“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” is one of the ‘greeting lines’ I’ve seen in movies. Other than that, “hi” is the most common way to get started in a conversation with a completely random stranger. It could be anywhere: streets, beaches, bus stations, waiting rooms, you imagine it. It doesn’t hurt to engage in a conversation with a stranger and “hi” seems to be the nicest way to get started. However, in Bangladesh, this isn’t the case. Like the author of the post I’m reblogging here asks, “what makes me not say “Hi” to random passer-by”, it’s the attitude I’m likely to get from whoever I say “hi” to. In Dhaka, you’re most likely to get their eyebrows raised if you say “Hi” to anyone you don’t know. If the other person is a girl, they’ll immediately believe that you’re trying to pick her up and completely ignore you. If someone does respond, they’ll ask you back, “What?”This is also the case with most guys. If you say “Hi” to anyone, you gotta have something serious to talk about. Apparently, this is not the case in most other European and American states.


My baby girl says, “Hieee” to everyone she meets.

When we’re out and about, she flashes her 8 pearly whites and insists that every passers-by return her enthusiastic, “hieee!” Sometimes people are intrigued and engage in conversation. Other times they appear shy, or even uncomfortable, and try to avoid eye contact. But nothing deters my baby girl; she’s this unstoppable bundle of friendliness.

So this got me thinking, “What makes people suspicious of friendliness?” And do I have the guts to say “hello” to everyone I meet?

Now, I grew up in a small, hi-saying town in Africa, where people loved greeting each other with handshakes, fist bumps, hugs, kisses, hi-fives, or jolly “hellos.” In fact, it was considered rude to ignore a passer-by; you were deemed arrogant or a show-off.

Fast forward several years and I found myself living in North America, where people were generally more reserved and prided their…

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10 thoughts

  1. Hi there. You raise an interesting point that depending on the cultural background, “hi” can have different connotations. So we need to exercise wisdom in our interactions. My experience tells me that some cultures have moved to an extreme where folks are suspicious of friendliness and kindness. How do strangers generally interact in Bangladesh?


    1. You wouldn’t believe. They don’t.

      In case of older people, they’d start talking about current affairs or local issues. In case of teenage people, it largely depends on the “creativity of getting a conversation started”. If one knows how to draws the other person’s interest into having a conversation with him, regardless of whether the other person is a male or a female, they succeed. There is no way to ‘generally’ interact with random strangers. (Unless you’re talking about asking questions like “When will the bus arrive” or “Is this the queue for paying phone bills”. You get my point.)


  2. I’m a bideshi so I don’t get this problem. People come to me and start talking at any time and in any place. Likewise, I say hello to people all the time and it is usually taken cordially and pleasantly. It is one of the few times when being a bideshi actually gives an advantage!


    1. You’re damn right! I’ve not seen many foreigners but I’ve heard always that they are very friendly, unlike our native people. And I have no doubt that you are! 🙂


      1. I just think that deshis don’t particularly need to have the ‘american’ friendliness which can actually be very false. When deshis see people like me they actually become very friendly indeed. Ask most bideshis who have been to Bangladesh and they will tell you – as I do – that Bangladeshis are incredibly friendly and helpful.


        1. Yes I know that. I heard that statement before. But the question is, why can’t they be friendly with their own native people? To me, those who don’t act friendly with deshis but act friendly with foreigners don’t really have any personality.


          1. I think that’s a little harsh. I have village friends who show no outward apparent niceness to each other but I’m privileged with knowing them and the village well and I know that actually they are very friendly towards each other and towards strangers – they just don’t show it in the Western style. Saying “hi” to someone is most certainly Western! Someone who does it to foreigners but not to people from their own culture may well just be showing more cultural awareness rather than having no personality (something I don’t think any of us can judge to be honest)


            1. Whoa! I think you’re missing my whole point. First of all, village people are generally friendly. I’ll give you that. I was talking about urban people in my post.

              Secondly, by saying “Hi” I didn’t mean accurately “hi”. It can be “kemon achen” or “ki obostha”. You know, any greeting words. In cities, specially in Dhaka, you can’t just get started talking to a random stranger. Not all of them are the same, sure. There are people who would love to get in a conversation. But those are mostly older people.


  3. Ah ok – so you aren’t really talking about Bangladeshis as a whole then – considering 70% of the country is rural. In which case, if you are talking about dhaka dwellers then I think that is more a case of city dwellers living anonymously in an anonymous world – something which is universal to most big cities and not specific to Dhaka at all. Before 9/11 New York was well known as one of the most dreadful places to visit or live in because everyone was so unfriendly. Things have changed a little and NY has cleaned up its reputation a bit, but generally it still holds true. We have a mutual friend living in London at the moment – even the part that is largely Bangladeshi – and she is finding people very unfriendly. Not because they are Bangladeshis but because London people are just like that. When you are one of the faceless you treat everyone else as faceless. As always, you can find places in the cities where this is not true and cities have many benefits that some of my friends could not live without these days. But I can’t think of any major city in the world that is well known for being friendly. Its not the reason people come to the city!


    1. Yes, I was mostly talking about the city. And I was inspired to share this thought after seeing the original post and the comments over there that I reblogged.


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