One is a landlocked Southern Asian country, the other is the world’s largest island. But when it comes to Nepal and Australia, these geographic differences are just the beginning.
Here’s how they compare.
In Nepal, daal bhat tarkari (daal with rice and vegetables) is a common meal. Other Nepalese favourites include momo, a type of meat and/or vegetable dumpling; and chatamari, a cooked flatbread with meat and vegetable toppings.
By contrast, there’s really no such thing as ‘Australian cuisine’ (unless you count Vegemite, a dark brown, salty sandwich spread). Australia’s hugely multicultural population means that all types of food – from Thai to Greek to Indian and everything in between – are readily available. It’s good news for international students – no matter where you’re from, you’ll probably be able to eat all the meals you love from home.
“My tastebuds had to really change when I came here,” says former ACU international student Ayumi Tamang, who was born in Nepal.
“Over time, because there are a lot of restaurants, I started liking Indonesian food and it’s my top food now!”
The education system is another difference between the two countries – according to Nepalese nursing student Laxmi Rajbanshi, things are pretty formal, with students calling teachers sir and madam. Course content is focused on theoretical information, rather than on hands-on learning.
In Australia, however, it’s common for university teachers to go by their first names, and course content usually combines theoretical and practical learning through a combination of lectures (large group learning sessions where a teacher gives a presentation on the course content) and tutorials, workshops and labs (small group classes where students apply what they’ve learnt to real-world problems).
“In Nepal, our learning is based on theoretical knowledge and we on book knowledge, but here is different. In Australia, most of our subjects are based on self-study and group projects and a lot of assignments that we don’t do back in Nepal,” says Laxmi.
Religion is an important part of Nepalese culture, despite the fact that the country became a secular state under the 2015 Constitution. Based on the 2011 Census (the most recent statistics available), more than 80 per cent of the population identifies as Hindu. Nine per cent are Buddhist, 4.4 per cent are Muslim, and there are also small groups of Kiratists, Christians, Sikhs and Jains as well.
Australia is a more secular country – nearly 30 per cent of Australians don’t follow any religion at all. Christianity is the most common religion here (52 per cent), followed by Islam (2.6 per cent) and Buddhism (2.4 per cent). All religions are welcome in Australia, so you should feel free to embrace your spiritual practice in whatever form it takes.
“In Nepal, there’s more than one million gods and goddesses, whereas in Australia, you’re either one of five main religions, you’re neo-religious, or you’re an atheist. It’s only one or the other. Work is worship here, it seems, for most of the population,” Ayumi says.
When it comes to relationships, Nepal is still a fairly conservative country. Arranged marriages are still common, although there’s increasing recognition of love marriages in centralised areas. While public displays of affection, like kissing, hugging and holding hands, are not encouraged, the younger generations are more accepting.
In Australia, it’s common to see couples being physically affectionate with one another (within reason!); most people take no notice. Marriage equality was introduced in 2018, and Australians are becoming more accepting of same-sex relationships.
“Nepal is conservative; they are not open in terms of love, but here in Australia I can see people can hug and kiss in public. In Nepal we don’t accept it as a common thing. That’s a huge difference for me,” says Laxmi.
Despite the vast differences – and distances – between Australia and Nepal, one thing they do have in common is their multicultural populations.
Australia is often described as a ‘melting pot’ of different cultures – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 49 per cent of Aussies were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas. While English is still the dominant language, more than 20 per cent of the population speak something else at home, with Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese and Vietnamese the most common
By contrast, Nepal is a combination of Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Mongolian and indigenous cultures and a vast collection of ethnic, social and tribal groups. According to the 2011 Census, Nepali is spoken by 44 per cent of the population, but it’s one of 123 different languages spoken by the country’s 26 million plus people. Nepal is also home to 126 castes, or ethnic groups, each with their own cultural traditions.
“Nepal is very culture rich. Each caste has their own culture – the way they welcome guests, the way they celebrate when someone is born, and each caste has a really great sense of community,” Ayumi says.
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