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Monday, June 25, 2007

Business Etiquette, Protocol and Customs in Bangladesh

In a hypothetical situation that I am a foreign businessman and I am allured by Corporate Bangladesh and am willing to do business with Bangladesh. After a quick search of Google, the following is what I found. There was nothing called 'Bangladesh' in

Communication Styles

• Bangladeshis are quite implicit/indirect communicators. They tend to communicate in long, rich and contextualized sentences which only make sense when properly understood in relation to body language.
• It is important for people who come from implicit/direct cultures to understand that their communication styles may be seen as rude and the information provided inadequate. (I didn't know that!)
• Personal space is less of an issue in Bangladesh than many European cultures. Bengalis stand close when speaking to someone of the same gender and touch is common.
• However, when speaking with a woman the space is often increased. (We are very space conscious businessmen!)

Meeting & Greeting

• Business etiquette in Bangladesh is reasonably formal. Proper behaviour is expected.
• Men greet each other with a handshake upon arriving and leaving.
• Foreign men should nod to a Bangladeshi woman unless she extends her hand. Businessmen should be addressed by the term "Bahadur" ("Sir"), while women may be addressed as "Begum" ("Madam"). This may be used with or without the surname. (Are we doing business with Bangladesh in 1876 with some Mughal rule or something? Bahadur Fazle Abed or Begum Rubaba, I would like to set up a business deal with you.....sounds unbelievable doesn't it?)
• Wait until your counterpart moves to a first name basis before you do so.

Business Card Etiquette

• Business cards are exchanged after the initial introduction.
• Educational qualifications are valued so include any university degrees.
• Present your business card with the right hand.
• Treat business cards given to you with respect. Merely glancing at it then throwing it on the table would be rude. Study it, comment on it and ideally place it into a business card holder.

Business Meetings

• Meetings in Bangladesh are generally the place where decisions are disseminated rather than made.
• They will usually be led by the most senior present who sets the agenda, the content, and the pace of the activities.
• Meeting structures are not very linear in Bangladesh. There may be an agenda and a starting time, but they only serve as guidelines.
• Completing a meeting fully takes priority over time and may extend well past any scheduled end time.
• Meetings may commence with some small talk.
• Communication is formal and follows a hierarchical structure. Deference to the most senior person in the group is expected. This is especially true when dealing with government officials.
• One should never let their level of professionalism slip. Casual behaviour may be misinterpreted as a lack of respect.
• Never lose your temper or show emotion. This may lead to a loss of face which will mean a loss of dignity and respect.
• The need to avoid a loss of face is also reflected in communication styles. Rather than say no or disappoint people Bangladeshis will phrase sentiments in such as way that it is up to people to read between the lines to understand what is being implied. Phrases such as "we will try", "that may be difficult", or "we will have to give that some though" may really mean “this can’t be done”.
• Therefore, it is important to ask questions in several ways so you can be certain what was meant by a vague response. Silence is often used as a communication tool.
• Many people comment on the lack of smiles in Bangladesh. This has nothing to do with unfriendliness but rather related to the fact that a serious face is believed to demonstrate maturity.

I am a bit disoriented after reading this, may be some of it is true, some of it not, if you come across something which can give a better picture of Corporate Bangladesh, please do share. That article didn't mention anything about our punctuality, sense of time keeping (when we start a speech etc.), traffic jams, giving gifts etc. We did have two Begums (Beg-Alms) who along with their 'Bahadurs' had been the major invisible shareholders of many a business houses in Bangladesh. The article also didn't mention anything about their BBE (Best Bribe Estimate) to grab big deals. Due to unavoidable unforeseen circumstances, the Begums and Bahadurs are on the run now and the Harems are closed sine die, wind of change is blowing and I hope it will blow away the dirt from the image of Corporate Bangladesh. A lot of air cleaning needs to be done, regarding how Corporate Bangladesh is perceived by foreign investors, who will initiate the cleaning? Ofcourse you and I.

1 comment:

Md. Mosiuzzaman said...

TI was helpful. Thanks.