Greetings and etiquette play an important role in the traditional customs and spiritual life of the Bhutanese people. It represents the essence and good behavior of people through time. Whenever you plan a trip to Bhutan, both must be mastered to avoid misunderstandings and better interact with the locals during your Bhutan holiday.
To gain an in-depth understanding of Bhutan's greetings and etiquette, you should note the importance of Buddhism to a country that is close and creates unique customs, ways of life, and codes of conduct. Read on for this article to help you better understand the customs and habits of Bhutan to complement your trip to Bhutan.
Bhutan Traditional Dress
Like other countries in Asia, Bhutan maintains its community traditions with a deep eastern culture and a special code of conduct that is very different from Western civilization. In addition, the close relationship with Buddhism has laid the ground rules for greeting locals in Bhutan.
In Bhutan, you should take into account that greetings in Bhutan are quite different compared to other countries, as hugging someone while greeting is very rare, especially avoiding kisses between men and women altogether. Usually, Bhutanese greet others with open arms and a slight bow to show respect. So far, the handshake is uncommon in Bhutanese tradition, but it can be accepted as the norm for communication.
Among the languages, Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan and is spoken by more than half of the people in the kingdom. Once you learn this new language, you will have more opportunities to get closer to the people and culture. Whenever you meet a local, say "Kuzu zangpo la", which means "hello" in Bhutan. In conversation, Bhutanese often add "la" at the end of sentences as a sign of respect. After that, they might say "Jen Pa Leg Sho", which means "welcome". You can generally say a simple "Kuzuzangpo" to a child and "Kuzuzangpo la" to an elderly person.
Traveling to the landlocked kingdom of Bhutan, you will notice that Buddhism is practiced throughout the country, establishing unique customs, and tourists must follow some basic Bhutanese customs rules when visiting the country:
Bhutanese follow Asian standards of modesty. In Bhutan, both men and women should avoid revealing clothing, including shorts, crop tops, short skirts, and halterneck tops. Nudity is completely prohibited. By contrast, the government requires tourists to dress neatly and modestly, especially when visiting pontificates or temples. Often, locals love to see tourists in traditional Bhutanese clothing, including Gho or Kira, and they are always happy to help you buy this unique garment.
Dressing Code in Bhutan
In Bhutan, when enjoying a meal with a group of people, you should wait until everyone is ready to eat it. If you are invited to eat at a local's house, sometimes the host will politely invite you to eat first and then eat, which is the Bhutanese etiquette for serving guests first. During the meal, eat with your mouth closed, and don't make any noise while eating, especially when your mouth is full of food.
The staple foods of Bhutan include rice, buckwheat, and corn. Bhutanese also eat beef, pork, fish, chicken, lamb, and yak meat, and they like to eat spicy food. Chili peppers are used as a vegetable rather than a seasoning. When cooking, no matter what the dish is, plenty of dried chilies are added. Also, locals like to use raw chili peppers for salads. Before eating, drinking, and drinking tea, people throw a little food, tea, and wine into the air to pray for God's blessing.
Personal space is an important part of every Bhutanese. Therefore, you should not touch a person's head as it is considered a special part of the body. Also, don't point your fingers at others, especially religious objects, and open your palms up. Also, you should use your hands to give or receive something. When walking along a stream or lake, remember not to swim or throw any stones at it, as every item in Bhutan is also considered sacred.
Bhutan is home to countless dzongs and ancient temples shrouded in mythology and magic, making visiting these sacred destinations one of the best things to do in Bhutan. Whenever you enter a dzong or temple, remember to take off your shoes, hat, and sunglasses before entering. Also, speak softly as you tour around the temple and always move in a clockwise direction for holiness and good luck.
You should note that no stones are allowed to be picked up and thrown anywhere or carried with you as this is considered disrespectful to the Holy Land. Photography is allowed in the courtyard, but not allowed inside the temple. It is customary for people to leave a small sum of money on the altar when approaching the center of the temple. When you do this, the monk may pour a small amount of holy water into your hands, which you should drink or pose as you drink it, and then apply the remaining water to your head from front to back.
Visit Temple in Bhutan
In Bhutan, never open gifts in public or front of the giver. Bhutanese will reject something three times before they reject it (they are not rude). Even if you are a tourist, you should refuse at least once.
It is customary to exchange gifts between Bhutanese citizens unless a gift is received from a superior. If you receive a gift, be sure to return the gift container and include a small treat such as fruit, bread, or candy. Bhutanese consider those who do not return the containers to be a symbol of poverty.
Tipping is not mandatory in Bhutan as all hotel and restaurant bills include a 20% service charge; however, if you still want to add more, you can do so. Aside from these places, tips for your guide, your hikers, and your driver are all about personal matters. However, this is just a tipping etiquette guide. You are free to make your own decisions and give whatever you see fit.
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