The “Sh*t People Say…”

There has been a meme (did I use that term correctly?) making the rounds in internet land… “sh*t _____ say to/about ______.” The number of videos out there is proliferating by the hour, and I knew it was just a matter of time before there was one that had to do with Nepal.

And of course, the first to pop up was “sh*t Indians say to Nepalis.”

I’ve wanted to write about the relationship between Nepal and India for a while… actually, I thought I did, but I can’t seem to find the post… perhaps I’m thinking about the comments I’ve made on other blogs that I know have touched on this subject before.

Now I’m not Nepali, so if I misinterpret Nepali sentiments, I apologize in advance, but from what I understand Nepal—a small country sandwiched between the two giants of India and China, often feels pushed around, particularly by India, since the border to India is quite a bit more fluid than that of China (visa wise, and geographical wise). It’s true that there are certain cultural characteristics that are shared by various groups in Nepal and various groups in India, but Nepal (and Nepalis) don’t like being lumped together with Indians… in all fairness, they are their own country.

I actually feel this sometimes too (of course on a very small scale)—I try to be careful and talk about “South Asia/ns” when I’m referring to more than just Nepal/is, but even among some of the gori significant others I’ve connected with online, “India” is sometimes used as a blanket term to mean all of South Asia. I know it’s not meant with any disrespect or negativity, being “Indian” is by no means derogatory, but the term isn’t a blanket catch all for the whole of South Asia even if India is the biggest, most populated country in the region.

I make the same argument about the United States. As the economic, political and social superpower in the region, it’s easier for us as a country and people to forget about others. A lot of Americans don’t realize that the term “American” could also mean someone from Latin or Central America, and I’ve met Canadians who are frustrated to be lumped together with the United States, because “Hey, we are our own country too!”

I’ve even seen it happens at the university where I work. We don’t have a lot of Nepalis (sadly) but we do have quite a few Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans, however the university’s South Asian student association is still called “ISO” for “Indian Student Organization.” I also remember another time when a European student was upset when he thought the undergraduate “International Student Council” had been run by South Asian students for too long; he stormed out of the vote saying, “You should call this Indian Student Club if only the Indians can win the leadership positions!” (never mind that that there was one Indian, one Sri Lankan, two Pakistanis and one Bangladeshi in those positions at the time—just because they had similar features doesn’t mean they are all from the same place, perhaps the reason the European student didn’t receive enough votes to win?).

I remember on one of the blogs that discussed this topic some Indians readers commented that they didn’t think there was any rivalry between the two countries, while most of the Nepali commenters said something to the effect of “oh yeah, definitely!” Our Irish friend likened this to the relationship between Ireland and England. Many Irish would characterize England as their “biggest rivals” and many English don’t even have Ireland (in that way) on their radar. It’s a matter of position and perspective.

Anyway, I digress… below is the link to the “Sh*t Indians say about Nepalis” video, I listed a few that I thought “oh yeah, I’ve heard this before…” or felt I could somehow identify with:

“You’re Nepali? So you are basically Indian.” (ouch).

“I have a Nepali friend in college… maybe you know him?”—this one might be true! Sometimes I feel like everyone of a certain age knows everyone else from Kathmandu.

“So you’re Indian…” “You look Indian…” “So you’re Indian…” “Your eyes man, your eyes…” (I liked the “eyes” comment. I don’t think P has particularly East Asian looking eyes, but I’ve heard people ask if he was Korean, Japanese, and Thai before.)

You don’t do Diwali? I thought you guys were all Hindus…”

“So you are basically just a cross between Chinese and Indian.”

“Do you feel more Indian or Tibetan?”

“Do you come from a long line of Sherpas?” (my mother’s brothers like to friendly-tease P about being a “Sherpa,” they don’t mean anything by it, but it is a bit racist. Not all Nepalis are Sherpa, and not all Sherpa are Nepali).

“You must love the mountains…”

“Nepalis just basically look like weather beaten Chinese.”

“You are drinking chia, don’t you mean chai?” (After a semester in India, I certainly fall in the “chai” category sometimes…. I also sometimes count “ek, do, teen, char, panch” instead of “ek, dui, teen, char, panch.” When I was in India I was scolded for saying “dui” for “two” by my Hindi teacher who said, “What, are you a villager from the hills or something?” and I replied, “I learned how to count in Nepali before I did in Hindi.”)

And just for fun… I thought “sh*t that white girls say to brown girls” was pretty funny.

16 responses to “The “Sh*t People Say…”

  1. As funny as these two videos are, I do hear a lot of Indians saying this about Nepalis. It isn’t fair though cause if Nepalis were supposed to be clumped with Indians, then they would be one country and not two. I think these videos should open the eyes of certain people who automatically stereotype everyone. My boyfriend is from Nepal and he goes absolutely mad when people tell him that Nepalis and Indians are the same people.

    As I watched the video for “Sh*t White Girls Say to Brown Girls” I couldn’t help but laugh because I love “Jai ho” (it’s so catchy!!) and Bollywood. However, I hope that I never fall into this category of stereotyping cause it can be easy to do.

  2. “So you are basically just a cross between Chinese and Indian.”

    I bet that goes down a treat.

  3. I do want to add the caveat that, of course, not all Indians pick on Nepalis… So I don’t want this post to be taken as a dig to all of India. It’s just important to note that countries that are in more powerful positions aren’t always aware of the sentiments of their less powerful neighbors. I certainly fall in this category as well.

  4. I once played celebrity at someone’s house and the celebrity I put in was A.R.Rahman and I hadn’t actually seen Slumdog Millionaire yet. So yeah I looked like a complete idiot when the room broke out in “Jai Ho” and the chick that threw ARR into the mix didn’t even know the song. They were like, “weren’t you who put this guy in there?” and “what do you mean you don’t know Jai Ho?”

  5. great article

  6. Yeah I’ve seen the frustration where Nepalis are referred to as Indians or mostly Chinese or Korean. Earlier I used to tell my partner that Nepalis are like a tanned version normally of Chinese (I feel horrible about that but then I was just ignorant because I was never acquainted with Nepali people before being with him and suddenly the next thing you know I’m a part of this community the size of a mini country!) anyhow, they do really get frustrated and I think it’s only fair too.. But People genuinely get confused I guess. Like I was in this position where I thought A’s best friend was Chinese for the longest time ever until I heard him speak Nepali and I was like “what”?! Wow that’s the first Chinese I heard speak an Asian language” :P

  7. there indeed are nepalis who are indians.
    that is to say there are indians whose mother tongue is nepali.
    nepali is one of the 22 official languages of india.

    so , saying (some) nepalis are indians – is not completely wrong. :D

    and being sandwiched between india and china may not be a bad thing (i know you are not saying that it is) . there is a recent article in economist on nepal – saying that prosperity in nepal once came because it acted like a trade bridge between the two countries.

    anyway , i agree with the sense of the article. and it will be nice if you give the indians like me some perspective of what the neighbors think by writing about it.

    • Hi Carvaka,

      Very true… in fact the comment in the video, “Are you from Darjeeling?” could very well be the case for some of the ethnic Nepalis living in India. This is even the case for my husband’s family– his grandfather was born in the Darjeeling region, but immigrated to Nepal as a young man.

      I’m glad you don’t take offense at the post. I worry sometimes that I’ll upset Indian readers when I mention some of these feelings/thoughts. I’m in no way trying to make India out to be “the bad guy,” only noting that some people within a country/culture don’t always realize the thoughts of others if not exposed to those thoughts. Being an American, I know there are lots of things I miss, and its only after seeking out information about how others think that I get a better understanding of the larger context.

      • well, i didn’t find anything offending.
        but even if i did, you shouldn’t take that seriously. i mean , indians seem to nowadays develop a habit of always getting offended.

  8. Loved this!

  9. I’m guilty of saying it myself.

    There’s a huge nepali conclave in my area which I didn’t know about since they looked indian to me. One day I went to a local hardware store and asked the guy to send an electrician to my house. While the guy was working in my house. I asked him if he was from north india. He smiled and said he was a nepali. That’s when I looked at his eye’s carefully and he had a little of those east asian eyes which was hidden by his rugged face full of sweat and dirt. Turns out that many of the stores in my area are owned by nepalis. They also run most of the restaurants and cyber cafes. I’m unfamiliar about nepals ethnic composition but there are all sort of nepali people here that look starting from indian to hybrid indo-nepali to almost chinese looking.

  10. No offense to anyone and i don’t know if I should say this here …but most Nepalese (born and raised in Nepal) think that they are superior to Indians and not otherwise…this is also a reason for them them to get offended when someone wrongly identifies them as an Indian. They however do not mind that much (or be somewhat happy) if someone says they look like chinese/korean/japanese/Italian or some other.

  11. ha, I always thought the patriotism is the main thing why people get offended when called Indian. I did not know it was more superiority thingie (@nepalidaw) which drives this. Quite interesting.

  12. In my experience, its mostly overseas Nepalis who make a big deal. Nepalis in Nepal itself or in India really don’t mind being lumped in with their neighbors, as long as its from a togetherness perspective rather than a superiority side.

  13. Hehe these videos are great :)
    I often get people thinking I’m Indian because I don’t ‘look’ Nepali. I guess it’s fair to say that both countries are pretty ethnically diverse, and you can’t really make assumptions about anybody based on their looks. Often when I get tired at constantly explaining that my parents are Nepali, I’ll just fall back on “Yeah, my parents are Indian”. Except if I’m speaking to Indians themselves, because then they always ask where in India your from, whether you speak that language, what your caste is….and on and on! When I was India travelling by myself, I found both rural and urban Indians to be very friendly towards me when I said I was Nepali (many explicitly said, “Nepalis are Hindus like us”, contrasting Nepalis to Pakistanis). I think an Indian-origin girl travelling solo in Nepal would experience much more hostility, going off people’s reactions to me in Nepal when they initially thought I was NRI…

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