…Or, more specifically, at Tribhuvan International Airport, where I managed to make my first cultural faux pas.
As soon as I emerged from the ATM booth a man was pointing at a bit of paper saying ‘This is you?’ It was my name, spelled completely correctly (many people don’t manage that even in Britain :-P) but it was scrawled in highlighter on a crumpled bit of paper. I was totally ready to walk away but the guy insisted he was from my hostel, so I went with him to where the car was parked. And here’s the thing — I’d assumed that the guy holding my name up would be the driver. The good news in this situation was that there WAS a driver and he had a little hostel ID card, which he showed me without being asked (I must have looked totally terrified!) The bad news was that I now had a porter saying ‘now you give me tip please’. Totally wasn’t prepared for that, as I’d only got out enough money to pay the driver, tip him and also pay my hostel when I got there! I tried to explain I didn’t have any money except what I needed to pay the driver, which of course, only got this guy more annoyed ‘I know you have dollars, something.’ I had to get out my coins to show him that no, I didn’t, and eventually he gave up. I didn’t know whether to ask the driver if he had smaller notes he could change me (he didn’t) or whether to give him a £20 just to make him go away, which I really didn’t want to do. Apparently £1.23 wasn’t a big enough tip, so he went and the driver set off. I was feeling shaken and a total numpty, but the driver obviously didn’t think there was anything special about what just happened so he just chatted away as taxi drivers do, maybe just trying to get me to chill out a bit. As we passed places I’d seen on the map of where the hostel was, I did actually begin to relax.
When we’d got there he told me ‘ I don’t have any change, so you can pay inside.’ Inside the hostel, a smiley man told me I could check in properly tomorrow so — you guessed it, I could have tipped the porter after all!