The Bhutanese people is a homogenous group divided into three main ethnic groups. People from the western region are often referred to as Ngalongs, the descendants of Tibetan immigrants. To the east are the Sharchops, widely believed to be the earliest inhabitants, of the Indo-Mongoloid origin and appear closely related to the northeast Indians and northern Burmese. To the south are the Lhotsampas, largely descendants of Nepali immigrants settled in the foothills.
The literacy rate in Bhutan is 63 percent. The country has a median age of 26 years and a life expectancy of 68 .
Bhutan’s national language is Dzongkha, the language spoken in dzongs. Historically the language of western Bhutan, it is today the administrative language as well as taught in all schools and institutions. Dzongkha was formerly only an oral language, the writtenlanguage being Choekey, the ‘religious language’ known to the outside world as Classical Tibetan. Linguistically related to Choekey, it uses the same writing system. There are 19 distinct languages and dialects. Sharchop is the most prominent of all dialects spoken by the majority people of eastern Bhutan. People in the south speak Nepali. English is widely spoken by Bhutanese. It is used in official communication and alsoserves as lingua franca for the urban elites and is used in schools and institutions
Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact because ofits isolation from the rest of the world until the early 1960s. Strong emphasis is laid on the promotion and preservation of its unique culture and traditions. By protecting and nurturing Bhutan’s living culture it is believed that it will help guard the sovereignty of the nation.Bhutanese society is free of class or a caste system. Slavery was abolished in the early 1950s through a royal edict. Bhutanese society has always maintained relative gender equality and is an open and good-spirited society. Living in Bhutanese society means understanding some accepted norms such as Driglam Namzha, the traditional code of etiquette. Driglam Namzha teaches people a code of conduct to adhere to as members of a respectful society. Examples of Driglam Namzha include wearing a traditional scarf (kabney) when visiting a Dzong or an office, letting the elders and the monks serve themselves first during meals, offering felicitation scarves during ceremonies such as marriages and promotions and politely greeting elders or seniors.
Food and drink
A typical Bhutanese meal consists of rice, a dish of Ema Datshi, the country’s favorite dish of chili and cheese, pork, beef curry or lentils. Vegetables commonly eaten include spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Bhutanese eat an incredible amount of chillies, treating it as a vegetable rather than as a spice. Momos are Tibetan-style dumplings stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favourite. Drinking milk tea, suja (butter tea) and ara (locally brewed wine) is popular amongst both urban and rural Bhutanese .
One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe resembling a kimono, tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera. The pouch which forms at the front traditionally was used for carrying food bowls and a small dagger, today it is more accustomed to carrying small articles such as wallets, mobile phones and Doma (beetle nut).
Women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju. Tribal and semi-nomadic people like the Bramis and Brokpas of eastern Bhutan wear clothing that differs from the rest of the Bhutanese population. Both wear dresses woven either out of Yak or Sheep hair. Bhutanese still wear long scarves when visiting Dzongs and other administrative centers.The scarves worn vary in color, signifying the wearer’s status or rank.
Bhutanese architecture remains distinctively traditional, employing rammed earth and wattle and daub construction methods, stone masonry, and intricate woodwork around windows and roofs. Traditional architecture uses no nails or iron bars in construction. Characteristic of the region is a type of castle fortress known as the dzong. Since ancient times, the dzongs have served as the religious and secular administration centres for their respective districts.
Bhutan’s national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. There are two targets placed over 100 meters apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round. Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event, and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams.