Car drivers are honking aggressively and blatantly disregarding traffic laws. A walking vendor is bellowing out his wares and prices in hopes of attracting customers. A group of women is shrieking with laughter in the veranda across the street. Smiling slightly, I lean against the railing of our veranda and survey my surroundings. This lively place is Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is my parents’ homeland.
By growing up in the United States, I was never heavily exposed to Bengali culture.
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My parents spoke Bengali at home and I occasionally wore a salwar kamis, but that was the extent of it. But during my visit to Bangladesh, it was not the familiar language or clothing that I noted. It was the stark contrast between American social conventions and Bengali social conventions.
Americans usually hurriedly flit from one place to another to accommodate their busy schedules. We don’t stop to talk to anyone on the streets because no one has the time. On the other hand, Bangladeshis are rather relaxed and meander from one place to another, striking up a conversation with the nearest passerby. A cacophony of voices continuously fills the streets of Dhaka.
Americans are fiercely independent. Bangladeshis are community oriented. They follow customs such as completely serving their guests. For example, my aunt shouted down my protests and shoveled food onto my plate until I threw up. Literally.
Even social interactions in the stores are different. In the U.S, one of the workers may greet you and you pay a fixed price and continue on your merry way. In Bangladesh, every item is a haggling battle and the workers will hover around you as you peruse clothing.
When I visited Bangladesh, I realized what a vivacious place it is. There is incessant commotion everywhere, whether it is haggling at the market or loudly sharing stories on a veranda. By coming to Bangladesh, I was exposed to a comically different culture. And I loved every minute of it.
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