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Culture

Thanks in Nepal

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/thanksinne_2041.mp3

As part of our ongoing series, Global Citizenship, KSMU's Emily Nash shares a travel essay about the time she spent in Nepal this summer.

The importance of saying "Thank You" has been ingrained in my head since birth.

So when I traveled to South Asia, I immediately asked for the translation of the word "thank you".

In Nepal, if you are a guest, you are treated with the highest honor.

The reputation of the host in the village hangs on how well they treats their guests.

So serving international guests is something Sherpa do very well.

Maybe that's why 75 percent of the Sherpa in Namche Bzar own lodges.

I asked some of my Sherpa friends what the word for Thank You was in the native language.

It could have been my accent or my attempt at using their language, but they did not understand what I was asking.

I asked a few more times and did some obnoxious hand motions to try to explain myself.

The Sherpa looked at me, muttered to themselves, then spouted out the word "Dunyavad".

I was relieved to finally have a word to say to those who served tea and rice or gave me directions.

So, I threw out the word, like I do in America, saying it to everyone for every little thing they did or said.

I wanted to be polite.

But, after a week of "dunyavads," one of my mountain friends pulled me aside and commented on my use of the word.

In Nepal, "dunyavad" does not mean a casual American "thank you".

It turns out, Nepalis and Sherpa don't have a concept of a casual "thank you".

They don't thank someone for doing a job they have been hired or appointed to do.

Everyone has a job in the Sherpa culture, and one job isn't higher than any others.

You don't say thank you, because the person is fulfilling his or her duty to you as a guest or customer.

I had trouble at first, not thanking people for what they were doing for me.

In America, we tend to thank servers in restaurants who wait on us, we thank our friends for doing us a favor, we thank a store owner even when we leave and don't buy anything.

It's a comfort word.

In Nepal, you can't say thank you, you have to show it by your actions.

To thank your host, you should pile your plate up with second or third servings of food.

To show thanks to your friends, you invite them for a long tea.

To really thank someone, you place a white silk scarf, called "khattas" around their neck and wish them good luck.

You have to show the people in Nepal your appreciation, rather than saying it.

Since the Sherpa had no concept of the word "thank you", I had to work a lot harder to show my appreciation and thanks.

I couldn't slide by with a "dunyavad".

It made me reflect on American culture and what we do to show appreciation.

I realized that in our culture where a quick "thanks" will suffice, maybe the word would gain more power if there were actions to back it up.