Contrary to widespread prejudices about Bangladesh as a poor and unsafe country, a young man from this South Asian country, Sohan Mahmud, says that Bangladesh is economically the fastest growing country in the world, democratic, and welcoming. However, there is a gap between extremely wealthy and poor people, as well as corruption, so he moved to Hong Kong to earn more money and has lived there for seven years.
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia and it borders India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. It is one of the most populated countries in the world, with 165 million people. In the capital city of Dhaka, 40.000 people live in one square kilometer. Bengalis, who speak Bengali and practice Islam, constitute the majority of the population.
In the past, Bangladesh was an extremely poor country, influenced by the political situation with neighboring Pakistan and India. It started to develop after getting independence in 1971. And official statistics show that Bangladesh succeeded in reducing poverty radically and joining the group of developing countries.
„People in my country are really hard-working. The textile industry is an important part of our economy, which we are known for, “ said Sohan.
The textile and clothing industries are cornerstones of Bangladeshi GDP, which contributed to the country’s transfer from poor to developing. Clothing exports account for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s external trade.
Sohan Mahmud was born and raised in the Shariatpur district, located in the southern part of Bangladesh, and his family is engaged in agriculture. He has a bachelor’s degree in business and administration, and he works as a digital marketing manager for an interior design company in Hong Kong. He is going to go back to Bangladesh for a short period, and then he is going to move to a Western European country.
He spoke to Serbiaindeed about the Bangladeshi lifestyle, food, culture, the differences with the West, overpopulation in the cities, and unhealthy drinking water.
- What is your most profound memory of living in Bangladesh?
The most beautiful memory I have of is the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr in my village when I was a kid. On that day, we used to get up early, and go to the river to take a bath. After getting back, we ate sweets that were prepared for the holiday. Then, we proceed to the mosque, where a lot of people are gathered for prayer. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with friends, relatives, and neighbors.
When it comes to the beauty of my country, I would highlight its lovely nature, rivers, mountains, and agricultural fields in villages.
- What do people do in villages and in cities?
Agriculture is the primary industry in most rural areas. People cultivate rice, jute, wheat, corn, and a variety of vegetables. Some of them are involved in small businesses. When it comes to cities, people are in all kinds of industries, just like in the rest of the world.
- But since you are facing huge floods, how does it affect agriculture?
Floods are common and aggressive. So far, it has developed a protection system when people prepare for the floods by going to shelters. But, agricultural fields are often destroyed.
- If somebody gets deeper into the research of Bangladesh, it is not hard to find out that this country is facing unhealthy drinking water.
Yes, it is true. Despite the fact that 98 % of Bangladesh has access to water from technologically improved pipes, the quality of drinking water is low. Escherichia coli bacteria is found in 80% of tube wells.
Some people buy bottled water, but the majority of people actually use tube water, and they do not have health issues. They have probably gotten used to it.
- Almost all developing countries are facing the problem of social inequality, with a large gap between the rich and poor. Is it true for Bangladesh?
Yes, it is very pronounced. Wealthy people accumulate huge amounts of money, but they pay low taxes. On the other hand, the poor can not get out of the survival cycle. This is all affected by curraption and not so moral ways of getting rich.
They also feel the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the pandemic. Life is getting more expensive and salaries do not follow it.
- What is the education system like in Bangladesh? It is stated on the Internet that half of the population is illiterate?
That data refers to surveys that have been carried out in the past. About 75 % of people in Bangladesh are literate. The state provides free elementary schools for all students, and free education at all levels for women.
- What is the traffic like in Bangladesh? When you look at the photos of public roads in Bangladesh, you can see that the traffic is quite heavy, and there are also reports that it is very unsafe. What is the cause of such a traffic situation?
The traffic is quite heavy in the big cities like Dhaka and Chittagong but I think it is not unsafe. I would not say that overpopulation is the problem. The cause of this kind of traffic is bad urban planning. But things are getting better lately as the government has taken an initiative to improve roads and start metro rail.
- Is Bangladesh safe for women? And are they equal with men?
Women are involved in all aspects of society. Somewhere less, somewhere more, but it is better than our neighboring countries. Girls go to school, and they are not prohibited from doing so. Some women go to religious schools, but their curricula have improved in recent years.
- What does the Bangladeshi diet consist of?
It is different from western food. There are fast food restaurants in big cities like McDonald’s and KFC, but I personally like our traditional food. These are different types of meat, like beef and chicken, fish, and also vegetables and cereals.
Typical national dishes are meat, beef, chicken or fish, and dishes with spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, chili.
- Is Bangladesh safe for tourists? Are there tourists in big cities?
It is absolutely safe for tourists. We are a welcoming and hospitable nation. Especially people in the countryside, because they do not have much contact with foreigners. That’s why it’s always interesting for them, and they try very hard to please every guest. I think the tourism potential of Bangladesh has not been exploited. Much better branding is needed in order to attract more tourists.
- The textile industry is the most developed branch of industry. And what does Bangladeshi fashion look like? How do people dress?
It depends a lot on the location. In villages, adult men generally wear shirts and lungis, while women wear blouses and shari.
The younger generations of men generally dress like people in the West, with shirts and trousers. Girls generally wear salwar and kameez.
- How do young people have fun in Bangladesh? Does night life have any similarities with the West?
We have bars and cafes, but most of them are not like those in the West. In our country, alcohol consumption is not common. Actually, only a few, mostly rich people drink alcohol. My company and I mostly went to the cinema, had coffee or tea somewhere, went to dinners, went to the gym, and socialized like that.
- You are planning to move to a western European country. What are the biggest differences between Bangladesh and countries in the West?
It is true that there are differences. For example, we are quite religious, we go to mosques, we respect religious holidays, and I don’t think that is so prevalent in the West. On the other hand, I want to go to the West, I want to experience a new way of life. I like the fact that people in Western European countries respect law and order, are more professional, take care of animals, have a better sense of humor, and are not so involved in local politics.
The negative thing would be that some people are quite racist towards other nations, but I believe that is a minority.