We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Bhutan
The king and former king are accorded a great deal of respect in Bhutan. It is wise to bear this in mind when conversing with local people. Sacred objects. Always pass mani stones, stupas and other religious objects with your right side nearest to the object, and turn prayer wheels in a clockwise direction. Never sit on mani stones or stupas. Clothing. When visiting temples, remove shoes and head gear and wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site. You will need to wear pants and long skirts.
Donations. At monasteries, it is custom to make a small donation to the monks as a sign of respect; and also to the Buddhist statues as a means of developing a generous and spacious mind. There are many places in each temple where you can donate, and it is expected that you donate to each place. Remember to have small notes for this gesture. However, this is not mandatory. Smoking.
It is illegal to smoke at monasteries and in public places. Tobacco. Products containing tobacco (cigarettes, chewing tobacco etc) are effectively banned throughout Bhutan (which remains the only country in the world to do so) and penalties for possession or use may be severe.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Bhutan, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Bhutan food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Bhutan? Please comment below.