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.
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
A 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
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.
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
Guests are served first, then from oldest to
youngest. The oldest at the table should start eating
Never use your left hand at the table. The only
exception is that you are allowed to break bread with
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
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
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
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
You do pointing with your chin - never with your
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.
- sarcasm, irony or other forms of insensitive humor
- 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
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
There are also several secular holidays, such as
Independence Day (March 26) and the Bengal New Year (poila
boishakh ; usually celebrated in April).