Bhutanese are generally akin to any other people of the Mongolian race—short, strong, and with a brownish complexion. Fiercely independent, Bhutanese have an open and ready sense of humor. Hospitality is an innate characteristic of the Bhutanese and respect for elders is an inherited social value.
More than 70 percent of the Bhutanese people live on subsistence farming, scattered in sparsely populated villages across the rugged terrains of the Himalayas. With rice as the staple diet in the lower regions, and wheat, buckwheat, and maize in other valleys, the people farm narrow terraces cut into the steep hill slopes.
Bhutanese communities settled in the valleys with limited communication in the past. It is for this reason that the sense of individuality and independence emerges as a strong characteristic of the people. This also led to the development of different languages, dialects, and ethnic groups.
In Bhutan, men don traditional knee-length robes called Gho that are secured with a belt. The Gho is folded to create a pocket on the stomach. Women wear colorful blouses and fasten a large rectangular cloth called a Kira over it, creating an ankle-length dress. A short silk jacket or Toego may be worn over the Kira. Every day, Gho and Kira choose to wear cotton or wool garments, adorned with simple checks and stripes in earth tones, depending on the season. During special occasions and festivals, people often wear colorful patterned silk Kira and, on rare occasions, Gho.
Additional rules of protocol apply while visiting a Dzong or a temple, or when appearing before a high-level official. Male commoners wear a white sash Kabney from the left shoulder to the opposite hip. Local and regional elected officials, government ministers, cabinet members, and the king himself each wear their own colored kabney. Women wear a narrow embroidered cloth draped over the left shoulder called Rachu.