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Social Life in Azerbaijan

Behavior

The Azeris are conservative in most aspects of their lives, much of which is based on their Islamic faith. To a degree they also maintain much of the Soviet mentality as they rarely get involved in other people's personal affairs and tend to keep to themselves when in public. Due to this attitude, the people take offense at few things. Although everyone will notice odd behaviors and cultural abnormalities, rarely will anyone point out your cultural mistakes.

As a visitor to Georgia try to follow the lead of the locals by dressing in alike manner (see below for details), dining in the local etiquette (see our Georgia Dining & Food Page), and avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, or showing off wealth.

Dress

The dress in Azerbaijan today is reflective of their Soviet past, which introduced western-styled clothing, but it also reflects their Islamic religion, which demands conservative dress. The conservative dress has been the constant for some time, but prior to the Soviet takeover the clothing in Azerbaijan more closely reflected that of many Middle Eastern countries than it did Europe as it does today.

For women, this traditional dress was often based on a shawl called a chadra and a veil called a rubend. These loose-fitting clothes, that entirely covered a women, tended to be brightly colored in pastels or whites. Sometimes a jacket or pants were also worn as were other items based on the region a person was from. For men the historical dress generally included a shirt called a ust koyney, which came in multiple styles, pants, and during the winters tight-fitting coats were common. Both men and women tended to wear something on their heads; women to cover their hair and men for style and warmth. For men this important hat was called a papaq and removing another person's papaq was considered the greatest offense.

Today most Azeris dress in modern western-styled clothing, but due to Islam they tend to dress conservatively as both men and women tend to wear long pants and shirts. However, few Muslim women today cover their hair in Azerbaijan and wearing a facial covering, called a niqab is actually outlawed in Azerbaijan. As a visitor to Azerbaijan it is recommended that you also wear long pants and shirts that at least cover your shoulders at all times. Many foreigners wear shorts, and most Azeris accept this clothing, but wearing long pants and shirts is a great sign of respect. Foreign women are not expected to cover their hair, although in some settings foreign women may feel more comfortable doing so.

This page was last updated: November, 2013