Come home, Young Bhutanese

Drukair, Bhutan’s first airline; just a few minutes away from landing.

I cannot speak for the Asian society, but I will speak for the Bhutanese community. Oh yes, I will defend those hundreds of Bhutanese who leave home every year to first world countries because of the dollar lure. Just as much as there are Bhutanese who go to school towards earning a degree in the United States, there are also uneducated Bhutanese who work their butt off for the dollars. But who am I to judge those Bhutanese who sell their cows, ancestral property, and give up their revered positions in civil society for their version of a,’ Better life.’ At the end of the day, even the patriot thinks twice as much about himself than he thinks about his country . There is no lack of dignity in working, even if that means coming from a country where peace and prosperity prevail, a fair and transparent government exist, and education is free.

It makes sense to say that a Jamaican leaves his/her country to work and live in the United States because Nigeria, today, like most African nations are not environments where a child can be brought up. Bhutan’s population is half of Tampa’s and for a population of that size, migrating to third world countries in hundreds is too high a figure.

In the movie, Travellers and Magicians the protagonist is a young, ambitious man working as a civil servant who is not content with where his life as an, ‘Ordinary,’ civil servant has headed. The protagonist plans to leave Bhutan for the United States. The protagonist represents the younger generation of Bhutanese society; he represents the attitude of most civil servants. The only difference is that, he does not have any children, and his options remained limited. In 2014, those, ‘ambitious,’ Bhutanese have options to work and live other than in the United States, such as Canada, Dubai, and Europe. “Staying in Bhutan demanded a lot of respect and qualification to get a job,” Says Deepu, in his late 20’s, working and living in Dubai.  Leaving home for Deepu meant more than getting a job and being able to pay his bills, it meant; a new environment and a new beginning as Deepu was struggling with drug abuse. “Now much broader paths have opened for me where I can improve my skills in communication like never before,” said Deepu over an interview on Facebook. 

Travellers and Magicians, one of the few ,’Revered,’ Bhutanese movie released almost a decade ago and, believe it or not unfortunately, Bhutan is experiencing the exact scenario portrayed in the movie like a scene foreshadowing in a short story. 

I am not a parent, but I understand the importance in being able to get your child the best education, exposure, and the latest iPhone. However, please don’t waste this life as a Bhutanese by moping airports when you should visit one back and forth. Don’t waste your life as a Bhutanese looking after others children when your own child is growing up with out a mother. I also understand that not everybody is destined to become the next Jobs or Bieber. Thus, education is our only salvation, education may not prevent Bhutanese from leaving their country, BUT lack of education is definitely one of the main reasons why Bhutanese leave in the first place.

Bhutan is not only a small country but also a brand new country where the first female minister, first female bodybuilder, and things of that nature make headlines. Without having to calculate the annual GDP, we can say that most Bhutanese are content and that is a good thing. But we do not know how and where our country will stand in the future, right? May be we will discover more than hydro power and build friendships across oceans; we never know…However it is important to understand that one thing will always stay the same; our ,’Unique,’ culture, heritage, and tradition will always play a significant role in guarding our frontiers.

Wearing a kishuthara (Silk Bhutanese national dress), once in a year during losar does not mean preserving our unique culture. And when you visit Bhutan with your coach purse, iPhone 9, and an ‘American accent,’ make sure, you don’t prostylize the real heroes who stay home and work in the name of tsa wa sum. 



  1. This is an insightful post. A very relevant issue has been tackled as many Bhutanese dream of of traveling abroad and working. Keep writing!

  2. Thats a really good post.. U seem to b takin things seriously.. Really boldly put.. Very loud n clear.. Awesome… Keep up the good work

  3. I agree at the worrisome trend that is happening in Bhutan. Bhutan is a beautiful and peaceful country but it’s sad that young Bhutanese are being lured by the Dollar and being forced to leave ones ageing parents, children and families in the dream of Iphone9, coach purse and of course American accent…

    However, the reality behind Bhutan being beautiful and peaceful country has seen changes such as

    1. Rich furthering their richness infinitely
    2. Sugar daddies and mommies sponsoring the unprivileged youth in their studies
    3. Failing tourism industry due to undercutting by tour agents killing each other off
    4. Poor quality construction works by quoting below budget to get work and getting bankrupt at the completion of the work
    5. Corrupt if not a useless civil servants munching on huge government budget
    6. Job scarcity and more unemployed youths and Labour Ministry with only option to ship the away from home for more dollars
    7. Low paying blue collar jobs which in the process goes to labourers from India
    8. Financial institutions giving loans only to people who are already rich with lands and other assests
    9. Two government trying hard to benefit themselves or if not their families since 2008
    10. Growing car purchases even after the tax increase (I fall to understand if the government doesn’t do anything about the public transport, the people will need a car to move around and the taxi drivers are big time a$$holes
    11. More concrete gates coming up in Thimphu city which will be a inconvenience in few years down the line and a temporary gate on the way to Tashichidzong looks equally strong and beautiful
    12. Bhutanese are not patriotic at all and everyone at home, office or at bar just chit-chats about failing situations in Bhutan but no one acts (remember what happened in 2003)
    13. Every Bhutanese knows GNH aka gelyong-gaki-pelzom but no one seems to be happy at all. Yes I’m not happy too

    You want the dollar seeking young Bhutanese to stay back but then do what? Really do what?

    I have two sisters in America and yes they watch over others kids, may be mopping the airports and doing many other menial jobs but they seems to value their life, they work hard, they send money back for their future. They have saved more than a million ngultrums im the past year and they are planning on to purchase a land and in few years down the line, build a house. You know, by then, they can comfortably without any guilt show off their Iphones, the American accent and big brand purses.

    Palden Drukpa Gyalo

    1. Absolutely correct…to supplement your statements… The average and below average line of families are robbed off totally from every angle with all these increase in all the basic necessity of our daily lives, so much so that the system has even squeezed into publics hard earned money, the vehicle purchased with additional loan with more interest, paying road tax and parking fees everywhere. So much so that there’s open robbery with all these short term systems just to rob off publics, I am definite that many are not happy with the police checking on the highway and imposing again fines to publics. People have purchased car, drank for a refreshing after hectic worklife/family gathering/etc. and yet again they are robbed, and sent drunk and driving again! Was that for safety of public?? Not much of idea about other dzongkhags but living in Thimphu is damn expensive that half the pay is gone for House rent, 20% on increased fuel price, 10% for parking fees, 10 % utilities and rest only 10% for living!. Where is life for public then? Money has become a source for happy life – no offence, and with not much of options for this people to earn extra, they are obliged by the situation and systems.

  4. there are many reason why people go abroad to work. Ofocurse no body really want to spent their entire life abroad working mobbing airport, looking after someone’s children etc. what ever work they do abroad and come back to Bhutan with lot of cash will ultimately contribute and help grow the economy of the country. I do agree with you that selling ancestral property, and quitting the job from government to go abroad doesn’t sound good but as long as you come back with enough cash to start business in Bhutan employing other youths as well, is also good thing one can think. If luck favours and opportunity knocks your door, its also good to make a hay while the sun shines. Just my view.

  5. You are a patriotic person who loves your country very much. Hopefully, your voice rings in all Bhutaneses’ ears. Sad to see the younger generations leave Bhutan and only the old are left behind. Come back and make an impact to your country.

  6. Not that I didn’t like the article but I think people from Bhutan leave the country to work in first world countries(i.e developed nations) and not in third world countries.
    Bhutan itself is a third world country.
    Thank You!

  7. I am very happy that most of our Bhutanese friends go out of our country to earn hard currencies which not only help their future but indirectly helping our country with hard currencies and I should say they are also indirectly on the service to tsa wa sum indirectly…..keep going guys

  8. I can not and will not disagree with whatever has been written and said by the lady or the girl blogger here. I would like to ask why this uneducated youth go abroad to mop airports and take care of others’ children? What are the options available for such people here in the country at home? Free education? Yes. Free medical facilities? Yes and maybe more. But are they enough? Yes and no.
    2015 we see over 3 and half thousand graduates as stated by the RCSC. Less than half that number scraped through PE. This group will further be scanned and scaled down after the main examinations. Say the govt. inducts 35% for the civil service cadre. What will happen to the rest? Who will provide them with jobs and how n where? The small and struggling private sector will not be able to take in more than 10% of the remaining huge pool of human resource. There are just as many school leavers and drop out youths in the mini job market as there are backlog of unemployed graduates. Another 15 years’ time every Bhutanese will be educated. 100% literacy achieved and do what then? Please think.

  9. Dear Blogger
    I appreciate your concern! This is what exactly I thought when I was doing my final year. I even wondered a lot! Well I did my RCSE last year I didn’t get through after trying soo hard..still then I had a hope a hope of getting a small job..I tried every vacancies that’s available, my degree mark wasn’t past record in studies and wholesome education everything wasn’t bad either…I attended almost 10 workshops…mean while I did volunteer when ever I get free…it went on and on but I couldn’t get a job even after trying every vacancies.As I was staying with my relatives in Thimphu For almost 7 months but for how long can I stay there..hesitation arises. Then I realized that may be i lacked qualification I even told my sister who have been looking after me since my kindergarten..I was stressed,depressed coz I had that feeling of uselessness as I won’t be able to repay my sister my family who have gave up their livihood to educate me…then I planned to go abroad and here I am…earning Nu.52000 a week…I didn’t decide just soo easily..tell me who would love to leave their parents loved ones? No one…if one people who struggles to make his or her family happy rather then staying back home doing nothing then I think it’s not money craze…we do fund raising programme twice a month where we make donations for lhakangs,needy student and gelongs…we talk about our culture,we feel happy to wear our dress in occasion,we follow every single duezang..we have choesham(Alter)…so Wer is the money craze..I am 24 and I am glad I could help my family in a huge way..I could send my old parents to different place for retreat..I could donate some amount in lhakangs and help poor gelongs in remote places to get new dress which makes them that’s happiness for me..and in some way I am helping my country as well…you see life give you lots of choices you choose one if it doesn’t favor you choose another with true heart I bet nothing will go wrong…if mopping airport or anywhere ..being a nanny and doing housekeeping to other place gives you #dollar which can help my family, other needy people then yes I can proudly say that I am a #Housekeeper here! That’s called dignity of labour…if you are educated act like a educated people! Sometimes learn to appreciate what other do…who would love to do mopping? No one! Every single Bhutanese here have their own sad stories…Mapa that’s da tendency complain..all the time…nothing to get surprise though! Just my perception!!!

    1. Sonam,

      Your post pained my heart and even moist my eyes when you said you failed to find a job despite possessing academic and curricular credibility, but no wonder it has happened for a reason, a reason for a better alternative. Life as we believe is destined and cannot change it. However, it is so impressive to know about your humanity and generosity, to me you are a wholesome person with gifted morals although young. I have my prayers that you will be able to help your parents even more and many more disadvantaged people. Good luck.

  10. Hi Tashi, was looking for your email but couldn’t find it. Would be grateful if you could email me at I am currently the editor of Business Bhutan, and we have been encouraging bloggers to contribute to the newspaper!

  11. It hits at the sentiment of the very people the author takes broad liberty to speak for by using heavy hitting words like ” patriotic ” and insinuating that they are otherwise . Besides few exceptions in recent times the only time ” patriotism ” has been put to test was in early 2000s’ when K4 initiated to flush out the terrorist operatives in the south . Records will show how many volunteered to put their lives at risk .
    If serving in the civil service , corporations and private sector alike , and just being in Bhutan is serving the tsa wa sum . You cannot override the fact that being overseas and remittances sent home is bereft of it . They all equally contribute to the economy . Let’s not forget that there are thousands of individuals every year eagerly aspiring to serve the ‘ tsa wa sum ‘ and happily be compensated for but they never make the cut . It’s naive to think that the Bhutanese economy could absorb everyone with employment , at least not in the current situation .
    Unless we change our attitude toward employment and accord it with decency and dignity , we will continue to import labor and export human resources overseas to pursue the same labor which is far more lucrative and held with pride , decency and above all dignity . Whether you babysit or mop in an airport , you are not judged as ‘ Alu-ta-me ‘ or ‘ Cham-cha-me’ . You don’t have the reservations to fit in the society . Every job counts up to the hilt .
    To imply that people are leaving in droves . That could only be true if it was as easy as you decide to go one fine day and take off . The few hundreds who have been lucky enough to acquire a visa and work relentlessly will tell you the number of times they have had to apply but again there are exceptions ; for some it might have been an easy access . While it is expensive to travel abroad ; it’s not like you spend a fortune worth your ancestral property . I am very skeptical of the accusation and take exception to her judgement and generalization . But I can tell you this with certainty that the reverse is true with most of them investing back in bricks and mortar and some returning to open up successful businesses . So I think it’s unfair to fault them for treating themselves to a coach bag or a latest accessory . They have earned it and they deserve the luxury they treat themselves and their kith and kin to . They have made the sacrifices to leave behind their family and children in order that they can provide for them better . If their going overseas can help send their second, third child go to school . It is worth it and justified . There are exceptions but we cannot deny that even in a small society like ours divorces are high and kids land up with either parent and usually the onus falls to the grandparents . There is no justification for leaving your kids behind but to blatantly shame and publicly gnaw at the pain of the sacrifices they make without in depth understanding of their circumstances is unjustified as well .
    These very people the author chose to shine light on, unfortunately a negative one at that and yet claim of defense when there’s not one word of kindness spared to the hundreds of Bhutanese in North America , especially in New York who work day in and day out and despite their situation they gather together on occasions . And yes they adorn the national dress , fancy ‘ Kira’s ‘ and ‘ ghos ‘ as the author noticed . They take pride in wearing one and it gives them a sense of belonging . I always thought our attire was a central component and characteristics of our culture . Haven’t we taken a lot of flak for it ? That is the sight that a foreigner notices worn by men and women when they set foot in the country and identifies as Bhutanese .
    They wear them to ‘ wangs ‘ – blessing ceremonies whenever there is one and proudly so . To paraphrase an observation by a prominent rinpoche ( I won’t name him for privacy reasons ) who was in New York recently he was impressed that Bhutanese wore ‘ghos’ and ‘Kiras ‘ to wang when that was not always the case even in Bhutan .
    Every official that visits and meets the Bhutanese community empathizes with the difficulties of living abroad and encourages them rather than nitpick at the accents they have/have not picked up . The current lyoenchen during his visit not too long ago expressed his gratitude and appreciation for helping out families back home . When a family is stable , a community is emboldened and when a community is emboldened a nation is strong .

  12. A beautiful piece and honest comments. I love my family and foreign land is last thing in my mind. While I – civil servant – rejoice in the comfort of my family with very less means to meet my ends. It frightens me to think of times when my kids find nothing to inherent or feel appreciative of. I am in that plight, as Robert Frost would say – ‘the road not taken.’

  13. Perhaps “young Bhutanese” will come home the moment we stop criticising them for their sheer ability to flaunt Coach purses, and start asking the right questions. And by right questions, I mean by looking into the matter from a broader and multi-dimensional perspective, by asking why such a trend in migration has occured, why would people leave a seemingly “happy” country and seek a new life elsewhere? Are the individuals to be blamed for their selfish purpose of providing a better future for themselves and their children? Or is the current situation in the country to be blamed? Perhaps they will come home the moment we start realising that we may not be a perfectly happy country after all, that there are concerns to be raised and a rather big rich-poor divide to be minimised. Unique, yes. But the happiest? I am not so sure. We, as a Bhutanese, have become so obsessed with the concept of Gross National Happiness that we go as far as to insist we are happy with the way things are running in the country, even when some of it goes against our comfort. It is not a question of mopping airport floors or nurturing somebody else’s kids, it is a question of whether we are educated and cultured enough to see dignity in all kinds of labour. Perhaps they will come home when we stop people-bashing and start finding solutions to the many problems that exist in the governance and the society in which we live. We need more people in the country to mop airport floors and look after other people’s kids without the fear of society negatively labeling them as “roh gi alu tami” or “cham cha mi”; we need a better sense of understanding of dignity of labour.

    My views on Bhutanese migration are, of course, open to debates and discussions. But on a lighter note, isn’t it wonderful that we both agree on one thing – that “not everybody is destined to become the next Bieber”. Because that would be a disaster, wouldn’t it? What would Bhutan, and the world at large come to in the hands of Beibers of the world? I shudder to think of it.

  14. Very thought provoking piece. The comments, from NYC, are equally good.

    The reality is that people who care don’t matter. People who matter don’t care.

    Still I remain positive – and hope. If even hope dies, we lose everything

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