Last week I posted a blog to say that I knew the greatest fear of any Nepali woman, and that I would reveal the answer in a week.
A lot has changed since then.
I don’t want to beat about the bush, so – I will give my answer.
The greatest fear of any Nepali woman is that her friends will not be there when she needs them.
In my seven trips to Nepal and my extensive dealings with Nepali people and culture including research of two books, I learned a lot. Nepal is a wonderful place because of the hospitality of the people. Tourists come here to experience it. Because I work in hospitals and health care, I see a part of Nepal that is carefully hidden from tourists most of the time. People having a health crisis.
It’s about culture.
When we talk a culture, we often start with the superficial things – food, clothing, religion and rituals, family relationships. Externalities. Culture includes the indigenous use of objects that later become tourist souvenirs – in this case singing bowls, kukri knives, thangkas, statuary, prayer beads.
Culture is not just “stuff”
Any nurse needs to go to a deeper level of culture. How are health decisions made? What are the social practices that contribute to disease? What is the view of Western doctors and western medicine? how does a person decide to see a doctor, or not? how are children raised, and what is the attitude toward family planning and “Women’s Issue
These issues go beyond culture and into the field of “Medical Anthropology.”
In Nepal, when you go deeper, you learn one over-riding “deep culture” concept that is taught to Nepalis from birth. You will never be alone. Rely on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Always seek the wisdom of those around you, especially the elders ( often called “your seniors” if they are only a year older than you).
Every Nepali woman has fifty sisters. When you try to get her to say exactly how they are related, she’ll say “Um, my cousin-sister,actually.”
Man or woman, every Nepali travels with a pack.
A Nepali man does not marry a Nepali woman. It’s the two families that get married.
Every ritual, every life event, is shared with the family group or the group of friends. Life decisions are only taken when every member of the family has given their opinion. If it’s a Nepali woman, they especially value their mother’s opinion. This is what we call “collectivism” or “collectivist culture“.
If you are trying to work within this culture, you need to grasp this.
I am not saying it’s good or bad – it just “is”
And so, when a Nepali woman does not have her friends nearby, she is cast adrift. In a small boat. Floating on an endless sea.