Bangladesh

Welcome to the Bangladeshi culture page!

This page, like all of our cultural guide pages, will forever be a work in progress. Please check back at a future date for additional information. If you have cultural or culinary expertise when it comes to Bangladesh, please share! Email us at with your thoughts.

Introduction

The Peoples Republic of Bangladesh is a South Asian country that borders India and Myanmar. It offers diverse flora and fauna with the largest mangrove forest in the world and is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, which is also the national animal of Bangladesh. Its culture encompasses elements both old and new, where it maintains a good balance of tradition and modernity. Although it is a newly independent country, it has a wealth of history. Rooted in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian traditions, Bangladesh is diverse and complex. Around 85% of the people are Muslim and the other 15% are Hindu. It is an ethnically homogeneous country made up of 98% Bengalis with a population density of almost 3000 people per square mile totalling more than 150 million people in a country that is about the same size of the state of New York.

Language

Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh and over 98% pf the population speak it as their mother tongue. Bengali is largely influenced by Hindi and Arabic. It is a derivative of sanskrit but has its own unique script. The middle and upper classes use English as a second language and it is also common in higher education as well as the law. It is likely that your student will speak English but here are a few greetings in Bengali to help you on your way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ34xfoHJC8

Can you say Spicy?

The staple food in Bangladesh is flat bread and rice. Bengali cuisine offers a myriad of dishes to choose from and each region offers their own variations. There is a an emphasis on fish, chicken, mutton and beef, but pork consumption is limited as it is a predominantly muslim country. Curries are very popular throughout the country and can be extremely spicy. If your student decides to cook a traditional dish for you, make sure you let them know how much spice you are able to handle. You can always cool the temperature down with raita which is a condiment made of yogurt and seasoned with herbs and spices. A great way to spend time with your student is to cook and bake with them. It allows each of you to learn about each others cultural cuisine.

Where are your clothes made?

The recent collapse of the garment factory in the countrys capital, Dhaka, brought international attention to one of the deadliest garment-factory accidents in history. Bangladesh is the fourth largest clothing exporter in the world and is attractive to foreign companies to produce its goods because of the countrys excess of cheap labour and loose labour laws. Over half the population in Bangladesh are farmers but the majority of its export earnings are from the garment industry. Check the tags of your clothing and see where they are made. There is a good chance that they are made in Bangladesh. Although the collapse is tragic and devastating, it has also pushed for tougher labor laws and better wages within the country and in other manufacturing sectors.

Microcredit Loans

Bangladesh has made huge strides in improving the lives of their people. Although health and education levels are quite low, poverty levels are decreasing and gender equity is on the rise. The access to credit for the rural poor has made significant changes for human development within the country and serves as an example of what can be achieved through microcredit loans. The Grameen Bank of Bangladesh acts as a credit delivery system that provides banking services to the poor, targeting rural areas and disadvantaged people. The Grameen Bank is mainly owned by the poor who it serves and is a great example of what is possible in terms of alleviating poverty. For more information, please refer to the article about the Grameen Bank in Further Reading.

If youre happy and you know it...

One thing you may notice is that the people of Bangladesh seldom smile. This isnt to say that they are not happy or friendly people, as they rank #11 in the Happy Planet Index (Canada ranks #65). It is because in Bangladesh, to smile too often is a sign of immaturity. You may want to explain to your student that in North America, smiling is a simple and friendly gesture. Although some of us may be young at heart, its common practice and its perfectly fine to smile back.

Please take into account that the information is a very basic introduction and by no means stereotyping all Bangladeshi students you may meet!

Further Reading:

http://www.grameen-info.org/