Customs and traditions
In the predominantly Buddhist kingdom of
Bhutan, great importance is attached to cultural
heritage and traditions. The country has long been very
isolated and although it has opened up to the outside
world in recent decades, conscious efforts are being
made from an official point of view to preserve its own
The preservation of traditions and the reverence for
nature creates a kind of old-world charm that easily
fascinates the foreigners who visit the country. One
downside is that the Buddhist heritage and traditions
are not shared by the large group of Southern Bhutanese,
Lhotshampa, who are mainly Hindus and originate in
Nepal. It has paved the way for ethnic contradictions
(see Population and Languages).
Overview of the capital city of Bhutan, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
The term "gross national happiness" is used to
reflect the pursuit of a harmonious and prosperous
society based on Buddhist values. These values are
expressed, among other things, in orders for how
buildings should look and how people should dress.
The state's order for clothing is called driglam
namzha and also regulates how one should behave in
a variety of public contexts. These include how to hand
over and receive gifts, how to address a parent, how to
serve and eat food, and so on. The state urges people to
dress "traditionally" in public and at festivals.
The man should dress in a gho that reaches
the ground but is held up to his knee length with a
sharpening so that a large pocket is formed on his
stomach. For that he has knee socks. The woman wears a
kira, a foot-side dress that consists of a
square piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body
and fastened with brooches at the shoulders. During
this, she has a long-sleeved blouse and on top of a
short, open jacket. Social status is marked by shawls
Visiting foreigners should think about using
relatively well-worn clothing. Long trousers or skirts
and long-sleeved tops are recommended when visiting
dzones (fortified monastery facilities) or temples.
Everyone must also take off their shoes. One should not
enter a dzong without explicit permission.
Whoever hands over or receives anything uses the
right hand or both hands. To point, one uses the entire
hand with the palm up, not one finger. It is considered
offensive to point to someone with their feet, and to
sit with crossed legs. Around buildings with religious
shrines and prayer wheels you always go clockwise.
The polite offered food first covers the mouth and
refuses. Only after one or two jolts are you thanked
Rice and chili have a prominent role in Bhutanese
cuisine. Chili is considered a vegetable rather than a
spice. Strong green chili in cheese sauce, ema datse,
is something of a national dish and eaten at any time of
the day. Vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and onions
are also often cooked with a piece of cheese. The
Bhutanese also eat a lot of meat, from pork, beef,
chicken, goat, sheep and yak.
Red rice, a native variety, is basic food for many.
At high altitudes where rice does not grow, buckwheat
and corn are common. Rice or other crop is also used to
make macaw or raksi, a brandy that is
often served warm with eggs in. It is used in both
religious and social contexts. Alcohol consumption is
high in Bhutan and is increasingly seen as a serious
social problem. Another popular drink is suja,
a salt tea with butter in it.
Traditions and holidays
A long line of holidays are celebrated in Bhutan. The
winter solstice is noticed around our New Year, while
the lunar calendar New Year is celebrated in
February-March. Royal birth and coronation days are
holidays. National Day, December 17 is celebrated in
memory of the First King's throne entry in 1907.
Many religious holidays are also observed. Among the
more important is tshechu, when celebrating
guru Rinpoche, one of the forefront of Tibetan Buddhism.
A central feature is the dances and performances that
monks and laymen perform wearing masks. They teach
Buddhist doctrine and give the spectators protection
against accidents and evil. Participating in tshechu is
considered to bring happiness, and also plays an
important social function for many who live in remote
villages. The holiday lasts for several days and falls
at different times as determined by the Bhutanese lunar
calendar. It is also celebrated at different times in
different districts. A number of other Buddhist
celebrations are celebrated similarly, while Hindus in
the south have their feasts.