Bhutan’s foresightedness sets it apart from most countries. As an agricultural society, we rely heavily on our land and nature. Our connection with the environment and animals is important, and when that is destroyed, our livelihoods become affected and happiness then becomes a farfetched idea when you’re struggling to grow produce in your fields.
As the current king of Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, once said: “Where we live must be clean, safe, well-organised and beautiful; for national integrity, national pride and for our bright future.”
Humans have an inherent desire to have a sense of belonging, whether it is in social groups, among friends, or even in a country, sharing the same connection makes people feel secure and happy. Our strong cultural identity helps to promote belonging and gives a group of people a place they can call home.
Every Bhutanese is proud of how far they have come. They adore their Kings, they guard their culture and traditions jealously, and they’re proud about the fact that they have never been colonised by external powers.
Our cultural identity is visible in the traditional costumes that we wear every day to work, school, temples and festivals. Even the designs of buildings must adhere to strict cultural guidelines, incorporating traditional Bhutanese elements on the facade. These are just part of a set of protocols or code of conduct (driglam namzha), that determines how cultural values, practices and traditions are maintained and not lost in an increasingly modernising Bhutan. This sense of belonging allows the people to feel safe in their home country, and with that comes motivation, health and happiness. This is why cultural preservation is one of the main pillars in Gross National Happiness.
Bhutanese lead a simple life, one that is far from the excesses of delicious food, the ease and convenience of a well-connected transport system, and access to water each time you turn on the tap. A simple life here means coming home daily after work with no distractions like midnight movies, drinks at a rooftop bar or over-the-top launch events. A simple life means not going out for sushi dinners or window shopping. It also means having a similar cuisine almost daily, due to the limited variety of vegetables and ingredients here. Dining out is a rarity and a luxury.
Walking is the primary mode of transportation for most here. Sometimes, a taxi ride is needed and unavoidable, but our daily commute is usually done with the two legs. Water supply can sometimes be unreliable and during occasions where there are water issues, we all tend to say a little prayer in that one second when we turn the tap on. Sometimes the water is muddy too. Keeping reserve water in buckets at home is par for the course for everyone here. But all these “inconveniences” doesn’t stop many living here from being happy. Yes, there may be days where you can’t wash properly, or days where you may crave for a nice dinner at a restaurant, but one thing is that the simpler your life is, the less you desire. The lack of complexities in life makes one much more appreciative for the little things you have.
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