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Bangladesh Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

The root of the Bengali identity is the common language Bengali (or Bangla), which is also spoken in parts of eastern India. Another important part of the identity is the Bengals' connection to life in the villages in the typical delta landscape created by Ganges and Brahmaputra with several rivers, which form a large part of Bangladesh. Even Bangladeshi who no longer live in the riverlands identify with the village they once left or whose ancestors came from.

This chapter describes the customs and customs of Bangladesh's majority people, the Bengals, who make up 98 percent of the population. Alongside the Bengals, there are also a number of small groups of people in the country, mainly in the mountainous areas in the northeast and southeast. Their customs may differ significantly from those of the Bengals and they may also differ among themselves.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Bangladesh, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

Know and label

A central rule of etiquette is to never give or receive things, especially food, with your left hand. Generally, the left hand is considered unclean. For example, never put food in your mouth with your left hand.

Culture and Traditions of BangladeshA good piece of advice for anyone who wants to visit Bangladesh is to read about the history of the country and about Islam and Muslim living rules. Criticism of the country and its customs, customs and religion does not belong to good tone.

It is not always that non-Muslims are admitted into the mosque, but if you are allowed to enter there are a number of precautions to take into account. Take off your shoes before entering the mosque. Then you should act calm and low-key. Emotional expressions are inappropriate. You should not go in front of someone who is lying down in prayer, nor should you go over a petition. You are not allowed to smoke. Ask for permission before photographing anyone.

Some visitors to the country respond that Bangladeshi rarely smile at them. The reason is that a calm and serious radiance is associated with dignity.

Greetings and conversation

Outside of the home, it is not usual to shake hands, kiss your cheeks or hug when greeting someone of the opposite sex. The traditional way of health for Muslims is with the phrase "asalamu alaikum" (peace be upon you) and with the answer "alaikum salam" (and with you). Among Hindus, the correct greeting phrase is "nomoshkar" with hands joined under chin.

With Western men, you are now often greeted with a handshake, while you only nod to Western women without taking them in hand.

The degree of closeness is expressed in the address. The greater the age difference, the greater reverence for the elderly.

A Bangladeshi often expresses himself more indirectly and wrapped up than Westerners do, especially if one does not fully agree. If, for example, you are invited to a dinner and cannot come, you should decline in vague terms - never with a clear "no thank you", which is perceived as rude. Expressions like "we'll see how it gets" or "I'll try to come" are common instead. Opinions are often expressed, but often in wordy, vague interpretations. Never try to speed up or cancel! It is perceived as unfair.

At the same time, at a first meeting for a Westerner, the Bangladeshi may seem curious and private. Issues regarding marital status, number of children, jobs, salary and education are common opening phrases and should not be seen as pompous.

Gifts and clothing

Traditionally, people do not usually give presents in connection with dinner invitations, however, the guest is expected to return. However, it is not wrong to bring a small gift, such as chocolate or cookies. But don't give too expensive gifts! It is perceived as unfair because gifts require equal gifts. If you want to give flowers, avoid white flowers that symbolize grief. Also, do not give frangipani flowers that are used as decorations at funerals. Never give away alcoholic beverages or foods that are halal (prohibited by Islam, such as pork). Never give money!

Gifts are common to give to family members at holidays and in the cities, it is becoming more and more common with birthday presents.

Give the gift with both hands. Gifts are not opened in front of the donor.

The way to dress marks the status. Among men in the middle class of cities, it is becoming more common to dress Western. But the urban middle-class men also like to wear a so-called panjabi, a knee-length shirt without a collar, combined with thin cotton trousers. White color indicates high status. In the countryside, men usually wear the traditional lungi, a patterned piece of fabric tied around the hips, along with a vest or shirt.

Women usually dress in sari (a long piece of fabric draped around the body), both in cities and in the countryside. More well-off women often wear many jewelery. Younger women sometimes prefer shalwar kamiz, a shirt that reaches far down on the legs, paired with pants whose legs are tied at the ankles. Women do not wear ordinary pants. Adults don't wear shorts.

For a Westerner visiting, it is perfectly acceptable to use Western clothing. But when visiting the mosque, it is important to respect certain rules. Women should wear long pants, long sleeves and a headscarf. Shorts and linen are not allowed, neither for men or women.

To table

Bangladeshi dishes are often spicy. Rice, fish and vegetables are basic foods. At parties, pilau (spiced rice) is eaten with spiced meat in curries. Knives and forks are rarely used in the home. Spoon sometimes occurs. It is common to eat with your fingers. Traditionally, the food is served on the floor. Each one gets a small straw mat, a so-called pati, to sit on. On the floor is a banana leaf or a large joint dish to eat, and the food is presented in small bowls. It is fully allowed to scrape, rub and finger the food before putting it in your mouth, but only with your right hand, which should always be washed before and after the meal. Do not ask for your own cutlery or plate.

Guests are served first, then from oldest to youngest. The oldest at the table should start eating first.

Never use your left hand at the table. The only exception is that you are allowed to break bread with both hands.

Muslims do not eat pork, Hindus do not eat beef.

Time and distance

In populated Bangladesh, people have learned to sit and stand close to each other. The Bangladeshi does not have the need for the Scandinavians to keep a certain distance from the one they are talking to.

The approach to times and punctuality is more fluid than in Northern Europe, although this is changing among younger people.

Business meetings

The style is generally more formal and hierarchical than in the West. An overly casual style can be perceived as limp and disrespectful. It is unworthy to lose your temper or show emotion.

Since education is highly valued, your title should be on the business card, especially if you have an academic degree. Look carefully at the business card you receive from your business partner. It is considered rude to just put the card down in the wallet without looking at it properly.

Men are greeted with a handshake when they come and when they walk. Foreign men nod to women unless she reaches out her hand first.

In Bangladesh, the agenda is not as strict as it is in the West. It is perceived more as a guide than a schedule.

Meetings are usually initiated with cold talk. During the business discussion, one often expresses himself indirectly and verbatim. A Western way of expressing themselves in business and going straight to the point can easily be perceived as rude and impolite. Much information is given between the lines. Therefore, ask several different questions about the same thing so that you know for sure that you have understood the answer correctly.

The end time for the meeting is flexible. Rather a delay than the meeting should end without result.

Other things to think about

Rocking the head from one side to another means "no" or "I don't know". To tilt one's head at one time means that you agree or agree.

It is common to see men and boys holding hands. Nor does it draw attention to whether Western men do so.

Queuing in public places is not common. Instead, use the elbows to reach a ticket door or on a bus.

Staring at another person is not considered rude.

Crossing your legs or smoking with older people is not good.

You do pointing with your chin - never with your finger!

It is infinite to whistle or wave and to touch books or other literature with your feet.

It is not customary to thank you for a service.

Avoid...

- sarcasm, irony or other forms of insensitive humor

- impatience

- a superior, contemptuous attitude

- criticism of Islam

- to call a Bangladeshi Indian

Traditions and holidays

Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and secular celebrations are celebrated in the country. Several of them have become national holidays.

The most important feast for the Muslims is id al-fitr (or id-ul-fitr ; celebrated on the first day of the Muslim month of shawal). It is celebrated the day after the fasting month of Ramadan, when the Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Id al-fitr is primarily a family celebration when relatives greet each other and eat together. It is also common to give alms to the poor.

Another major Muslim festival is the sacrifice festival id al-adha (or id-ul-azha ; celebrated the tenth day of the month zilha). Then a cow or a goat is slaughtered to honor Allah. Also id al-adha is a family holiday.

All Muslim holidays are characterized by the men gathering for common prayer in the mosque or in an open place outdoors in connection with the afternoon prayer call.

The Hindus, among others, celebrate Saraswati Puja (February) to honor the goddess Saraswati who has the shape of a swan. She is the goddess of learning and is especially important for Hindu students.

Durga Puja (October) is celebrated among Hindus to honor the ten-armed war goddess Durga. The festival is nine days long and concludes with a Durga statue being carried in procession down to a river and placed in the water.

Hindu Kali Puja (November) is the festival of Light and honors the goddess Kali, who both gives and takes life.

There are also several secular holidays, such as Independence Day (March 26) and the Bengal New Year (poila boishakh ; usually celebrated in April).


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