• Brian D. Hinson

Culture Shock in Kathmandu

When the van that picked us up at the airport and wove through the city streets to the hotel, I got my first dose of culture shock. I watched the people dressed so differently and splendidly, the architecture dizzying in its details of a strange and unfamiliar mythos, the chatter of a language far removed in tones from my own, the washing of linens and clothes in a river that smelled foul. In the pit of my stomach coiled an anxiety I had never felt before.

In 1999, Nepal was my first visit to Asia. After a bit of South and Central America and a dash of Africa, I had already considered myself an experienced, savvy traveler. Nepal was a place mostly uncolonized by European culture and religion. Technology and Western clothes have slipped through the borders in the 20th century, but largely this Himalayan nation remained isolated from the trappings of Europe.

And that is precisely why it was such a wonderful place to visit. One travels to experience what they cannot at home.

With my guide book and two newfound friends from the states in the same hotel, I forced myself out to walk the streets, to acclimatize myself to these new surroundings. Many of these photos were snapped on that first late afternoon walk.

It worked. People smile at you, children laugh and run, an impatient driver honks his horn, young lovers hold hands, old men hover over their coffee or tea. And then you realize that you’re never far from home.

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