Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bangladeshis in Italy

Last month, a 20-year dream came true: we visited Italy. While it was an amazing lesson in history, I was also taken by surprise at the Bangladeshis in Italy.

I heard estimates of between 200,000 and 600,000 Bangladeshis in Italy.

I saw them in Rome, Florence and Venice (but not in Siena.) The ones I saw all had small to medium-size businesses. In Rome, they were selling handbags, sunglasses and tourist material on the streets. In Florence, we walked into a store selling "Indian-looking" things - "monohori dokan" - only to find the owner was a Bangladeshi who had a chain of these stores in the city.

In Venice, they were selling trinkets - like little puppets made from balloons - on the Accademia bridge and in San Marco Square. The seller told me these would not sell in Rome, but in Venice the tourists buy them.

They were incredibly kind and polite to us. The person in Florence - much to our protestations - fed us Cokes and ice cream, and sold things to us at large discounts. When it came to prices, they said "Pay us what you want - we are so happy to see a Bangladeshi tourist here." It was a kind of haggling in reverse. One street vendor in Rome, after selling a sunglass at 18 Euro to an European person, turned around and sold me a similar sunglass at 4.5 Euro. I wanted to pay him more, but, incredible as it seems, he would not take it. I think this covered his cost, barely.

At a mini-flea-market of Bangladeshi stalls at the Tiburtina station in Rome, I fell into a discussion of the business. It costs them 1000-2000 Euros a month to rent each stall. The work is very hard, and they live frugally. So they are able to save some money which they send home. One seller in Venice said he can save up to Euro 1000 a month, but only if a lot of conditions are met (eg, he has to sell an average of 50 euros' worth daily; his food expenses cannot exceed Euro 80/month, etc etc.)

I was inspired by their entrepreneurship and touched by their generosity and hope their dreams come true soon.

Here is a stall at the mini-flea-market outside Tiburtina:

16 comments:

The Bengali Fob said...

Wow, I didn't know there was such a big population of Bangladeshis in Italy. Too bad that Bangladeshis usually have to appear Indian in order to do business eh? Just Bangladeshi doesn't do much apparently...

It's like a Canadian company selling 'American' stuff...

Zafa Noor said...

I have seen these Bangladeshis in not just Rome but in Paris, Berlin and Zurich but not so much in less developed EU countries like Belgium or Poland. At first I was disappointed that they have to endure such low income jobs (some were selling soda cans out of bucket filled ice on bank of Sine River, Paris for example) – and seemed like deshis in white color positions were nonexistant. It appeared they had college degrees from home and were obviously over qualified for the tasks they undertook. But then I thought may be there were no better options for them. These are at least better trades than working as a laborer in mid-east. Some deshi vendor in the Coliseum area in Rome told was the BD community was not only big, but in good harmony, and tries to help each other out. So I did feel good about them at the end.

shafiur said...

Yes the bangladeshi diaspora is very varied and very interesting. And their experience is a testimony to their desperation, entrepreneurship and courage.

shashank aisd dhaka said...

fuck u

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info about BD's in Italy - I'm Brit BD and have am interested in the BD Diapsora. We really are a hardy bunch -

But really intersting too that, according to one of the posts, that are few BDs in white collar posts...It doesn't surprise; Continetal Europe has a long way to go on the whole equality of opportunity thing...i.e. no desire desire on the part of the host society to enable meaningful integration...

Anonymous said...

Well you should not be worried to much about white-collar blue-collar etc etc. People do what they can. Some of you are really snobs (Bangladeshi Snobs, LOL)

Anonymous said...

Bangladesh is turning Islamic harboring fundamentalists and they want equality and secularism elsewhere.
Italy / Europe will pay in dead bodies harboring Bangladeshis as India is doing right now.
No Hindu Bengali a vast majority of them communists , talks of unification of Bengal because Bangladeshis will kick their ass out but they shout of secularism ,support Iran ,anti US just to spite rest of India

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Anonymous said...

What you forgot to mention is most of these are illegal vendors. Have you not seen them pestering tourists who are there to have a good time? Watch them how they run when the cops arrive. Quite a source of Bangladeshi pride eh? Ruining entire European cities with the unwanted presence!

Their presence was personally embarrassing to me as I am an Indian and looked like them. I would be glad if they advertised themselves as Bangladeshis instead of Indians. We definitely don't feel proud about illegal vendors in European cities pestering tourists.

Mrs. Anisur Rahman said...

Hi! Me and my husband are planning to visit Italy last week this month (May 2012). We want to go to Rome from Dhaka, then visit Florence, Venice and Milan and then we'd want to go to Vienna (Austria) and then we'd come back from Vienna to Dhaka. Can anyone help us giving tips about economic road/train travel and also economic and clean hotels? We can give max 5-6 days for the whole trip. It's a dream vacation for us. If anyone can help me giving helpful tips and contacts, would really be grateful. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just came back from Italy...WTF street sellers bangies everywhere!!! Embarrassing to say the least!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, get a life and ashamed of yourself for thinking you are somehow better than them. These people are out there trying to feed their families, they are not stealing from anyone, they are working, doing what they can to earn a buck. They are not like you, pretending to be some snobby s**t. Your grandfather were longi just like theirs

Anonymous said...

I feel ashamed to see this south asians every nook and corner paddling things, many are illegals and overstayed their welcome. They bring bad image to south asians who travel as tourist to this countries. This muslim fries like pakis destroyed the economies of their countries and now forming colonies in Europe. I am very disappointed, I hope europe will kick them out before they start demanding rights. Now they can sell and make pork burger later they will talk about how great their religion is.

Anonymous said...

shame befitting a country of shame, which knows only to breed and let go. lungi fuck..

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