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What a Nepalese woman with a stick can teach us about behaving appropriately abroad


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Last week, a video recorded in Nepal by British tourist Gemma Wilson went viral on social media… for all the wrong reasons.

The footage, shared thousands of times, shows an angry Nepalese woman chasing a British tourist with a stick after she allegedly tried to get a discount on a cup of tea.

The Nepalese woman hurled rocks at the British tourist and chased her with a wooden plank

Back to the first world. Imagine you’re in a Starbucks. You order the usual: skinny caramel latte, extra hot, no foam.

Would you ever even dream of asking the shop manager for a discount? We all know the answer.

“You English people rich. Why bargain?”, the Nepalese woman can be heard screaming furiously in the video. And if you think about it, you will realise that she actually has a point.

Let’s get some perspective here. In 2016, Nepal ranked 144th out of 186 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index. You know what this means? The small Asian country is one of the poorest in the world, and each citizen lives on an average of 75p a day.

Think about how much you’d pay for that caramel latte. Probably more than £3, and without complaint.

While the aggressive reaction of the woman cannot be justified, she did have a right to yell a couple of profanities and invite them to leave the shop. But chasing a woman and a kid with a wooden plank?  That’s taking it a step too far, perhaps.

But don’t be fooled! Nepalese people are known for being very friendly. Most of them love tourists: they initiate conversations, take photos, exchange contacts. But such a lack of common sense and good taste would enrage even the most stoic Tibetan monk.

“When I got up to pay she told it was 150 rupee. I asked her again and she repeated it, so I got the money out and paid her, but I said to her it was seriously pricey,” Ms. Wilson told the Mirror.

Perhaps she ignored the fact that the woman had a little shop on the tip of a mountain (making the transportation of goods and materials all the more difficult and pricey)?

Also, 150 rupees equal £1. Was it really necessary to get a discount? Or even point out that the tea was pricey for local standards? Wouldn’t it still be a lot cheaper than a cup of tea in any part of the UK?

That is not to say that trying to negotiate is always wrong. In the appropriate context, haggling can be okay. It’s a fairly common practice in countries such as China, Turkey, Iran and Egypt. But you need to know where, when and how to do it. A clumsy attempt to get a discount can often lead to unpleasant situations.

And sure, some businesses in holiday destinations try to rip off inexperienced tourists. But sometimes you have to keep an open mind. Not everyone is out there to get your money. Most of the time these are small business owners trying to support their families. And yes, while the equation English tourist = rich might not be completely accurate, if you are in one of the poorest countries in the world then the assumption is not too far from the truth.

So, before you do anything even remotely inconsiderate, do your research. Read, and ask questions. There are plenty of useful guides on haggling abroad that can be found online.

If you can’t be bothered to do that, then I have an even simpler solution that will save the trouble: If you can’t afford something… then maybe you shouldn’t buy it.

For more information about travelling to Nepal, check the FCO'S travel advice page.

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