Why is Bhutan the happiest country in the world? This is probably a question most people have never asked themselves before in their lives, mostly because almost nobody knows where and what is Bhutan.
First of all, let’s start this articles by saying that there will be a lot of haters that will start saying “no, it can’t be like that”, “yeah, sure, maybe in your dreams” when we’ll be talking about how life in Bhutan is like and why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world.
Bhutan is a country located in a very mystical place, somewhere high up, where the Himalayas touch the skies, between the borders of China and India, and where all the people are faithful subject of the Dragon King of the Thunder Dragon Kingdom.
Sounds like a fairy tale? Well, it’s not. This is Bhutan, and you haven’t even found out the most amazing part yet.
Being situated high up in the Himalayas, Bhutan has many climate zones, from the chilly mountain tops, all the way down to a subtropical climate. The people of Bhutan call their kingdom Druk Youl or Druk Cenden, meaning “country of the dragon that reigns over the thunder”.
For many millenniums, Bhutan was completely isolated from the rest of the world, due to its natural landscape that made it possible for its people to conserve the most authentic and original traditions and cultural values, which are incredibly amazing, especially if you look at them through Western eyes.
The official religion of Bhutan is Buddhism and there are only 753,947 inhabitants, and the country’s biggest city, Thimphu, the capital, has just about 44,000 citizens. Now that we know a little about Bhutan’s history, traditions and demographics, let’s go straight to the most amazing part that makes this country to be the happiest in the world.
Bhutan’s government thought it was absurd to measure the well-being of its country and citizens according to its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and decided to establish a new indicator, more suitable to its people’s needs, more humane – The Gross National Happiness (GNH) indicator.
This indicator was voted and integrated in the country’s constitution as Art. 9 and it sounds like this: “The main goal of the Government’s activities is for every citizen of Bhutan to reach happiness.”
Sounds amazing right? And this is how the Ministry of Happiness was founded in Bhutan. The government brought in international specialists, including some Nobel Prize winners in Economic Sciences and started working out on the best formula possible in order to evaluate the country’s happiness indicator (GNH).
One of the questions of the created survey, is very simple: “Are you happy?” And guess what? In 2005, 45,2% answered “I’m very happy”, 51,6% said “I’m happy”, and only 3,2% said “I’m not happy”. To be honest, you’ll always have a few haters around, just like the ones that will bitch about this article and about how life in Bhutan is not actually the way it is presented.
So what else makes Bhutan the happiest country on Earth?
Traditions, customs and the Bhutanese culture are strictly respected to the very last point. The country has restricted tourism and mountain climbing, and until recently, the only way to get into the country was by obtaining a personal invitation from a member of the Royal Family, which served as a visa.
Walking around outside Thimphu, the country’s capital, is only allowed with local guides, local authorities assuring themselves that this way, tourists won’t throw trash around or scribble their names in ancient temples and sculptures.
Television first appeared in Bhutan in 1999! Can you imagine living all this time without a TV? Yes, and by looking at Bhutan, it seems like we’re the ones missing out. It was the only country in the world where no TV stations were accessed or present. The first newspaper appear in 2012!
Some other interesting fun facts: Bhutan has only 1 psychiatrist, it has no hunger problems or criminality and there is practically no corruption. It is forbidden to kill animals (any animals!) and most of the Bhutanese people are vegetarians. Those who choose to eat meat can buy it from neighboring India.
The Bhutanese are obliged by law to have a traditional national costume. Talking about law, there are no lawyers in Bhutan. Being a lawyer is illegal and here is the article to prove it: “No person that can transform white into black and black into white will be allowed in court rooms”. Sounds brilliant, right? We know, we’re crazy about Bhutan also!
The King of Bhutan is the youngest monarch in the world, being born in 1980, and he’s extremely beloved and respected by his people, and by the international community. The Queen, his wife, is the daughter of an aviator, and they married out of love, not based on royal status.
After their marriage, the Gross National Happiness (GNH – we’re repeating this because maybe you’ll pass it along to your national authorities and who knows what changes it could lead to) grew with 2-3%.
The King and Queen of Bhutan are very concerned about the health of their population and this is why Bhutan became the first country in the world to completely ban smoking everywhere (as in everywhere!).
Heavy industry practically doesn’t exist in Bhutan because the Government is more concerned about the ecological situation and cares for the environment, decreeing almost half of the country’s land a national reservation, where hunting and cutting trees are banned.
Chemical fertilizers are also forbidden in Bhutan and everything that grows here is completely GMO free. The country relies on eco-agriculture and textile production, rice and bio-fruit exports and on electric energy produced by the country’s multiple hydro-power factories.
The Bhutanese live in big houses, 2-3 floors high, scattered all over the mountains, while the peaks are home to over 200 monasteries dating back from the 7th century, build by the King of Tibet himself.
It may not be as flashy as the US, or as rich as Saudi Arabia. It may not be as popular as Europe and it’s not as romantic as South America, but this is Bhutan. A fairy tale land, with the happiest people on the planet. Love it, or hate it, this is Bhutan!
Surf through the gallery to view some of the most amazing photos of Bhutan, its landscape and its people.