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Culture & Identity of Bangladesh

Introduction

Life in Bangladesh is dependent on the lands and religion. The country is fairly low-lying as the Ganges River delta flows through, and occupies, much of the country. However, it is the people's Islamic faith that created the country and its separation from India. However, it was the people's ethnicity, language, and culture that separated the country from Pakistan.

Today most of the people's ways of life revolve around the lands as nearly half the population works in the agricultural sector. The lands tend to be very fertile due to the Ganges River as well as the regular rains that come with monsoon. However, most of these farms are rather small as much of the farming is done by hand or with simple machinery; large farms are almost unheard of as few people can afford large machinery that can work that much land. For these farmers and their families the way of life is dictated by the seasons and the weather.

Since few people own large farms, farms and people tend to live much closer together than in most farming communities. This makes neighbors and community rather important for the people and many people rely on neighbors for help.

Only about 30% of the people are urbanized, nearly all of whom live in Dhaka. Life in the city reflects many of the same cultural aspects the rural life has, but many differences as well. Here, like in the rural areas, family and community are incredibly important and truly the center of life. However, the way of life in Dhaka is much higher paced as many people have jobs in the services or industrial sectors and hours tend to be fixed. These people tend to have a set work routine and jobs can be in a huge number of industries, from manufacturing to technical support. For many of these people the day is dictated by the clock, generally from about 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, not the sun or weather.

Another important factor in the way of life of the Bangladeshis is religion. Although there are few conservative Muslims in the country, many people are quite devout and attend mosque every Friday evening (their holy day). The religion also alters the diet, dating, and even the weekend; in Bangladesh the weekend is Friday and Saturday as people work from Sunday until Thursday.

While family and community are at the core of the culture and way of life, schooling is not uniform across the country and for many people education for their children is not as important as learning farming skills or finding a spouse. Life in Bangladesh seems to be more about relationships and kindness than education and financial success and this is quite pronounced throughout the country as priorities are on people, not jobs, education, or money, although all of these things are important to varying degrees.

Identity

The people of Bangladesh tend to identify first as "Bengalis," which is an ethnically-defined term. Only secondly do people identify with the politically-based definition of being a "Bangladeshi." The Bengalis include every person who is ethnically and religiously affiliated, hence numerous people in India are also included in this definition as they are united by their ethnicity and religion, which is Islam. The term Bangladeshi only refers to citizens of Bangladesh (no matter their religion or ethnicity) and is a more recent identity as the nation is still quite young. This term is becoming a more popular term with each passing year as national pride is growing and people are becoming less religious, hence preferring to be defined by citizenship instead of religion; this is especially true among the nation's youth.

This page was last updated: November, 2013