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Social Life in Bangladesh

Behavior

How most Bangladeshis behave and the expectations for how foreigners must behave is deeply rooted in the people's Islamic faith. For women traveling to Bangladesh, it is easiest to travel with their husband, father, or brother. Single women travelers are looked at oddly and traveling with a man who is not related or married to you may be considered inappropriate by strict Muslims, but few people are extremely conservative in Bangladesh. It is also improper for a man to touch a woman, even holding your spouse's hand or offering to shake the hand of a person who is of the opposite sex can be considered inappropriate to a conservative Muslim, but again few Muslims in Bangladesh will take offense to these actions.

Another important issue to be aware of is that Islamic law forbids pork products and alcohol, however there is little worry about adhering to these rules since neither is widely available anywhere in Bangladesh. If among Hindus be sure to avoid eating beef as cattle are considered sacred by the Hindu faith. Also, when eating be sure to only use your right hand as the left hand is considered unclean. For more information on dining etiquette in Bangladesh, read our Bangladesh Food & Drinks Page.

Additionally, avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, religion, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, or showing off wealth.

Dress

The traditional dress of Bangladesh is still commonly worn by the people, although western-styled clothing is also growing in popularity. For women, the traditional dress is the shalwar kameez; shalwar referring to loose-fitting pants and the kameez being a long shirt or tunic, generally with a collar. Both the shirts and pants reach to the wrists and ankles, respectively and are loose-fitting so nothing is revealed. Saris (or sarees) are also common and similar in style. Only some Bangladeshi women cover their hair and very few cover their faces. For men, the most traditional dress is simply a shirt and a lungi, but today this is considered home wear and few people wear it in public as it has a connotation of being associated with rural farmers. The lungi is a large piece of cloth wrapped around the waist to act as pants.

Today most men, especially those living in the cities, wear modern western-styled clothing, but for women the dress is more divided between the traditional clothing and western-styled wear. No matter the style of clothing, as a Muslim country, the dress is always conservative as you will rarely see a Muslim Bangladeshi showing any shoulder or excessive skin.

As a visitor to Bangladesh, there is no expectation that you imitate the local dress as western-styled clothing is the norm and well accepted. However, remember to cover up as men and women should always wear long pants and shirts that at least cover the shoulders and preferably the arm past the elbow. As many local women don't cover their hair, there is no expectation that foreign women cover their hair, although among certain company it may be the best option.

This page was last updated: November, 2013