My journey to Nepal started rather unexpectedly. As part of my Master’s program in Mobilities and Educational Tourism at Caen university, I was required to complete a relevant internship experience outside of France. However, I hadn’t set my mind on coming to Nepal, in reality, I had little idea about what it would be like to work in Nepal as a foreigner. Now that I’ve been working in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, for some time, I’ve decided to write down everything I wish I knew about working in Nepal.
It was only while looking up ‘community tourism’ —my area of interest— that I found out about an intriguing organization in Nepal called Community Homestay Network. It is an organization that offers unique and authentic experiences, living with locals. And so I sent in an application expressing my interest in working with them and eight months later I’d find myself on a plane to Kathmandu.
Finding yourself in Kathmandu
My mom was nice enough to accompany me on the first leg of my adventure. She returned to France after two weeks in Nepal with me. On a recent phone call with her, she told me about how she missed the atmosphere of Nepal. Others who have been to the country before seem to share the sentiment.
We arrive in Nepal, on the 1st of February. Even with just a first few steps in the country, I could see that everything was very different from my home country. We (me and my mom) were lucky enough to be picked up at the airport by my internship supervisor, Pushpa, who also brought us to our home for the next two weeks, Aarya Chaitya Inn. The following accommodation will be an apartment in Patan, where I will live for the next 5 months.
Since my mom and I arrived one week before my internship, we had the time to visit different places in Kathmandu. Boudhanath, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Thamel, and Pashupatinath are just some of the highlights. Just walking in the streets of Kathmandu is an adventure. Scooters roaming everywhere, no exact addresses, potholes in roads, and countless old maze-like streets make the city beautifully chaotic.
Even eating was a challenge as the local food was often quite spicy. Being someone who has never eaten with a lot of spice, for me it is a significant change in my eating habits, and sometimes my tummy has had a hard time adapting to my new diet.
What really impressed me was the blend of old and new architecture and the Nepali daily life that I could observe. The differences that Kathmandu had with my hometown in France made everything seem all the more charming. Even after almost two months, the city still carries the same charm.
This adventure seemed unreal and in a way, was overwhelming for me. Frankly speaking, at the very beginning of my trip, I wasn’t completely at ease (I still am uncomfortable sometimes in certain situations). This is mostly because I don’t appreciate standing out; being a European it is quickly evident that I am a foreigner.
However, as work began, I was able to take my marks and acclimate myself to the Nepali office environment. A key reason why I could adjust so easily is largely because of the kindness and friendliness of the Nepalese people, mostly in my working and living spaces. I was amazed by the way they were careful with my problems and how they would accompany me through things that I found difficult. I felt well-supported, and it was very reassuring. It really touched me when my internship supervisor, Pushpa, told me “Taking care of you is the least we can do. You’ve come such a long way.” She made me feel that most Nepali people were heartwarming and welcoming, and also quite curious.
Daily life: Working in Kathmandu
Before writing about what a casual day looks like in Kathmandu, I want to point out some key information. First of all, working in the tourism sector here, we have low/off seasons and high seasons. During the low season, we work from 10 Am to 5 PM from Monday to Friday, while in high season, we work from 9 AM to 5 PM or 10 AM to 6 PM, from Sunday to Friday. The high season lasts from March to May in the spring and September to November in the fall.
This was surprising for me because in France it’s on Sundays that we don’t work and here it is on Saturdays. During the high seasons, we work up to 48 hours per week; in France the maximum we are allowed is 35 hours.
A casual day
I usually wake up around 8 am to get dressed, get breakfast, and freshen up (7 am during the high season). Then I order a Pathao to get to work. Pathao is a rideshare app that is popular in Nepal. It’s kind of like Uber except here you get scooters and motorbikes!
It’s usually 10 AM by the time I get to work. I talk a bit with my colleagues before getting down to my work. My job usually consists of doing research and gathering information that can be useful when we design new packages and products for the company.
The working atmosphere is quite pleasant; people work seriously, but there is no pressure between one another and everyone gets along like friends. Often throughout the week, we have numerous meetings where we keep up with each other’s progress and tasks.
Around Noon or 1 pm, it is time to eat! For lunch, Pushpa and Sazza (my desk-mates), accompany me to the dining room of our sister company ‘Royal Mountain Travel’, where we get lunch and also speak to other colleagues. We typically eat on the rooftop, it is delightful. In France, it would be unthinkable to be on a roof having food.
After finishing the meal, we often go for a walk or enjoy some with our colleagues in the office. Every day I learn some new Nepali words thanks to my colleagues!
After an hour long break, it is time to get back to work.
In the afternoon, I mainly continue to continue my work with research for packages, often with the help of Pushpa. As the weeks go by, the tasks become more and more diversified.
Around 5 pm, the day ends and, I order a Pathao to get back home. My colleagues often wait with me for my ride to arrive. I am always surprised by how the Pathao drivers ask questions while driving, the most recurrent one is “Where are you from?”
Every once in a while the office also has some recreational activities after work or at noon. Sometimes it’s a karaoke session, and sometimes it’s a birthday celebration. It is a great opportunity to get to know the people I work with better and have a great time.
After work :
On most days, I arrive back home between 5:30 and 6 PM. I rest a bit, draw, dance, watch a series, or enjoy some time with my roommate. Or I work on some assignments I must give back to my school in France. I am also required to give back an internship report and a research dissertation once I am done with my internship.
Around 7:30 PM, I have dinner and get back to my activities. By 10 or 11 PM, I am ready to go to bed and go to sleep. And then comes the next day, and here we go again!
What surprised me most?
A lot of things, to be honest. The roads and how people drive are a bit chaotic, but at the same time, people have great reflexes, so it works out. Other things include the electrical cables jumbled across streets, everyday life in general, the little shops hidden here and there, the food, and even the bathrooms (in France we have shower booths or bathtubs, and sometimes the toilets are separated from the bathroom). The warmth of people, how each time they were all so welcoming and talkative (in a good way). But I do think I still have many things to discover and be surprised by!
What do I miss most?
The food (especially desserts), my friends and family back home, and being more independent because for the moment I don’t feel at ease enough to do everything that I want to do! But because I have so much good company, I don’t feel lonely at all, neither at work with my colleagues or roommates Ashrina and Robin.
What do I enjoy the most?
The people. They really brighten up my days; going out with my colleagues or roommates (Pushpa, Sazza, Nilu, Melisa, Rubik, Ashrina, and many more) and just observing and discovering everyday life in Kathmandu is perhaps the biggest joys in my life here.
Goodbye. Thank you for reading! (Drawings by Diotime Thunin)