fredag 5. juli 2024

This country has a national happiness index. But what is it really like to live there?

Located between China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, high in the Himalayas, sits Bhutan. Known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, it’s a Buddhist monarchy of 700,000 residents that has only had regular television broadcasts since 1999.

Most foreigners who have heard of Bhutan know two things: the country charges international visitors a $100/day sustainable development fee (aka tourist tax), and that it is the birthplace of the Gross National Happiness Index, a system intended to look after the well-being of citizens and the environment. As this once-hidden kingdom gradually opens up to the world, those things alone make it an intriguing travel destination, alongside historic temples, un-crowded hiking and trekking trails and stunning Himalayan landscapes.

But is it really happy? And what does that mean for people living here? Its citizens have a variety of answers. “The first thing (foreigners) talk about is the gross national happiness that we promote in Bhutan,” says KJ Temphel, founder of the conservation group Green Bhutan. “I think definitely living in Bhutan, for me personally, it’s quite peaceful and I’m very happy to be here.”