Planning a trip to South Asia or just want to learn more about the region? The following tips and facts will give you an insight into its rich and varied culture for all your travel needs:
1. There is a saying that Bangladeshis maintain ‘Bangladesh’ time, and so you might notice that they display a rather casual attitude toward timekeeping. If you are visiting someone socially, allow plenty of time for this relaxed attitude: they will want to chat before a meal and then relax and chat some more, afterwards.
2. The many festivals and celebrations of Bangladesh have given rise to the expression “baro mashe tero parbon” (thirteen festivals in twelve months). These include Nabanno Utsab (Harvest Festival), Basanta Utsab (Spring Festival) and Pokela Boishakh (Bengali New Year’s Day). This New Year celebration is actually held on April 14th as it follows the Bengali calendar, rather than the Western Gregorian calendar.
3. Travelling to Bhutan is not easy, and the best way is to fly. The only international airport in Bhutan is in Paro, which you can fly to from Bangkok, Kathmandu, Singapore, Bangladesh and various Indian cities. There are limited flights, which operate only during the day, and the schedule changes every season.
4. The Bhutanese are generally reserved and physically controlled in their body language. When interacting with superiors or someone you have just met, it is considered polite to stand with a slightly bent back and to not make direct eye contact.
4. It is always best to err on the side of modesty and formality when choosing what to wear in Nepal. Women should make sure their legs and shoulders are always covered. To keep cool, the Nepali-style kurta suruval – long, fine, cotton trousers with a long tunic over the top – is a good option.
5. As a tourist, you are likely to be accosted by the friendly shouts of children wherever you go. Although a small minority of these might be looking for sweets, pens, or a few hours’ employment as a guide, most simply want to practice their English and are genuinely interested in where you come from.
6. Traditional modes of transport are still common in the small towns of Pakistan, such as the donkey cart – known locally as the rairhi. The horse and carriage (or tanga) is a favourite with spring and summer tourists, who love to see the cities from an open vehicle.
7. In a typical Pakistani restaurant you can find meat, vegetable curries and lentils served with bread. There are no single portions and the food is served in bowls to share. Beware that if you ask for mild food, there will still be chilies in it. You will need to specify “no chilies” when ordering, if that is what you want.
9. Devotees of Buddhism or Hinduism may travel to important temples further afield to offer worship. The town of Kataragama is the most popular place of veneration, since it is believed that prayers said here have a much higher chance of being answered. It is worth noting that while Buddhist temples and Hindu kovils welcome respectful visitors, mosques do not.
10. Sri Lanka has an abundance of tropical fruits, and so it is not surprising that the most common dessert – or breakfast – is either a fruit platter or a deliciously sweet fruit salad.
All of these tips were taken directly from our Culture Smart! guides, which you can check out below or on our shop