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 my friend (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  was traveling 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 ethnicity apart just by their looks.

 Still confused? I thought so  🙂

67 responses to “Different looks of Nepali people

  1. Very interesting posts and opinions by many people.

    I was very surprised to notice that almost all of the Nepalese commentators have used castes and ethnicity as the same thing. The truth is Rai, limbu, magars , tamangs, gurungs are NOT castes but ethnic groups. Castes mean bahun,chhetri, baishya and shudra ( hindu categorisation ); in the past your caste would indicate your social status which is no longer accepted).

    Also, Khas people entered nepal from west along the mountains . They are mountain people and used to be called Parbate/ Pahari/ pahadi people ! Present day nepali language is also called Khas kura. Physically they are Indo- Aryan/ Indo-Iranian.

    The ethnic groups ( NOT Castes) mentioned above e.g. Magars, Rai are physically Mongoloids, and look like East Asians.

    Newars are a linguistic group having sub-groups within them. Physically they are a spectrum- some are mongoloids, others Indo-Aryans and many mixed!

  2. @Xyz, People like you using the word “N” your probably one, so watch what u type on this blog. Or just stay of it! If you can’t say anything nice, we don’t want to hear from you.😠

  3. Brishabh bantawa rai

    Heyy my father is a rai and my mother is tamang so i have got pure mongolian features i am proud of it

  4. This is a great story on different ethnics living in Nepal. It’s a great learning experience to know who is from where and their race. Please do more on this subject and how they live and what they eat.

  5. People say I looked half white and half Asian when I was little because I was really really pale when I was little. Now people say I look Iranian and indian which is basically me because I am upadhyay khas bahun which is Indian and Iranian mixture.

  6. This is a great post and I really have nothing to say other than the fact that our country is unique. I have Mongolian features but there is also Aryan descent people such as my friends back home. The point is although there are some white or fairer skin that can be distinguished between ourselves due to the geographic and climate, we tend to be more darker hence browner. All in all, we all migrated from somewhere but I just wish people stopped stereotyping because when you mention the word ‘ASIA’ it really is hugggge. There is West Asian like arabs, south Asian like Pakistanis and Indians and some may argue that Nepal is also situated in South of Asia but I always express it as South-East. Finally, there is the Eastern Asian which are Chinese, Korean, Japanese etc… hmm while we are at the conversation, I have also witnessed a bit of both mongoliod features and Aryan in Rai, Newar and Sharma. I don’t know the cause of this- well it could be due to interbreeding but I doubt it. I really have no idea. Some people also says that us Limbu tribes came from Mongolia or china originally (because of our eyes and such) but when my dad looked into it ; it says we actually came from western Asia (so from middle eastern but our features doubts this) and we have our own Genealogy (this is Limbu by the way). In accordance to this (Genealogy), we know for DEFINTE that around 1,000 years ago or so, we actually situated in east of INDIA! like way down…I forgot the place name but I can find it which is from Eden Vassitart’s book (Factual).

    BUT EVEN IF you go wayyyy back, you realise that people with Asian features were everywhere across the world. This is because you have native americans (Red Indians…) in USA and hawaiin people who are halfway across the world YET looked liked us! In addition to this, you also have the indigeneous people in Australia before they too were slaughtered off! I can’t help but they too looked liked us.. this led to me thinking that maybe the human existence all started from us Asian-looking features. I read somewhere that one of the oldest skull ever to be found was of Asian skull (they can tell because of the eyes and its structure) and I cant help maybe we all started out this way. the scientist in the report said the same thing as well. Then the Darwin theory implies: we adapted, speciated due to geographic isolation and different environments. Therefore we evolved. OR IT COULD be vice-versa….I really don’t know.

  7. I m belongs to magar cast from nepal.but mostly peoples think I m from filpin china indonesia..but I don’t like to introduce other countries becoz I m a nepleese.

  8. I am from nepal and belongs to magar cast.when I was in dubai during the employee there is so many countries peopls thought me i m from filpin,indonesia ,china etc but mostly filpin.I was worked as a salesman in hyper market .there is so many filpin empolyment too.so mostly filpin customer thought me philipino and they talk in philpin languge{tagalog}how many times I told I m nepleese not filpino, china, indonesian.I was having this problem everyday. then lastly I thought I must learn filpino languge so as well I learned and now I can speak filipino languge.

  9. Which ethnic groups of Nepal tend to be Dravidian?

  10. Wow, fascinating! I first looked up this topic after seeing the front of my Plan International newsletter – it had an East/Southeast Asian-looking boy and kind of Hispanic-looking girl on the cover saying “Children in Nepal wear backpacks…following the April earthquake.” So then I wondered – Huh, what DO Nepalese people look like? I found through sites like this that they are a super-diverse crowd! (random fyi: I am Korean-American myself – I speak no Korean but quite a few Western European languages)

  11. I personally think that biracial or intercaste children don’t have much difficulty in Nepal,unless you are*very* ambiguous.Anyways hahahah people always mistake me for a Newar while my brother is mistaken for Tibetan or something. No wonder because my father half panjabi and thakuri while my mother is half gurung and tamang.Plus does biracial and intercaste mean the same thing?I think so but I am no sure.

  12. I am a chhetri girl from Assam, India. I look diffrent from my own biological brother. I have got fairer skin tone but smaller eyes comparatively. People assume that i am a Newar. I don’t know how i look so different.

    • Awesome Prichet! You must be gorgeous then as every Nepali girl from Assamese I met amongst variety of looks has looked gorgeous and attractive to me. You Nepali girls are utmost gorgeous in world!

  13. Newars can look like anyone, few of my Newar friends look like Bahun and Chhetri and some of them look like they are Magar, Gurung but with slight tan and bigger eyes and nose. I know that within Newars, few castes like Shrestha, Pradhan, Joshi, Rajopadhya, Malla, etc. are Aryan and they came to Nepal only later on. You can mistake them for Bahun/Chhetri and even their culture (like in marriage they also do Guda ko pani khane, some of them also wear janai) are very close to Bahun/Chhetris. Other Newars are the indigenous people and were in Kathmandu for thousands of years, and they look very Mongol in physical look.

  14. Hi! I ‘am Natalia from India .I am Nepali people always happen to call me Punjab or some sort of Marwari since its because of the Aryan look I possess I have a pointed nose and big eyes and a fair complexion so that’s The reason I think Aryans differ from mongloits

  15. Nepalis are basically the product of four waves of migrations:

    1. Tibetids from North, Burman-Mongoliods moving West from East, called “Janajatis” (30% of the population)

    2. Original Iranid “Khas” from North-West, mixed with Rajasthanis and Punjabi bramins fleeing India in the last 800 years, and gradually moving East all the way to Sikkim (25% of the population)

    3. Indo-Gangetic “Madheshis” migrating from South towards North after the clearing of forests in the border areas (25% of the population)

    4. Original tribals: (5% of the population)

    5. Mixed people formed as the progeny of the intermingling all these migrations-Newars, Tharus (10% of the population)

    Nepalese people can basically be anything, look like anything.

  16. Well Same here I Live at northeastern Part of India and sometimes People think that I am from Britain or something and I’ve to explain these Shut to them… Here they call foreigners *FARENG* in their native dailect… So I have to tell them I’m nepali though there’s so many Nepalese family settled here…

  17. don’t just bother about looking like Chinese,Japanese or anything,,, try to progress like them just looking K hudaina Tinar justo kaam garnu nu paryo… ani 4 jatay Gurung and first 4 sub tribe of magar are of same blood as per my knowledge as per our believe in our place lamjung…. and one thing v dont look like Chinese or Japanese next time anyone ask u simply say I dont look any of those I just look Nepalese and I from the himalayan Republic of Nepal.

  18. This is true. In my college my friends call me “Chinese” and my online friends mistaken me for “half-chinese” or Tibetan. I am a mix between tamang and gurung .
    There is diversity.

  19. i am a magar man at early 20’s…and people here even dont believe me to be of magar origin because of my lanky appearance wide eyes and perfect nose and mustache and beard. i am mongol looking but no slant eyes and flat nose..i think its because of the mongol genetics which comprise of significant proportion of caucasion mix with some other european genes and the centuries of intermingling with the aryans of nepal that has contributed to the facts….

  20. same to me too, at my work place most of the ppl think I’m Philippines, Chinese, Vietnamese,ect…just looking at me, my appearance
    sometimes it made me laugh n Sometimes feel bad too, that more than80% ppl don’t know about country Nepal. And also there r some wrong information being thought about Country Nepal.

  21. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I do think that you
    should publish more about this subject matter, it might not be a taboo matter but generally
    folks don’t talk about such topics. To the next! Kind regards!!

  22. I am a brahmin guy who lives in USA. I have black hair and fair skin.People always get confused with my ethnicity. Most of the times, people think i’m a a white guy from Southern Europe ( countries like spain,Portugal, Italy, greece). And also many times i’ve noticed Mexican people talking me in spanish thinking I’m a latino. Even People from middle east think I look like arabic or persian.. My ethnicity is the most misunderstood one, no one says I’m nepali in first look, they misunderstand me for being brazilian, spanish, Greek or even arabic sometimes. But I’m a brahmin guy from Nepal, a country from far east.

  23. Being from Mauritius with darker skin than my parents, I am often mistaken for an Indian (which happens a lot less to my parents) and can totally relate to this post!

    The first Nepalese student I met in Australia looked absolutely like he could be from India (I recognised from his accent though that he probably was not Indian). Then last year in December I went to Sydney, I met a Chinese girl studying there and she told me she thought I must be from Nepal. At this stage I was getting pretty sure that most people in Nepal would look roughly like Indians.

    But then this year I came across Nepalis of different ethnic backgrounds… I just couldn’t believe they looked so much like being from China or elsewhere in East Asia! So you are totally correct in pointing out the ethnic diversity of Nepal, it is quite fascinating to examine.

  24. 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. 😉

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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”.

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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..

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

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

  35. LOL i’m nepali (brahmin) people here think i’m pakistani 😀

  36. Pingback: Losar | nepaliaustralian

  37. 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 🙂

  38. 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

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. nice post..and the gurung girl in your picture is my sister. She is Barsha Rani Gurung. 😀

  42. 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.

  43. 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” 😀 😀 😀

      • 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 😀

  44. 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.

      • roshan magar

        I am magar ..now days I’m in dubai ..mustly people says me ur chinese,or philipines….but am am nepali…

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