Different looks of Nepali people

Newar girl

When people realise that I am from Nepal, they always tell me I don’t look anything like the last Nepali they met. I am from the Newar ethnic group but  I have Aryan features so even people from Nepal tell me that I don’t look like a Newar as I have bigger eyes than Newar people normally have.  This is because Newars are a community of mostly Tibeto-Burman and some Indo-Aryan ethnicities and my family seems to lean towards the Indo-Aryan side of the community in our features.

The other day I met a friend of my friend (Gurung) who was from Italy and she told me that I looked just like one of her Italian cousins. She was surprised that I and myfriend (Gurung) look so different even though we both are from the same country. There are times when I meet Indian people and they think I look like an Indian.

Gurung girl

The main reason for Nepalese people having such a diverse features is due to the geography and the climatic in Nepal.

Don’t worry if you get confused after reading this post because even Nepali people sometimes can’t say for sure if someone is from Nepal or some other countries as our features match people from so many other countries. I also can’t tell for sure as well.

Brahmin man

Here is one of the funny incident. A friend of mine SR was travelling in a train when a group of Nepali guys came and sat on the seat in front of her. She is from the Rai ethnic group so she looks more Asian. The guys did not think that she was a Nepali so they start talking in Nepali about anything and everything. And there were some things you normally won’t say in front of women. Anyway, my friend was very uncomfortable in hearing this but she tried to pretend that she didn’t understand the language. She couldn’t wait to get off the train.

Chherti girl

At next stop, her cousin caught the same train and saw her sitting there. So she came and joined her and started speaking in Nepali. Then the guys realised that she was Nepali. They were very embarrassed by their activity so they changed the carriage. It happened a lot to my friends when people mistake them to be from India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesian, Brazil, Korea, Italy etc.

When me and AS were on our holiday in Vietnam, a few people came and talked to us in different languages because they thought we were either Thai, Vietnamese or Pilipino so I am not surprised if you are confused by the Nepali look.

Thakali women

Nepal is a country of four castes and thirty six sub castes and they are a mix of Aryan and Mongolian people. Aryan normally have fair or dark skin, long pointed nose, big eyes, broad chest and shoulders while Mongolians are normally white or fair skin with small eyes and medium built. Brahmin and Chhetri looks Aryan where as Rai, Gurungs, Tamang, Magar looks Mongolians. I find Newar are a mix of both.

Of course it is just a guideline as there are so many inter-caste marriages, it is getting even harder to tell people’s ethnicities apart just by their looks.

 Still confused? I thought so  :)

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40 responses to “Different looks of Nepali people

  1. LOL! I know about 5-6 Nepalis really well from my undergrad days. And Yes! No one of look alike! So I guess there is no stereotypical Nepali look/

    • That’s for sure, there is no stereotype :)

    • You are correct. I wish everybody knew that there is no stereotypical Indian look either as clearly fully Indians are of Mongloid and non-Mongloid features too. Usually, Northeast India is known of people of Mongloid features and rest of India known for Non-Mongloid features. I have noticed there are Nepalis who can be as dark-skinned and non-mongloid as Indians who are the same too.

  2. Now I get how the caste system makes you look different. Or well, how A normally looks at another Nepalese person and goes like ” Nah, she can’t be a Gurung” , or “he is definitely a Magar”.. or ” Are you serious you are Tamang? I thought you were Bhutia!”
    And I kept asking how can you tell what they look like from their names/castes. He told me “we just can” :) So well, I understood today.
    Thanks M! :)

    • Hope now you also have some basic idea so you can continue conversation with A saying ” You sure she is Gurung, I think she looks more like Limbu” :D :D :D

      • Hehe. I sure hope I can! :) I can distinguish Gurung, Limbu people and the Bhutia/Lama people, seems to have similarities.. but well, it would take a whole load of practise I guess. For now, Im happy, I atleast know most of the castes :D

  3. Here in Germany a lot of peoples said to my boyfriend…you look likes a koren or vietnam people. But he is a rai.
    One time we were at the domestic airport in Kathmandu to flight to pokhara and his own compatriot asked him….you are a nepali? I dont belive it. You are a korean. And he has to showed his passport, then the security man belive.

  4. nice post..and the gurung girl in your picture is my sister. She is Barsha Rani Gurung. :D

  5. What I find in India, is that many people get really confused when I say I’m of Nepali origin. Most people here seem to think [unless they've met a few non-migrant-worker Nepali people previously] that all Nepali people = east asian looking. So when they see someone like me they’re like ‘are you half white?’ ‘are you Indian-Nepali?’ Then I have to give them an explanation about how Nepal is very diverse even though it’s such a small country.

  6. When I first came to Australia, noone really knew Nepal so they thought most of the Nepali were either Indian or Chinese. Things have changed a lot in last decade and now I don’t have to explain about Nepal a lot.

    I think it is just so many variation in look in Nepali people that everyone seems confused.

  7. Interesting post– I, too, get confusion as to what ethnicity I am…. But I found this interesting to know the different faces of Nepal—always wanted to visit this country, and interesting information such as this post encourages me even more to make the time to visit

  8. This is so interesting! My family is from the north-eastern part of India and people from abroad and even in my own place (although I’ve been there only twice) mistake me to be Korean, Chinese or Japanese. The majority of Nepalese I’ve seen (in real life) look more like South East Asians and Tibetans but I’ve seen some who resemble Central Asians.

    I’m proud of my Mongoloid features :)

  9. Pingback: Losar | nepaliaustralian

  10. LOL i’m nepali (brahmin) people here think i’m pakistani :D

  11. Thank you.I’ve found this site so helpful..I only wish I could find my ancestral lineage.

  12. ktmrocksbeproudbeloud

    I am studying in China and we have lots of Indians in my Univ. Chinese people think Nepalese look like Indian and Indians think Nepalese look like Chinese. Funny thing is when Arabs see me they think I’m one of them.
    I then feel proud to explain Nepal’s geographic and racial diversity which in area is smaller than Chinese province I’m staying in.

    • I think that is normal as not many people around the world have been to Nepal to know more about her. So we do need to educate people around us so they know more about Nepal.

  13. I am finding the solidarity view of people in the UK that Nepalese are oriental looking people. It could be as a result of Gurkhas’ impression of their physical appearance. There are minority of Nepalese people from the Aryan background who are wrongly recognised by the local people as Indians or Pakistani. This is very strange.

  14. I m nepali indo-aryan ..most of the people calls me persian or even sometimes spanian italian and hispanic…lol ..n its so hard to make them understand I m from nepal some even argue tthag nepalese are chinky…n this is wat pisses me..

  15. my father is maharashtrian-brahmin and mother is a gorkha-brahmin from darjeeling,india and people say i look like a mixture of persian/punjabi and korean/japanese! lol XD

  16. British Nepalese

    I’m adopted from Nepal and live in UK, my sister is adopted from Nepal too.
    Everyone thinks she is Indian while they think I’m Thai or Filipino. It’ quite funny trying to explain we are both Nepalese but not biological brother and sister with different birth parents who my parents adopted 2 years apart in different parts of Nepal.
    In UK now there are many ex Gurkhas and their family’s settled here, but when I was growing up my town had no Nepalese people maybe only Indian and Chinese restaurant owner’s and their families. So like 99% white, how things change.

  17. @British Nepalese mate what part of England of are u from ?

  18. I am a 14 years old Nepali. My father as well as my mother; are Rai. My father comes from Rumdali and Sotang (thaar). My mother comes from Chamling and Khaling (thaar). So to say, I am a pure Rai (raini). Oh and I am in Canada by the way, some people say I look Spanish, some say Japanese, Korean, Philippines etc.. I tend to get ‘spanish’ from Western or European people alot. However, vice versa for the Asian people; I get ‘korean’ Philippines’ from them but not Nepali’. So I
    Guess .. Khatii Rai does not always fit the description of “Mongolians”.

  19. nepali in australia

    I find this post interesting as I can relate this to myself. Here in australia people think I am from phillipines, thailand, indonesia etc. They feel strange when I tell them I am from nepal. They become so confuse that how can nepalese be so diverse in appearance. Actually I am from aryan origin but have mongolian apppearace too.

  20. Wonderful blog! Thank you for posting this! I’ve just been to Nepal for the first time and was amazed at how different people looked! Thank you for posting this explanation!

  21. I like this post glad you shared. Yes, I find what you say to be very true. And I have tried to explain to others myself. My children look similar but then also look very different from each other. It very interesting especially because they are not biologically related. I totally with you. ;)

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