One immediate theme that can apply to Seven Years in Tibet would be that appearances can be deceiving. Harrer is a German, and thus can be seen as a stereotypical German Nazi. This appearance is not the case as he demonstrates himself to being a loyal and honorable servant to the Dalai Lama. Ngawang Jigme might have appeared to be a staunch soldier who would stand by a free and independent Tibet as well as the Dalai Lama's wishes. His narrative reveals him to be someone who ends up "betraying his culture" with actions that were easily subdued by the Chinese. To a great extent, even the Tibetan Culture, something shown to be so different for Harrer and something he perceived to be foreign and alien, ends up becoming something very approachable and something that Harrer becomes immersed in as a result of his experiences. Both of them become close friends, something not initially seen. The appearances initially shown prove to be deceiving as the narrative unfolds.
Another theme present in the film is the need to transform reality. The theme of transformation is seen in how the Dalai Lama resists the Chinese's attempt to control Tibet. The Dalai Lama stands firm to his idea that the Chinese vision of reality does not have to be immediately accepted. Harrer find his own reality transformed as a consequence of his work with the Dalai Lama and in his understanding of him. Harrer learns that his own reality can be transformed through his embrace of Buddhism. When the Dalal Lama teaches him about all life, one sees where the theme of transformation impacts Harrer on a personal level: ''In a past life, this innocent worm could have been your mother. Please, no more hurting!" The transformational quality of understanding the world and one's place in it is another theme that can apply to the film.