Friday, January 20, 2006

Three Must-do's for NRB's to Settle in Bangladesh

If you are a Non-Resident Bangladeshi who wants to return to Bangladesh (for whatever reason - family, better prospects, homesickness...) the three things that, in my opinion, you should sort out before making the big move are:

1. Children's plans - if you have children who grew up overseas, then keep in mind that such a move will impact them a lot more than it will impact you, so you need to give careful thought to where they will go to school, their commute, what they will do in spare time, etc. Many families that returned to Bangladesh had to go back because the children were unhappy.

2. Finances - only you know what your financial needs will be, and you should have some plan to address those needs. There are two scales of expenses in Dhaka: local and imported. Local scale is reasonable; imported scale is 5x-10x more expensive. That is, Dhaka can very quickly become very expensive if you want to indulge in imported goods. Decide where you fit in, do some calculations, and make sure you have the income, either from overseas or from a job or business in Bangladesh.

3. Spousal alignment: Making the move to Bangladesh is a huge change. So you and your spouse must be united in facing the challenges.

Trip to Thailand

Visit to Thailand

We visited Phuket and Bangkok. Very nice, specially Phuket, with its soft sand beaches and warm, clear ocean.

Even though Bangladesh and Thailand were fairly close in development even 25 years ago, the Thais have really taken off.

How come?

Thais first had influx of US investment during the Vietnam was, then Japanese money for infrastructure. And of course money from tourism which they invested in the right way. Plus, they are an extremely clever, hardworking, and resourceful people.

Bangkok is one giant shop. Everyone is involved in selling something or other. And they understand the psychology of selling very well. So even if you don't need an item, you want to buy it because it appears cheap, attractive, etc.

Everything is cheap. For example, orange is 15baht/kg (ie, Tk. 22), compared to Tk. 70-80 in Dhaka. I was told that the Bd prices reflect all the added costs of Chadabaji, Ghush, middlemen, etc. If someone can eliminate some of these costs here, things would get a lot better.

I was amazed to find only one park in all of Bangkok: Lumpini Park. In this respect at least, Dhaka is an infinitely better city with so many parks running through it. I hope we don't sacrifice our green parks to development.

Thais are extremely nice to their visitors. In particular they are doubly nice to Caucasian visitors. In line for Guest Service Manager at the hotel I was staying in, I got a nice smile and a "Sawsdee Kha" when my turn came. But for the next person, who was Caucasian, the Manager jumped off the chair with a larger smile, almost ran towards the person to shake their hand, and ingratiated herself to no end. Similar behavior at the Stand-By Thai Airways counter at Bangkok Airport. Oh well. I guess this kind of behavior pays off. They get many many Western visitors.

Another example of Westophilia: during a guided tour of Vimanmek Palace, we are shown dozens and dozens of items that the King had imported from Germany, Austria, England, USA, and "Waterford of Iceland (yes, "Iceland")" but only one item that was brought in from Asia, a piece of cloth from India.

The Thais are clean and also fair in business. In two weeks I saw not one person spit or blow their nose or clear the throat and spit out cough. While sometimes they haggled hard, I never once felt they tried to cheat me.

And they work very very hard. Long hours setting up shop in the early morning, selling all day, and closing down late.

For a wealthy city, Bangkok has a disconcerting number of beggars. They are indeed pitiful. Positioned mostly at the numerous overhead pedestrian crossings, they sit with hands claspend, too embarrassed to catch your eye, meek and vulnerable beings. Perhaps they can learn to be more aggressive from Dhaka beggars.

Oh yeah, Bangkok people use those overhead pedestrian bridges all the time, unlike in Dhaka.

So: their hard work, foreign investment, pleasing the right audience, and their beautiful bounties of nature - all these have made Thailand successful.

A very nice trip, and I hope that Bangladesh can one day develop to the same level soon.