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.

KARMA CHODEN is the founder of Simply Bhutan Travels and a freelance writer. She has a degree in English Literature from the University of North Bengal, India, worked as a journalist for many years with Kuensel, Bhutan’s national newspaper, and served as a commissioner and focal person for the National Commission for Women and Children in Bhutan.

DORJI WANGCHUK is a management consultant working in London. He has a degree in engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Calicut, India, and an MBA from the University of Cambridge. He was a civil servant in the Bhutanese government for many years, and gives regular talks on developments in Bhutan.