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Working and living in Nepal

Thinking about moving to Nepal, working there or volunteering?

  economy - immigration - jobs - volunteering

Nepal's economy

Nepal's economy is in a weakened state. 76% of the workforce is employed in agriculture. Though a lot of that percentage is relegated to working for sustenance rather than profit or export. Only 31% of Nepal's income derived from Agriculture.

Most agricultural produce is rice, corn, sugarcane, tea, dairy and buffalo. Skilled agricultural labor is still lacking in Nepal.

Tourism is Nepal's biggest earner within the service industry which as a total provides 49% of the countries income.

Nepal imports precious metals, machinery, petroleum and electricity. Most of which comes from India. Though China is becoming increasingly involved in trying to provide cheaper imports into Nepal.

The per-capita income in Nepal is around $1,000. There is no social welfare system to speak of in Nepal.

Most foreigners working in Nepal are either employed by foreign aid companies or foreign private companies.

Immigrating & living in Nepal

The idea of immigrating and living in Nepal appeals to many people. Particularly those who like the great outdoors and simple living in a temperate climate. However unless you are from India this can by quite difficult to achieve legally.

Tourist and business visas are quite easily available for many people. If you marry a Nepalese citizen you may also be granted a spousal residence. But after that there's little else a foreign national can achieve in Nepal.

You will have no voting rights and no rights to own land. Your spouse however may own the land via your money. As such many foreign nationals simply live in Nepal until their work visa expires or via marriage.

One huge issue in Nepal is the difference in culture both before and after marriage. Many non-national women dating Nepalese men are shocked at the different attitude and role they play once they get married. Traditionally a woman's place is in the home and this can be expected as soon as a marriage takes place.

A lack of healthcare or social welfare systems also have to be taken into account if considering a permanent stay in Nepal. Medical institutions are lacking in modern equipment and resources.

There's also the reality of living in a country that lacks regular electricity and water. It's not uncommon to go days without having either water or electricity for a hot shower. With high pollution levels this basic need in other countries can be difficult to adjust to in Nepal after a prolonged period.

Finally there's a social impact and diverse culture shock of living long-term in Nepal. Many people are enchanted by short stays and holidays in Nepal but the reality of tourism vs living in Nepal are quite different. The expat communities do exist but are very small in comparison to other countries. Social isolation is a reality.

Careful consideration needs to be taken before making a permanent move to Nepal.

Jobs & working in Nepal

As previously written Nepal's economy is quite poor. Unemployment is high and regular jobs do not pay all that well for most foreigners needs. e.g. additional health care, sanitary needs etc.

Skilled foreigners may find it easier to obtain employment in Nepal by applying for jobs in foreign companies working in Nepal. e.g. engineering companies.

Enterprising people with money to invest will find working visas easy to obtain. You'll also have no end of Nepalese people offering to help you get started. However owning a business yourself within Nepal cannot legally happen. Your business needs to be registered outside of Nepal unless you want to own a minority of the business or be a silent partner.

Do read this article about doing business in Nepal as a foreigner

There are issues concerning the setting up NGO's in Nepal for profit making. NGO's are often exempt from tax and several duties. This has led to many people using them as fronts to generate profits. Adoption homes selling Nepalese carpets as an example.

Volunteering in Nepal

Volunteering is very popular in Nepal. However there are many pitfalls people fall into. Firstly there is the issue of NGO's that are simply not run very well. Either by way of a lack of skill in the world of development or due to more dubious activities.

Many volunteer positions are "pay only". Meaning you have to pay for volunteering. More often than not you pay a foreign voluntary organization for your placement. This covers lodging, food and expenses. All of which are a great deal higher than the real costs on the ground.

Other well meaning voluntary organizations accept an incredible amount of short-term volunteers. Sadly there is not very much that can be done in two weeks or even two months other than for the volunteer to get a feel good factor. This lack of sustainable development has damaged many communities and led to a hand out mentality amongst locals.

If someone was to volunteer in Nepal then choosing an organization with long-term sustainable development goals and methodologies is essential. Unfortunately the lack of regulation of NGO's and voluntary organization in Nepal means it is hard to find legitimate organizations working to international standards..

Do check out the following recognized organizations if you are genuinely ready to make a sustainable commitment to volunteering in Nepal:

Study in Nepal

While academic study in Nepal is possible it wouldn't be the first choice for many. Foreigners living in Nepal with children often avail of international schools in and around Kathmandu.

Most other forms of study fall into the tourism sectors of language, meditation/yoga and the arts. There are also several cooking classes opening up though nothing like set classes. It's more like be shown by a Nepalese mother how to cook.

Language lessons in Nepal:

Nepalese is a fairly easy language to learn. Simply walking around Kathmandu is enough to see several signs offering classes. Many "schools" offer 1-2 week courses from USD$60-120.

Do take care to vet your language school well. Quite often they haven't been running long and you may end up being taught alone from newspaper clippings rather than from a set course.

For long-term language students you could also check out Tribhuwan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tel: (977-1) 4331969.

Check out this article on learning the Nepalese language for travel.

Meditation & yoga courses in Nepal:

One of the more popular courses to take in Nepal are to do with meditation and yoga. There are again plenty of signs around Kathmandu and Pokhara offering both. It's well advised to have an understanding of meditation or yoga before signing up to anything.

There are plenty of disreputable organizations set around so know about these subjects and interview several centers before agreeing to anything.

Learning the arts in Nepal:

From thankas to pottery or weaving Nepal is well known for its traditional handicrafts. While Kathmandu offers a lot of courses its well advised to take a trip to Bhaktapur if you are looking for extended courses in these areas.

Bhaktapur has a rich history of traditional handicrafts which continues on today. It's a pleasant city to spend a week or two in and will probably cost less than a course in Kathmandu!

For more, check out this guide to Bhaktapur Nepal.

Download my guidebooks to Nepal!

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They are interactive & printable guidebooks like no other.

Bhaktapur travel guidebook
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Working & living in Nepal can be enjoyable but it's no easy task!

Life in Kathmandu Durbar square in the mornings
A typical morning scene from Kathmandu Durbar Square that' you'll see nearly every morning!
Big photo of the way to Everest Base Camp sign Take a boat ride on the Rapti River in Chitwans jungle Nepal Om mani padme hum written onto stone Streets of Kathmandu
Huge photo of a Baby Elephant in Chitwan Learn more about Nepalese food starting with Dhal Bhat Visit the Swayambhunath Monkey Temple with this free guide See a huge photo of Mount Everest

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Full guide:
» Guide to Patan    
Central Patan
  - Patan Durbar Square
 South Patan
  - Mahaboudha Temple
  - Uku Bahal
  - Machchhendranath temple
North Patan
  - The Golden Temple
  - Kumbeshwar Temple Complex
West Patan
  - The Kumari Living Goddess
East Patan
  - The Balkumari Temple

Make the most out of your journey:
» Get my full guidebook to Patan!


Full guide:
» Guide to Bhaktapur City
Inside Bhaktapur city:  
» Guide to Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  - Erotic Elephants Temple (Shiva Parvati)
  - Basantapur Chowk (Sculptures)
  - National Art Gallery / Museum
  - The Golden Gate (Sundhoka)
  - Taleju Temple (Mul Chowk)
  - Naga Pokhari 
55 Window Palace
  - Siddhi Lakshmi
  - Stone Lions
  - Pashupatinath Temple (Bhaktapur)
  - Vatsala Durga Temple & Taleju Bell
  - Chyasalin Mandap
Near Durbar Square
» Taumadhi Square
» Pottery Square
» Dattatreya Square
Just outside Bhaktapur
» Kailashnath Mahadev (Tallest Shiva statue)
» Nagarkot

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