The tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, at the eastern end of the Himalayas, nestles between the giant nation states of China and India. Often called the “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” it remained secluded until recent times, its towering mountains and lush green valleys virtually unvisited by the outside world, evoking a sense of mystery and wonder. The first ever “tourist” set foot in Bhutan in 1974, when the country formally opened its doors to outsiders, and was followed by the introduction of television and new technology at the turn of the twenty-first century. In 2008, Bhutan became the world’s youngest democracy, moving from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy in a historic change initiated by the revered and much-loved Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
A sovereign country throughout the ages, Bhutan is now establishing its place on the world stage and demonstrating leadership on climate and environmental issues. It is determined to maintain its Buddhist culture and way of life as it evolves and adapts to political change and economic challenges. Its unique development policy of “Gross National Happiness,” which measures progress not through material gain but on a happiness scale, is generating global interest.
The abundant hospitality of the Bhutanese, the variety of Bhutan’s ancient monasteries and colorful festivals, and its near-perfect ecosystem and natural beauty never fail to reward the traveler. Culture Smart! Bhutan will give you a deeper insight into the country’s history, values, customs, and age-old traditions. It highlights changes in people’s attitudes and behavior as the country modernizes, and provides practical guidance on how to develop a rapport with the Bhutanese, and translate that into meaningful friendships and business opportunities.
The Bhutanese are generally very friendly, easy-going, and hospitable. But don’t be surprised if, on your first meeting, you are inundated with questions such as “How old are you,” “Are you married and do you have children?” or “How much do you earn?” You may find these a bit personal and intrusive, but this is just their way of making conversation and getting to know you better, so don’t take offense.