People in Bhutan

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Boys in Paro

Boys in Paro


In Bhutan, wherever you go, you will be greeted with traditional Bhutanese hospitality. It is in the Bhutanese tradition to honour every guest with great hospitality. In general, Bhutanese people are friendly and well-disposed towards foreigners.

Bhutanese people still wear their traditional dress in schools, offices and public places. On the left, the picture shows a Bhutanese girl in women's traditional dress known as 'Kira'. Men's traditional dress is known as 'Gho' and it looks like a knee-length overcoat.

Bhutan's population can be divided into three broad ethnic groups: the Eastern Bhutanese known as the Sharchops, the Western Bhutanese known as the Ngalungs, and the Southern Bhutanese known as the Lhotshampas.

Bhutanese people continue to live in valleys. These valleys are now connected by roads. In the past, the rivers and gorges isolated different valleys and as a result, different dialects developed and it is common to see different dialects spoken in different valleys.

Believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan, the Sharchops are of Mongoloid origins, though their exact origin is unknown (Tibet being the most likely source). At present, they live mainly in the east of Bhutan.

The western region is the home of the Ngalung people, who are also of Mongoloid origin. Most breed cattle or cultivate the land, and their dwellings are spread over a wide area. Their anscestors are believed to have migrated to Bhutan from Tibet over the centuries.

The Northern Himalayan Zone, over 3,000 meters (9,000 feet), is the haunt of semi nomadic yak herdsmen. They spend most of the year in their black yak hair tents, but also possess dry-stone walled houses, where they spend the coldest months of the year and which are used to store their goods.

Southern Bhutan is inhabited mainly by Nepalese farmers who arrived in the country at the end of the 19th century. They are known to Bhutanese as the 'Lhotshampas' which means 'people of the southern region'.

Some figures are given below. Most of them are outdated. I will replace them with the recent ones as soon as I can get access to a reliable source.

Population: 658000 (Ninth Five Year Plan Main Official Document, 2002)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 40% (male 396 839; female 368 391)

15-64 years: 56% (male 549 050; female 518 780)

65 years and over: 4% (male 38 235; female 37 012) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.27% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 37.33 births/1 000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 14.6 deaths/1 000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1 000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 111.66 deaths/1 000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 52.31 years

male: 52.77 years

female: 51.83 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.22 children born/woman (1998 est.)


noun: Bhutanese (singular and plural)

adjective: Bhutanese

Ethnic groups: Bhote 50% ethnic Nepalese 35% indigenous or migrant tribes 15%

Religions: Lamaistic Buddhism 75% Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%

Languages: Dzongkha (official) Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 42.2%

male: 56.2%

female: 28.1% (1995 est.)

People—note: refugee issue over the presence in Nepal of approximately 91 000 Bhutanese refugees 90% of whom are in seven United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps

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