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Hierarchy and the different layers of YOU in Nepal

Chain of command

In the Nepali culture in Nepal there exists a complex from of hierarchical layer in almost every community. There is a hierarchical layer in the society, in the economic status of a person or family, the age, your position in the family relation, religion, ethnicity and the cast system. And to make it more complex, every community has within it, its own hierarchy. Thus making it very confusing for a non Nepali to understand.

Deflecting from the rule

Ah, the age is simple, the older, the higher in the rank you may think. Which is in general true, but if a senior per in age marries a younger sibling in the family then that new member will actually take the same rank of the younger sibling and will be regarded as lower in the ladder!

Addressing the YOU

So how do the Nepali address and distinguish the people in the various ranks? Well simple actually, in Nepali, the official language of Nepal there are four types or forms of the word ‘you’ for the various ranks.

1. The highest level of  ‘you’ is used to address royalties and people who have given you life like your parents and people on whom your life depends. Also the manner or words used in this level of communication is very respectful and distant. In some ethnical groups, this manner of communication is used in their daily way of conversing.

2. The second highest  form of ‘you’ is use formally for business acquaintance, colleagues and addressing strangers.

3.The third form of ‘you’ less formal than the second one and is used among, relatives, friends.

4. The last form  is used to address subordinates (not always though), siblings that are junior in age or even close friends.

When to use which?

This can be very confusing to non Nepali’s. Using the wrong ‘ you’ form in a situation can be a bit awkward for the person you address but also hilarious, depending on the situation. To avoid a blunder or a feeling of disrespect, it would be best not to use the last two form and to stick to the second form until corrected.