Bangladeshi Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Indirect Communication: Bangladeshis are usually indirect communicators. Opinions are often communicated in a delicate manner, and there is a cultural tendency to avoid strongly worded statements, assertions or confrontation. However, the style of communication a Bangladeshi adopts generally depends on the degree of acquaintance. To close relatives or friends, they may speak in a direct manner whereas they may speak indirectly towards acquaintances or in a professional context. In order to be polite,  Bangladeshis will often tell their counterpart what they want to hear. A good approach is to see what non-verbal actions follow and ask open-ended questions that allow them to reach their answer in their own time.
  • Language Style: While those unfamiliar with Bangladeshis may perceive of their communication style as abrupt because of the content of their speech, Bangladeshis tend to communicate in long and rich sentences. They are quite courteous in their communication style and may welcome flattery.
  • Refusals: For questions and requests that require a yes or no answer, Bangladeshis tend to phrase their responses in such a way that their counterpart may need to consider what is being implied. Phrases such as ‘that may be difficult’, ‘I can try’ or ‘I have to give it some thought’ may mean ‘this cannot be done’. In these instances, silence is also often used as a communication tool. One approach is to ask questions in several ways so you can discern what was meant by a vague response.
  • Humour: In Bangladeshi, humour tends to be related to the victory of the underdog over the ‘big guy’ or urbanite. Satire or sarcasm is not commonly used.
  • Soft Voices: Bangladeshis are often softly spoken and tend to avoid loudly expressing themselves. People may come across as being heated or angry if they speak loudly, thus causing the speaker to lose face.

 

Non-Verbal

  • Personal Space: Bangladeshis tend to stand or sit close together during conversations. The proximity between people conversing is smaller if they are the same gender. Close proximity indicates warmth and familiarity.
  • Physical Contact: For those of the same gender, holding hands, touching arms or putting hands around shoulders are common and acceptable. The more familiar people are with one another, the more common physical contact is during conversation. However, it is generally considered socially unacceptable for people of opposite genders to touch one another. Public displays of affection such as kissing and hugging are especially taboo.
  • Eye Contact: In Bangladesh, openly staring at someone is not considered impolite. Eye contact is generally held during conversation and acts as a sign of sincerity.
  • Facial Expression: Bangladeshis tend to minimise their facial expressions. They may not smile during conversations. This is not thought of as being unfriendly or cold, but rather related to the idea that a serious face is believed to show maturity. The proverb, ‘the face is the index of the mind’ reflects the rationale for this cultural norm. 
  • Listening: Bangladeshis tend to be careful listeners. Their courteous communication style means that they try not to interrupt their conversation partner.
  • Gestures: Bangladeshis may point with their chin rather than their finger. Beckoning with the index finger is considered rude.
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