Nepal has a diverse cultural and ethnic makeup due partly to its complex and difficult terrain. Sociocultural groups include indigenous nationalities, high-caste Hindus, low-caste Hindus (Salits), and peoples from the Terai region, including both ethnic and caste groups (Madhesi). There are officially fifty-nine groups of indigenous nationalities in Nepal, with about 101 ethnic groups overall speaking 123 languages. The current population of Nepal is approximately 27.5 million.
Though there exist numerous spoken dialects, Nepali is the official language, spoken and understood by a majority of people. English is spoken by many in government and business offices and is the mode of education in most private schools in Kathmandu and some other cities.
Hinduism and Buddhism are the predominant religions found in Nepal. Each has influenced the cultures, traditions, and festivals found there. The two religions have coexisted harmoniously through centuries, and Buddha is worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus in Nepal.
Nepal does not have a distinct cooking style, though food habits vary depending on the region. Nepali food has been influenced by Indian and Tibetan styles of cooking. Nepalis do not eat beef, in part because Hindus worship cows, and also the cow is the national animal of Nepal. Most Nepalis do not use cutlery and instead eat with their right hand. A typical Nepali meal is dal (lentil soup), bhat (boiled rice), and tarkari (curried vegetables), often accompanied by achar (pickle).