I'm an American who's lived in Nepal for 7 years. Adjusting to life here came with a steep learning curve.

a man sitting in front of a woven goods shop in nepal
Hayden Rue in Patan Lalitpur, Nepal.Courtesy of Hayden Rue
  • Hayden Rue, an American traveler, shares what it's like to live in Nepal.

  • Rue says electrical and infrastructure issues are commonplace in the country.

  • Still, Rue says he enjoys the slower pace of life in Nepal.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hayden Rue, a 32-year-old expat who's lived in Nepal since 2016. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.

I was born and raised in Salem, Oregon. Growing up, my family and I didn't venture far from the West Coast.

In 2016, I worked as a gardener for several older couples. One of my clients recommended that I consider joining the Peace Corps, a US government agency that assists developing countries. I was in my early 20s and didn't have a set plan for a career at the time, so I decided to give it a shot.

A month and a half later, I got an email informing me that I had been chosen for a deployment to Nepal, and would be spending 27 months there.

In the last seven years, I've worked as a project coordinator for the World Bank, international NGOs, and charities in Nepal. I also run a travel blog.

a man reading to children in nepal.
Hayden Rue in Lumbini with World Bank Project.Hayden Rue

Organized chaos

There is an organized chaos to Nepal. As soon as I stepped out of the airport when I first arrived, car horns were blaring. Dozens of taxi drivers approached me, each promising to offer the lowest price for a ride.

I felt a mixture of fear and amazement as I drove down the narrow streets flanked by seemingly never-ending buildings that were connected by countless telephone wires. Large crowds of people — and their animals — crossed the street in every direction while dodging traffic.

a man overlooking patan durbar in nepal.
Hayden Rue in Patan Durbar Square.Hayden Rue

Steep learning curve

Nepal is a challenging country to live in if you are not ready for constant uncertainty. There is a steep learning curve when visiting Nepal for the first time.

I spent over a year living in Kathmandu, the capital, where it was difficult to get any sort of peace and quiet. Even though it's a big city, it felt suffocating at times as I had barely any personal space.

At the time, I was renting a flat where the owners lived downstairs. The owners saw me as a son and treated me like I was a part of their family. While this was initially a good thing, it eventually went overboard. She would come into my flat unannounced. I also had to do jobs around the house, including climbing into a 1,000-liter water tank and cleaning the inside by hand with steel wool and sponges.

a man overlooking the valleys in kathmandu.
Hayden Rue lived in Kathmandu Valley when he first moved to Nepal.Hayden Rue

Even crossing the road can be challenging for the uninitiated in Nepal. Car crashes are common. There are usually no crosswalks, so cars and scooters do not stop for pedestrians.

A few years ago, several of my friends from the US visited Kathmandu and were glued to the sidewalk in fear, terrified to cross the road. I had to quickly zig-zag through traffic and lead them to the other side.

Infrastructure isn't well developed in Nepal. Taking bus rides from Pokhara to Kathmandu, which are about 200 kilometers apart, could take 15 hours due to accidents on the two-lane highway. When I lived in the small village of Syangja, there wasn't any electricity for two weeks. The single power pole connecting all the houses was damaged. This meant dinners in the dark, no TV, no way to charge anything, and nothing to do but talk after sunset.

The cost of living is much cheaper than in the US

My monthly rent for the flat in Syangja was around 8,000 Nepalese Rupees, or $60. In Kathmandu, I paid around double the price. In Pokhara — the second-largest city in Nepal — I paid around $210 in monthly rent.

On average, I spend around $600 a month and live a comfortable life here.

One thing that's surprisingly costly in Nepal is groceries. I usually spend between $225 and $300 on groceries a month as processed foods — like chocolate, dairy products, and soda — have to be imported and are more expensive.

a man on a swing overlooking the himalayas in nepal
Hayden Rue at Khumai Danda Trek,Hayden Rue

A slower pace of life

The most rewarding part about living in Nepal is the connections you make with people. Time is slower.

While I'm currently traveling in Sri Lanka, I plan to return to Nepal in August, where I hope to open a small cafe in Pokhara someday.

Even though friends and family continue to tell me to come home, I don't see myself moving back anytime soon. In Nepal, you can connect with others, no matter where they are from, or what they have planned for the day. I could sit for hours drinking tea and talking to people about their lives, experiences, and dreams.

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