Customs and Etiquette when Traveling in Bangladesh

When two different cultures meet it can be a very interesting and fruitful experience, or it can be filled with embarrassment and shame. Not knowing about the customs and etiquette of a country, can lead to a few very awkward moments. Learning and trying to understand the customs and etiquette of a foreign country is not only recommended to tourists, but especially to businessmen who want to build permanent and good relationships. Bangladesh has a number of noteworthy customs that can make communication and showing respect easier.

The use of the right hand is the first and most important custom to remember when dining or in business. If passing a dish, handing over a document or accepting anything, use only the right hand. In the Bangladeshi custom, the left hand is considered to be unclean, and therefore the right hand is used most of the time. Men will shake hands as a greeting, but in general, casual or business, woman will greet with a polite nod of the head. Even in business, do not extent your hand for greeting a woman, wait to see how she greets first, and then return the greeting.

When visiting or meeting people for the first time, most foreigners are accustomed to taking a bottle of wine or a gift, but in Bangladesh there are a few points of etiquette involved here. When offering a gift it is given with both hands. Generally, no alcohol is given as a gift and when giving foods, it is important to remember that meat has to be halal. It is safer to take sweets or chocolates. If wanting to take flowers for the lady of the house, any flower is permitted as long as they are not white in color, as white flowers are only used at funerals. Money is never given as a gift, and when receiving a gift, it is considered rude to open the gift in the presence of the giver. Always try to accept an invitation to supper, and if attendance is impossible, never turn down the offer out right. Rather tell your host that you will most certainly try to attend. And in Bangladesh, it is etiquette that everyone eats with their hands, so ensure that you wash your hands before eating. Fortunately, no-one will take offence or consider it rude if a request for utensils is made. Meals are always served in a few rounds and it is easier to pace yourself when eating than declining an offer for another helping. Also, remember to wait for the oldest person at the table to start eating first, before taking your first bite.

Of course in business, businessmen have their own form of etiquette. When people of the same sex talk or discuss issues, they stand quite close to each other; while opposite sexes will keep a noticeable distance between them. It is always polite to study any business card that is received, make a nice comment on it, and safely store it in a business card holder to assure the giver that their business and presence is considered important. Meetings in Bangladesh are not constrained by time and often meetings may take longer than scheduled. Agendas and programs are hardly ever followed, and business is conducted in a serious manner. Businessmen in Bangladesh see the show of any emotion quite rude, and they are known for their stony-faced business manner.

Learning the customs and etiquettes of a foreign country shows respect towards their culture and their traditions. It also assists in avoiding uncomfortable situations and increases communication. The customs of Bangladesh are as colorful and unique as the country itself and the wonderful personalities that live there.