Cultural do’s and don’ts in Bangladesh

Mutual trust and personal relationships are essential when doing business in Bangladesh. Therefore take time to build a personal relationship with your partner. Inquire about the health of your business partner and personal life and take time to introduce yourself. Also business meeting usually start with a conversation about personal matters such as health or family matters. It can take several meetings before it is time to start or lift up business activities. Bangla is the main language and written in its own script. Written business correspondence and trade literature should be in English. The majority of Bangladeshi are Muslim and most mix this with pre-Islam folk traditions. Manners are perceived to be rather strict and formal. It is important for people who come from direct cultures to understand that their communication styles may be seen as rude. Keep in mind that pride and self-esteem are important in the culture of Bangladesh. Bangladeshi businesses are generally hierarchically structured. Decisions will not be made unless the owner, company director or senior manager are present at a meeting. The person with the highest position in the company usually leads the meetings. He / she sets the agenda and defines the content and pace of the meeting. Meetings can be subject to interruptions, such as phone calls or staff members walking in to have documents signed. This is an accepted practice as it’s considered rude not to immediately respond to phone calls.
  • Shaking hands is common to greet your business partner. However if you greet a businesswoman, it is best to wait to see if she extends her hand before doing so. Otherwise a slight bow of the head will do.
  • Use mister, miss, doctor, etc. followed by the last name when communicating with Bangladeshi. Don’t abbreviate the names of your business partners.
  • Do not wear shorts or skirts above the knees on formal occasions. Women should cover their arms and legs including ankles to avoid giving offence. Do not wear tight clothing.
  • Business cards are often exchanged after the initial introduction.
  • Completing a business meeting fully takes priority over time and may extend well past the scheduled time.
  • Bangladeshi are rather implicit and indirect communicators. If something is not possible for example, Bangladeshi would use expressions like ‘may’, ‘that would be difficult’ or ‘let’s try to do so’.

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