How To : start a conversation (comparing NP and US)

I am experiencing a lot of new cultural and technological advancements in this part of the world. For new readers, I am in USA, for next few months. Exploring and learning new perspectives. One of the best thing so far has been the super speedy internet speed, and the worst in my list right now, is the super expensive mobile bills. Disclosure – I come from Nepal, where my average downloads speed was 40 KBps and one phone called cost Nrs.1.5 (that’s around 2 cents). Today I talk about how I am learning to start a conversation in USA, but before that, lets look at what I know from Nepal (a developing world in the east).

how to : start a conversation in Nepal

We have few good ice breakers in Kathmandu, and few that I prefer more than others. I have a list in here and I am definitely looking for more suggestions/comments. The best talk topic in Nepal for the last eight years or so has been about its internal politics. These range from the peace treaty, and interim constitutional assembly, to democratically elected communist government, to a judicial civil servant becoming the executive head of the country. Time and again, we talk about sports and almost all like to complain about insufficient water, electricity cuts, and the polluted populated city. But here are the top five starters. (All intention in trying to write it in one personal type i.e. no त, तिमी,  तपाईं, or हजुर)

  1. अनी अरु के छ त ? – so what else is happening?
  2. “चिया खाने?” or “चिया खायो?” – Want to have some tea? Had Tea?
  3. “मोटायो” or “दुब्लायो” – have you gained weight? or have you lost weight?
  4. तेस्को (person “x”)  बारेमा सुन्यो – have you heard about X? [here x = arbitrary person/place/or anything worth gossiping]
  5. Education? and/or Work? – These are the where? what? and how you doing?

For some strange cultural aspect Kathmandu, and majority in Nepal are very fond of talking about weight. Its either “you’ve gained” or “you’ve lost” weight. There also has been one incidence where two different people in a span of fifteen minutes, have first looked at me and said that I’d gained some weighed and then once more the second person comes in and says that I’d lost some weight. Its the ultimate ice breaker, with no consequences. For all said and done, one does not need to loose or gain weight, to receive this opening. You simply take it, and move on, no one will notice how much “love-handle” you’ve accumulated or shed. Its one sentence, and your answer is either –

  • YES I have been gaining some weight
  • NO, you think so
  • Is it, I never noticed it

Nepali community love to start a conversation with either a weight loss or weight gain.

Tea Time Talk

Nepal is almost a tea state. Majority prefer tea, me including. But somehow very few are tea connoisseur. Tea has become a staple diet and one of the best conversation starters in Nepal. Most of the time, its present in even the remotest area of Nepal, even those that has not been conquered by Coca-Cola or Pepsi; which is saying a lot. I have always wanted to write something about tea in Nepal, and hope to do something about it, soon. Well, back to tea, we associate tea with two things.

  • First – As the morning wake up drink. Yes, this is similar to the rest of the world. Some slight variation do exist, but the thing that irks me the most – is the amount of tea drank, and its concentration in the mixture. I will write about this next week.
  • Second – The guest tea. Even on a dead summer day, when the temperature of Kathmandu (both outside and inside) is around 39 degree Celsius (that’s more than 84 F), me and my mother (and a whole lot of other people) offer our home guest – dead option of tea.

“Tea is tea, no amount of cold water, can replace it, even in the dead summer noon” – “now would you like some tea”

how to : start a conversation in USA

Obviously, we do not talk about weight in here. Its a big “NO” and most of the population here prefers coffee. I did however, learn few starters appropriate in here

  1. अनी अरु के छ त ? – so what else is happening?
  2. Weather
  3. Regional/Local Sports
  4. Regional/Local Politics

My thoughts on Weather and Sports

Here, we love to talk about weather. Somehow, even though its just a starter, we can take it three or four sentences with weather. Its amazing how much I have learned about weather after coming to USA. Its depth in literature and its daily use. Its tremendous, and frankly, an easy curve to gain some insight on the culture here. Be sure to read your weather reports before you gloat about them. Plus, haven’t really experienced the winter here, so can’t talk with full confidence. “the winter is coming”

Second most important conversation starter is about local sports. Americans are big on local sports. Its a tradition, I am definitely felling in love with. This is actually one absolutely good thing to talk about, but first I have to have a stable place to stay, then decide a game of my choice, and then choose a team. Baseball, Basketball, and American Football are new to me, for now. I also witnessed a customer getting a heavy discount – because he followed NY Knicks, was wearing one of their merchandise clothing wear.

How do we get started?

For me and my wife (Aditi), these days begin with – “Hi, I am (or we are) from Nepal”. We then take our talk, time dependent, to the variety of Nepali knowledge that we can think of, and relevant to the person in front us. After talking to few, in the last two months, we have now begun to develop a pattern for our openings. Its not final, but we are definitely on the right track. We basically talk about the geo-political and medical health in Nepal, trying to skim on recent political developments, and emphasize more on what can be done more, rather than our (Nepali as general) failures in the past.

NEXT WEEK – I suppose I can write about tea 🙂


Published by prashant

adhere and assimilate. pursuing public health.

3 thoughts on “How To : start a conversation (comparing NP and US)

  1. I totally enjoyed reading this piece. How do you come up with such ideas? Simple things yet so much to write about.

    I just realized I do a lot of weather talking to break the ice. Just today, at the elevator, I was talking about how it was such a gloomy day, with somebody I had never met before. But have you noticed how even unknown people say “Hi” to you on the streets? I was really surprised for a few days. Plus friends usually greet saying, “Hi, How are you?” but what surprises me is that they say it every time you meet, even if its on the same day. There’s this person at my lab who says it to me more than once a day.

    1. thank you, definitely wonderful to read what you say. made my day.

      And to answer as to where I get these ideas – well, I have my friends and people around me to thank. Friends and Family alike. 🙂

      Yes, the conversation starters are fun topic. Just the other day, there was five sentences dedicated to weather, and it didn’t have winter or snow in it. This part of the world simply loves Weather. 🙂

  2. Quite strangely, dissimilarities do exist not only between Nepal & the US but even among various states of the US. I observed variations in tea/coffee, lunch, English accent and weather things as you explained.

    On a different note, why do we (I think many of us) tend to put things that are everything Nepalese in a lower category than they are actually? (wrt few params in above post.)

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