Life & Work in Bangladesh

Language

The official language of Bangladesh is Bengali, also known as Bangla. The majority of Bangladesh’s inhabitants speak Bengali; however, there are many people across the country who speak English and Urdu, as well.

Bengali is heavily influenced by phrases from the Islamic and Hindu religions. Depending on the region you are in, you may notice many variations of Bengali being spoken. Some of the language’s words are even adopted from the English language including words such as “tebil” (table), “television”, “telephone”, “video” and “radio”.

As an expatriate worker in Bangladesh you may find that it is difficult to conduct business in the country without a basic knowledge of the Bengali language. After all, Bengali is the country’s main business language. While most business will be conducted in Bengali, you will find that some businessmen may choose to communicate in English, as well.

Climate and weather

Nestled between India and Burma, Bangladesh is a small country with a hot, tropical climate. From late May to early October, the country experiences a monsoon season characterized by heavy rains and widespread flooding. In fact, about 80 percent of Bangladesh’s rain falls during monsoon season.
Following the monsoons, the country is cooled from late October through early March. During this post-monsoon season, temperatures average 10 degrees Celsius in the country’s coldest month, January.

If you are visiting Bangladesh during the summer months, you should wear light, loose fitting clothing. Be sure to pack your rain jacket and umbrella if you plan to be in the country during the monsoons! On the other hand, if you plan to visit the country during the winter, warmer clothing is advised; especially for the northern mountain regions which experiences significantly colder weather than the rest of the country.

Visas

After securing yourself employment in Bangladesh, you will need to take the necessary steps to ensure that you have the correct visas ready prior to your departure.​ This documentation process takes some time, so be sure to plan ahead!

To start, as a future expatriate working in Bangladesh, you will most likely apply for a tourist visa. This type of visa allows you to be in the country for 30 days, depending on your country of origin. Be sure to consult with your nearest consulate to figure out which visa is the best for your journey to Bangladesh.

 To be considered for a Bangladeshi visa you will need the following documents: Valid passport, Hotel confirmation, Letter of invitation, Letter from company & Letter of invitation from company based in Bangladesh including the traveler’s name and passport number (For business travelers, only).
Some individuals do not need a visa depending on their country of origin. Check with the closest Bangladesh consulate to find out if you require a visa before beginning your journey abroad.

Social etiquette

In Bangladesh’s hierarchical society, a person’s position and age earns them respect and wisdom. When in a group, the most senior person (by position or age) will often make the important decisions. This social norm carries into the workplace, as well.

Muslim and Bengali cultures mix throughout the country with many Bangladeshis holding cross-cultural beliefs. For example, many Bangladeshis believe in Shamanism and the powerful fakirs (Muslim holy men/exorcists/faith healers), Ojhaa (shamins with magical healing powers), and Bauls (religious mendicants and wandering musicians). These folk traditions and believes are incorporated in the many Bangladeshi customs involving music, dance and literature.

Bangladesh’s social etiquette is based off of these multicultural beliefs. Greetings are conservative and often only take place between members of the same sex. Men may exchange gentle handshakes, while women are rarely introduced. (Only offer a handshake if the woman you are introduced to extends her hand first).

Due to the country’s emphasis on hierarchy, be sure to properly address a person while acknowledging their seniority. For example, if the person you are addressing is older than you, you may call them by their first name and a suffix that clarifies the person’s relationship with you.

As you travel around the country, keep these cultural differences in mind in order to avoid appearing offensive or ignorant. Bangladesh’s social etiquette has deep religious roots. Keep an open mind and respect the Bangladeshi beliefs!

Accommodation

From flats and houses to buying property, Bangladesh offers an abundant source of affordable housing options for everyone.

When securing housing in Bangladesh, there are many options available to you. To narrow down your choices, first decide on an area that you would like to live in. Many expatriates find that the residential areas in Dhaka, such as Gulshan and Banani, are the most comfortable and convenient.
After deciding which location is perfect for your stay in Bangladesh, you can begin to look into the types of property available. You may choose to rent an apartment or even purchase a house or plot of land. Since most expats are only in the country for a short period of time, renting an apartment is usually the most cost-effective option.

Employment

The job market
Despite the large population of people living in poverty and recent corruption of economy, Bangladesh is slowly getting back on its feet.

More than half of the Bangladeshi population is employed in the agriculture sector (specifically in rice farming) and the country also has booming textile and garment industries.

While searching for employment in Bangladesh, you will find that positions are often available in the country’s pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, ceramics, leather goods, and electronics sectors. The country also has a growing manufacturing and industry sector with many new jobs available in garment and apparel production.

Income tax
As an expatriate working in Bangladesh, you will be charged an income tax on all income earned; including both income earned while in Bangladesh and foreign income received from Bangladesh sources. Only exempt income will not be charged an income tax.
The level of taxation depends on your residential status within a tax year. Bangladeshi residents are taxed on worldwide income while foreign nationals are usually only taxed on income received while in Bangladesh and foreign income earned from Bangladesh sources. On the other hand, those who are not residents of the country will be taxed only on income from Bangladesh.
Residency is based on the number of days you spend in Bangladesh during one income year. You will be considered a resident if you spend 182 days or more in the country. You may also be considered a Bangladeshi resident if you spend 90 days or more in the country and have previously resided in Bangladesh for more than 365 days during the four years prior.

Business etiquette 
Business in Bangladesh is quite formal. Upon meeting someone for the first time, men will shake hands and politely nod to females. To address a male, use the term “Bahadur” (“Sir”). While addressing a female, you may call her “Begum” (Madam”). These names are appropriate to use before you are invited to call your partners on a first name bases.

After an initial introduction, you can begin to exchange business cards. Be sure to transfer your card using your right hand. You may choose to include your educational qualifications on your card (such as university degrees), as these are highly valued in Bangladesh. When you receive a card, carefully look it over before putting it away. Commenting on the card and reading it through shows respect.

During meetings, try your best not to get angry or show strong emotions. The Bangladeshis believe that doing so will make you “lose face” which is unprofessional.  You must also aim to avoid putting anyone in such a situation where they lose face.

Retirement 
With its unique location in Southeast Asia and its affordable cost of living, Bangladesh is becoming an appealing retirement destination for those who are looking to settle in a very rural country.

Many people are hesitant to retire to the country due to its large population of poverty. However, with careful planning prior to retirement, you can avoid areas struck with extreme poverty.  By living in an urban Bangladeshi region, you can live comfortably.

Currency 
The official currency of Bangladesh is the Bangladeshi taka (BDK, Tk). Banknotes can be found in denominations of Tk1, Tk2, Tk5, Tk10, Tk20, Tk50, Tk100, Tk500, Tk1000. This currency also includes coins that include Tk1, Tk2, Tk5, Tk10, Tk25, Tk50.

Cost of living 
While the poverty rate of the country is particularly high, the cost of living in Bangladesh is surprisingly affordable. Food, housing, and leisure activities can be found for fairly low prices depending on location. Rent per month is very inexpensive, especially in Dhaka, the country’s capital.  By exploring your options, you can live in Bangladesh on a particularly low budget.

Banking
Expat banking in Bangladesh may prove to be very difficult. With long processes for international transactions, foreigners face difficulties when transferring money and opening accounts.
Banks have varying schedules depending on the bank and its location. Usually, hours of operation include Sunday through Thursday, between 10am and 4pm.  Due to the large population of Muslims, banks may close during the afternoon for prayers and food. Select banks may offer services on Saturdays and in evenings, as well.