accept that ideas of personal space are just different, and that there is no point fighting a losing battle against the surprise visitors in the house during my remaining months in the Tarai. It would be nice if some of them could use the doorbell, but ke garne…?


2 Responses to “Why does my house feel like a train station?”

  1. Living with 5 Nepali guys and most of my friends being Nepali people…I’ve learned a lot about privacy or the lack there of!

  2. I love your posts. Keep it up, i went to a intl school in Nepal and always found it interesting regarding the thoughts of my friends on the culture in Nepal, traditions and the people. Would love to meet you next year.
    Take Care
    Happy Dashain!

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