Bangladeshi Manners

         The article “The Anthropology of Manners” by Edward T. Hall has given me an immense knowledge of different kinds of manners of different cultures. While I was reading the article, the observation of time and space according to people of different cultures and countries encouraged me to write something about the perception of time and space of the Bangladeshi people as I think this writing will help my foreigner friends to live in Bangladesh without any trouble.

          First, I want to tell you about the perception of time of the Bangladeshi people. It is a usual matter in our day to day life to be late for a couple of minutes in any kind of encounter. If you have a scheduled meeting with a Bangladeshi, and if she does late, never think that she will not come. Wait for a while; she will come after a couple of minutes. You can mind for this kind of carelessness, but it is an accepted manner in our country. However, if that person is not able to meet with you, she will of course make a phone call to you. Therefore, you need not lose your temper experiencing such kind of situation.

        Second, the idea of Bangladeshi people about keeping personal and architectural spaces may seem peculiar to you. Although Bangladesh is not a conservative country, people do not like the idea that girls and boys will walk very close to each other if they are not married couples. Don’t try to handshake with a boy because people don’t like it. In these cases, the sense of keeping personal space is very sensitive. However, sometimes your Bangladeshi friend may keep her arms on your shoulders to show affection, and you may feel confused, but it’s also a usual behavior here. Again, if you go to visit any Bangladeshi friend, her mom or grandma may hug you before leaving their house. Don’t be hesitated. It’s a manner to say farewell to the guests. Keep in mind that in these cases the sense of keeping personal space is very close. Now, if you see a vast open space in front of a Bangladeshi house, never be surprised. All the Bangladeshi people prefer to keep a vast architectural space in their houses.

          Finally, although our sense of time or space is different from yours, Bangladeshi people will never want to make trouble with a foreigner, so don’t be confused.



Manners Cause Misunderstanding!!

American 1: How ridiculous it is! She is licking her fingers!!
American 2: Oh! Yes! It’s absolutely disgusting!!
Bangladeshi (thinking): Why those two foreigners are looking at me in that weird way?!? Who knows what’s wrong with them!!
Arab: Hey! What are you thinking?
Bangladeshi: Oh! Nothing! I am just eating, you know…
Arab: Look! They have not offered me anything yet! I am so hungry and want to eat something.
Bangladeshi: Okay, you can ask them to get you something. In fact, we all are eating except you!!
Arab: You know, the waiter offered me to take a dish, but I said, “No, thank you!”
Bangladeshi: Oh! What did you do? I heard that it is an American custom not to offer again and again!
Arab: But how can I know this?!?! We have a different custom. It is our manner not to take any food from dish for the first time!! If someone offers again, then we take it!!
Bangladeshi: Oh! It created misunderstanding!!
Arab (with a sad voice): Yes, I am supposed to know this………………….
Bangladeshi: Don’t worry. Just tell the waiter to bring you some foods.
Latin American (keeps a hand in the shoulder of the Arab and gives a big smile): What are you talking about guys??!!!
Arab: Oh! You know, those Americans didn’t give me anything to eat. They don’t know courtesy!!
Bangladeshi: Oh, man! It’s just a misunderstanding for following different etiquettes.
Latin American: Yeah! But those Americans are very proud about themselves!! They insulted me!!
Arab & Bangladeshi (with wonder): HOW?!?
Latin American (with anger): Before starting the party, I wanted to meet them. I stood so closely in front of them, and they just stepped behind about one arm length! How insulting that was…..
Arab: I think they don’t like close standing space. They want to keep at least an arm length space whenever they talk to other person.
Bangladeshi: Yeah, I also noticed that.
Latin American: But this is so insulting for us, for Latin Americans!!!!!
Bangladeshi: Hmm…I think this all about misunderstanding not to know about each other’s customs, manners and etiquettes.
Arab and Latin American: YES! We also think so. This is also applicable for those Americans!!
Bangladeshi: Actually we all need to learn other’s customs and manners to avoid embarrassment.

The Symbolism of Kabney and Rachu in Bhutan

Although we all are called as human beings in general, we have different ways of living and doing things. It is because of our artificially constructed national borders that has divided us, human beings, into different groups with different cultures, beliefs, norms, and manners. Every culture has its own symbols, tangible things that stand for something else, and metonym, small part of something that constitutes its whole part.

In Bhutan, kabney, a silk scarf worn with gho, national dress for men, is a symbol that shows different groups of professions. Colors of Kabney varies with one’s profession; however, all kabneys are 300 cm long and 90 cm wide usually with fringes on both ends. Just like the crown stand as a symbol for a queen, saffron kabney,in Bhutan, stand as a symbol for Druk Gyalpo, king, and Je Khenpo, chief abbot. Likewise, blue kabney stand for legislature, green stand for judiciary, orange stand for cabinets, and white stand for common men of Bhutan. Moreover, some kabney have stripes with different colors, which also differs with one’s rank.

Rachu is worn by Bhutanese women with kira, national dress for women. It is usually worn on the left shoulder. Just like kabney, some rachus represents women’s profession. However, most of the women wear red color rachu with different intricate designs. Both kabney and rachu are used as a way of showing respect while visiting temples, attaining official meetings, meeting high officials, and celebrating festivals.  Kabney and rachu also play important role in protecting and promoting Bhutanese culture and tradition.

Therefore, it’s must for a Bhutanese citizen to wear Kabney or rachu along with their national dresses during important or special occasions.

Good and Bad differs with context

As Edward T. Hall states in the selection, “The Anthropology of Manners,” that good manners in one circumstance may be bad in another condition. It depends on the place and the kind of people you are dealing with. He illustrates it very vividly telling an incident of an Arab diplomat. When the ambassador attends a feast in the United States, he refuses the first time what he was offered in the meal, but later he is not offered the dish. Therefore, he feels so hungry that he asks a friend to go get eating stuffs. He did so because in an Arab country, refusing the offered dish for several times is a crucial part of manners; however in the United States, once you refuse the proffered dish, you are not offered again. Here Hall clearly suggests us that we should be very wary about our manners and demeanors when we are in new places and new situations.


The similar differences can be noticed among people in the same country also. In Nepal, respecting other people is one of the most important manners. If someone kicks another person even unintentionally, the former person is regarded to be very disdainful. Therefore, he or she either bows or touches the person and again touches his or her forehead to show apology and respect. However, the trend of this form of showing respect also varies from community to community. For instance, In Newari societies, whoever kicks another person should touch that person and again touch their forehead to show respect. There is not any age factor or gender factor that we have to follow. However, in Brahman communities, the trend is totally different. According to their belief, elder ones should not bow to younger ones, and men should not bow to women. Therefore, the elderly people and men do not follow the trend even if they kick another person. To a surprise, they even kick other people intentionally thinking they are superior. However, women and younger children are bound to follow the tradition. Hence, if a Brahman person has to deal with a Newar person, they have to know and acknowledge each other’s tradition to have a good rapport with one another.


After reading the article, “The Anthropology of Manners” by Edward T. Hall, I got to know about different sets of manners in different cultures. At the same time, I too came up with many questions and doubts about the author balancing his article. No doubt the writer has presented us varied set of manners in his article, but very often his American idea of manners seems to dominate over other cultures’ notion of manners.

In the very first paragraph, he says, “Americans are shocked when they go abroad and discover whole groups of people behaving like goops—eating with their fingers, making noises and talking while eating.” As soon as I encountered this sentence, my perception towards the writer changed. I had thought that I could go alongside with Hall in his article and share his opinion. Conversely, I thought it was impossible after having encountered this sentence. Once a student of Sociology and Anthropology, I was excited to read this article and was eager to learn many things about people’s manners in varied atmosphere. The practice of using fingers while eating may seem weird to many Americans, but it seems to be a casual thing in many South-Asian cultures. So being a South-Asian, I felt quite dissatisfied with Hall, comparing “Goops” and those eating with fingers. However, I was consoled when I re-read the sentence and found him saying, “…, making noises and talking while eating.” While it may be a bad thing for Americans to talk while eating, it may not sound so serious for other cultures unless people try to talk with their mouth full.

Despite this, I am quite impressed by Hall’s minute observation and comparison of our daily habits among different cultures. I am alarmed by his mention of time and space in different cultures. I think it is very essential for us especially, who have to deal with students and teachers from different cultures. On being conscious of this fact after reading Hall’s article, I came to infer that the whole set of manners depends upon the type of culture one grows up in.

Though dissatisfied with Hall’s American point of view on some issues of manners, I admit that it was both knowledgeable and informative to read his article. After reading his article, my perception towards people’s behavior around me have changed. I no more dislike them for their manners; instead I take it as a result of cultural variation.

Variations of Manners

In the essay “The Anthropology of Manners” by Edward T. Hall, I read about different manners of different countries and their people. Manners and codes of conduct vary from country to country, society to society. For example, I have observed different ways to greet elders in different localities. Once in Calcutta, an elderly person had come to visit us in my grandparent’s home. Then, I had greeted him just by saying “Namashkar.” Right after that, one of my aunts corrected me that I should touch his feet as he is much elder than me, but I was excused because I belong to a different country where the custom may vary. Eventually, in Bangladesh, the manner is sort of the same. People here touch the feet of their elders, especially, elderly relatives as well. Again, this manner sometimes varies from family to family. In one of our neighborhoods, grandparents are respected in a very interesting manner. Whenever their grandparents used to visit them, they used to wash grandparents’ feet with their hand at first and then kiss them on the feet. On the other hand, in my family, touching others feet except parents is prohibited. My grandfather himself has
made this rule. As he is a very religious person, he says that nobody should bow their head in front of anyone except Allah and their parents, who gave birth to them.

In addition, the essay reminded me of a novel named America by Md. Zafar Iqbal, a famous novelist of Bangladesh. In this novel, he has shared experiences he had on his living in the United States for several years. Before going there, he learned to eat with spoon and practiced to say “excuse me” after sneezing. Still he had to face difficulties regarding different manners there. However, through his novel, I had come to know a manner the people of the USA follow to eat a banana, which seemed to me very funny. They eat a banana by peeling the skin fully and holding it tightly in the hand! I have never seen an American eating a banana, that’s
why I wonder whether it’s true or not.

However, it is manners that makes people different from each other. Manners of other countries may seem to us weird, but at the same time our manners may seem ridiculous to others. So, we should have respect for different kind of manners of different countries, and I think it’s a good idea to try to follow the manners of the country we visit to so that we don’t feel isolated or embarrassed.


Looking through a dictionary, I found this definition for manner: “The prevailing customs, ways of living, and habits of a people, class, period, etc.” and “Ways of behaving with reference to polite standards; social comportment” (Dictionary).Of course, you have used this word many times, you are grown with this word. For example, when you were little kids, your parents used to say not to shout or cry in public, they taught you how to eat your food and how to talk with you teacher when you went to school for the first time. Sometimes this question might have come to your mind that why your parents emphasize on the way of doing something and how do they know these things? Some of you may have received your first answer when you resisted doing something as your parents or adults would appreciate–“You have to do this way because otherwise, people would think how impolite you are.” The next question is that how they have learnt this politeness—manner—themselves? Now it is clear for you that they have learnt these manners form their parents and so on. This fact shows that manners can be common among a group or many groups in though different times. Since many years ago, you have learnt to shake hands for greeting. I think here you will say that I am wrong, because this is not the manner of greeting in your society. Yes. You are right. Despite that many “hows” and “more polites” are completely in my family and society, I cannot expect the whole world to know and follow them. The manners of one group, class, city or ethnic may be different from others. Some manners that are acceptable in one country may not be in for others. For example, I saw in TV that in a country that the gusts are expected to belch after having a meal. If the gust didn’t belch, the host would think that the food had not been good or pleasant for the guest. This example might sound strange and even disgusting to some of you—as it was so for me—because in many places belching is considered a rude behavior, but we cannot claim that it is the same everywhere. Therefore, it shows that even though some manners have been passed through the time, but they might not be able to pass the places.

The Anthropology of Manners- Edward T. Hall

We follow different culture and therefore we have different manners. The way we behave, is different, few maybe alike. Some might consider eating with fingers as barbarous, while some considers it as their manner or culture. It is diverse indeed. I never realized manners would be of great importance. Now, I see why it matters. I was surprised when one of friends told me that eating with hands/fingers is considered clean. I was a bit shocked to hear this. No disrespect to my friend, but I kept thinking how can your hands and fingers be clean if they are all messed up with food. I always believe that no matter how many times you wash your hands, it is never perfectly clean. I refrained myself from making that “disgusted look” on my face. She would have got offended if I had made that terrible expression. The lesson that I learned was it may look “not good” to me, but it is important to them. Therefore, we must understand others manners and actions in order to have flourishing relationship.

Furthermore, whenever my Nepali friends accidently touch my feet with theirs, they do something (I am not exactly sure what to call that). They said they do it out of respect and I found it very interesting. It seemed weird at first, but later I got used to it. It is really exciting, yet scary to see different manners. Exciting because you learn new things, scary because you might offend someone unintentionally.

The article “The Anthropology of Manners” by Edward T. Hall was very helpful. I never knew Indian women felt indignant when a baby is bathed in stagnant water (Hall 248). Now I am aware of that, and as whole the article was very useful to learn about new cultures and their manners.

We now know different culture has different manners, but I think there are different manners within the culture itself as well. For example, at a party hosted by your mother, there will be many guests and each guest might have different manners. My mother always makes us finish our dinner and even though we have already finished it, she does not let us go. She would say it is very rude to leave the table while others are still eating. I am used to this and whenever we go to eat, I always wait for my friends to finish even if I have already finished eating. However, my few of my friends are not like that. As soon as they are done, they just leave. Some does not even excuse themselves, they just leave, which, i think, is very rude.

I feel that if we want to have a good relationship, let it be a friendly one or a business one, we must understand one another’s manners, so we don’t end up doing the wrong thing.

The Anthropology of Manners

In the article “The Anthropology of Manners”, Edward T. Hall talks about the differences in time and proximity in various places. There is wide range of differences in conception of people of different places regarding the same manner. Sometimes, the concept of people of one place completely contradicts with the concept of other people of other place. For example, in Nepal, there are different concepts regarding the color of eyes, the habit of eating food, behavior with children, which may or may not valid to cultures of other places.

In Nepal, a child with blue colored eyes is considered as omen. It is said in Nepal that a person with blue colored eyes should not be trusted. They can betray people easily in any case. Especially, it is believed that women with blue colored eyes are more liable to cheat their husbands and family members. However, this concept is not valuable in western countries; in fact most of people in western countries possess blue eyes.

Similarly, in context of habit of eating, Newari people, one of the ethnic groups of Nepal believe that our plates should have some rice until we finish eating curry and other sweets. So, Newari people continuously serve rice to guests until they totally finish their curry and other sweets. This concept may not be valid to other cultures.

In a similar way, in Nepal, elders show love to their children by placing their hand on their children’s head. This behavior is especially termed as blessing. In contradictory, western people take this behavior as insult. They don’t want others to place hands on their head.

It is obvious that we can’t remember or know the culture of all places, and it is also certain that annoying behavior towards others’ culture make those people unpleasant. So, it is necessary to respect others’ point of view regarding manners keeping own view on own side at least after knowing the importance of these manners in their place. It will certainly help us to move ahead in our life being compatible with other members in society.


“The Anthropology of Manners” by Edward T. Hall, a renowned anthropologist, is an interesting and meaningful article. He has clearly explained the variations of manners in different cultures and how it plays an important role in creating misunderstanding between the people from different cultural background.

In the article, Hall describes about the different way of serving food in different cultures. For instance, in Arab the person being served has to refuse the offered food many times while the serving person has prompt to take more again and again. Similarly, in American culture the person being served is only asked once and if he or she says no, they are not asked again and again. Due to this, according to the Hill, American people end up eating more in Arabian community and Arabian people end up starving in
American community (252). Furthermore, sometimes it can also be a serious issue of disrespect.

While reading the article, I remembered about the discussion I had with my family when one of my best friend was invited to have lunch in my house. My parents have always taught me to stay quite while eating. Furthermore, we are not supposed to get up early after finishing our meal, if any other person is eating with us. They say that it is the matter of respecting the person who is having meal with you. Once, one of my friends was invited to have dinner in my house. She did not know about this and she got up early after finishing her meal while my grandfather and my brother had not finished their meal. She was not aware of how offensive it was.  After she left, my grandfather criticized her saying that she did not have good manners, so do not spend time with her. At that time, I had a serious argument with my grandfather. From that day, whenever any of my friends come to my house, I say them earlier to wait until everyone finishes their meal.

Thus, the way of practicing things varies from one culture to another culture. Not being aware of these things can sometimes have bad effect on people. However, it is not always possible to know everyone’s way of practicing things until we spend time in their environment. Thus, sometimes we should be lenient in this matter.

Digya Shrestha