Bhutanese culture is a composite of both Bhutanese as a nationality and Nepali as an ethnicity. Despite attempts by the regime in Bhutan during the political crisis in the 1990s to label us as purely Nepalese akin to that of Nepal, we have succeeded in maintaining a distance with both extremes. To understand who we are, we are Bhutanese by origin and Nepali by ethnicity (Lhothsampha in official Bhutanese language). We speak Nepali language similar to Nepali of Nepal but not identical. To draw an analogy for this, think of English of England and English of America. And we use the same script which is also shared with many Indian languages. Many Bhutanese here also speak some Dzongkha, official language of Bhutan, which is not spoken by Nepalese from Nepal.
By religion most of us are Hindus but we have a sizable portion of Buddhists and Christians as well. The Bhutanese also share the ethnic costume with Nepalese and you can see many of our older folks with traditional hats. And we have the same marriage and other cultural traditions.
Bhutanese are peace-loving citizens by nature. They are less educated than the American mainstream society and also law-abiding. We are brought up in Bhutan to fear the authority and authority means “Cops”! Ours is a traditional family structure with three generations living under the same household but freedom is slowly creeping into our community, too. We are quick to adapt and change and not radical in any sense. Due to our historical backwardness in education, we do not have developed forms of culinary arts nor Bhutanese care much about “calorie count” as we normally find in the main American food culture. Our food is simple: rice, pulses, vegetables, dairy, meat (not all Bhutanese eat meat due to religious and family traditions). Those of us who are exposed to the day to day work-life are getting more familiar and acclimatized with American food culture.
Our wedding culture is still traditional: the parents have to organize the wedding formalities and priest is necessary. The only departure from the past practice is the one in selecting a partner. More and more young men and women are asserting themselves in selecting their life-partners, the parents only to solemnize and bless them without many complaints. In fact some parents encourage children to even look for their own life-partners to save themselves a headache! Having a girl-friend and or a boy-friend among the newly educated ones is new-normal now and many parents acknowledge this without any grudge. Religious functions and rituals are a routine affair in the Bhutanese families and Hindus observe ritual fasting quite often. Bhutanese are keen on preserving their core culture and traditions irrespective of their situation. Preserving our core culture and integrating into the main stream of American life is both a goal and a challenge for our organizations.