Arriving from Kathmandu, anyone is apt to experience culture shock encountering the contrast of the Sherpa culture. The Sherpa people, referring to the clans of the East, are direct descendents from Tibetans who migrated across the Himalaya mountain range over 500 years ago. The term Sherpa is now synonymous with those people who live high in the mountains in the East of Nepal, as well as with their great ability in climbing and packing heavy loads over terrain most Westerners would consider treacherous. Their religious practices and festivals are of the Buddhist faith, exactly as carried out by Tibetan monks and the Dalai Lama. Their clothing, traditionally hand-made from materials in the highlands, is colorful and durable.
Delving further into the Sherpa way of life one must appreciate their practical customs, considering the isolation and extreme conditions in which they live as a society. The Sherpa marriage, carried out in 3 stages, serves well to unite families, but does not follow the common Western rules. Such customs as birthdays (most Sherpa people don’t even know when they were born) and naming children (often named after the day they were born) hold much less significance in their circumstances. But their hearty diet of potatoes and grains (and home-brew alcohol), and skill in making the most out of yaks and farming lands above 10,000 feet, attest to the fact that their way of living actually works. Their stories of yetis and the legends from their villages show their genuine character as people.