Bangladeshi Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Try to arrive for a meeting on time, but be prepared to wait for your business counterpart.
  • During the first meeting, expect a fair amount of small talk. Often, business matters are reserved for subsequent meetings once this initial contact and familiarity has been made. Even then, it is considered rude to launch into business discussions or negotiations right from the outset. Meetings usually begin with small talk.
  • Meetings are often led by the most senior person who will set the agenda and the pace of the meeting.
  • It is expected that the group will defer to the most senior person. This is particularly true when dealing with government officials.
  • The structure of a meeting is generally not linear. While there may be an agenda and a starting time, they tend to serve as guidelines and are not strictly observed.
  • Meetings are generally for the purpose of establishing  who will make decisions, not for actually making final decisions. Decisions that are made usually come from the top down and can take some time to be finalised.
  • Bangladeshis put higher priority on achieving a meeting’s purpose and goals than sticking to a set schedule. Thus, meetings are not rushed and may extend well past the scheduled end time.


Harmony

Prior to business-related conversations, a harmonious environment is often created through an informal gathering at a restaurant for a lunch or dinner. Maintaining harmony among employees, employers and business partners is a core part of business interactions in Bangladesh. It is important to remain calm and avoid strong expressions as this may lead to a loss of ‘face’, dignity or respect. Periods of silence are considered normal and are expected, so avoid interrupting others or talking over someone. Hard selling or pressure tactics will disrupt the group harmony and will negatively impact your Bangladeshi counterpart’s perception of you. As long as harmony is maintained, Bangladeshis will endeavor to advance goals and seek solutions that will satisfy all involved.


Considerations

  • In a business setting, a handshake is very common. However, a man should not shake hands with a woman unless she offers her hand first.
  • Always use your right hand when receiving or offering items, such as business cards.
  • Bangladeshis tend to freely exchange business cards with no formal ritual as to how to give or receive a card. Nonetheless, business cards should be treated with respect.
  • Professionalism is highly valued. Overly casual behaviour may be misinterpreted as a lack of respect.
  • Businessmen should be addressed as ‘Bahadur’ (‘sir’) while women may be addressed as ‘Begum’ (‘madam’). This may be used with or without the surname.
  • Once you have developed a stronger relationship with your Bangladeshi business counterpart, you can move on to a first-name basis. However, it is advised to wait until your counterpart invites you to use their first name.
  • Exchanging gifts is less common between business colleagues, and gifts are usually not exchanged at the first business meeting.
  • Many Bangladeshi business people have a fair knowledge of English. In the presence of foreigners, Bangladeshis may unintentionally converse in Bangla. This is not usually intended to appear exclusionary or discourteous.
  • Educational qualifications are highly valued in Bangladesh. Be sure to let your counterparts know (in a humble manner) of your qualifications should you have any.
  • Social and business customs in Bangladesh tend to be more strongly observed and formal than in Australia.
  • Avoid having a ‘know-all’ approach towards your Bangladeshi counterpart. Bangladeshis will most likely be wary of expatriates who push strong opinions, and may interpret this as a belief that their customs and methods of doing business are superior to those of Bangladeshis.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), Bangladesh ranks 143th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 28 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.
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