Before I came here, to Azerbaijan, I had only a vague idea about its culture and society. Even while making research about the country I was coming across very different characteristics of Azerbaijani people. Some of them were about their aversion to changes and attachment to tradition, often connected with deeply rooted Muslim religion. Others claimed that people of Azerbaijan are open-minded, modern and tolerant nation. After two weeks here I see that tradition and openness can get along with each other surprisingly well. So, how are Azerbaijani people in the eyes of European guy?
Attached to tradition. That’s for sure. Patriarchy, forgotten by most of European societies, is still very important in Azerbaijan. Man should work and earn money for his wife and kids and woman is supposed to take care of the house and raise children – that’s how it works. I will never forget reaction of Azerbaijani girl when I wanted to help her with washing the dishes – she was not only surprised, she was outraged! “Men are not supposed to do such things, especially guests!” she shouted taking the pan out of my hands.
Attachment to tradition is very often connected to Islam religion.
These are next great characteristics of Azerbaijani people – hospitality and great kindness. They invite you to their homes even if they don’t know you at all. They offer you tea and any help that they are able to give. If you stand just for half a minute on a metro platform wondering which way to go, be sure that you will be approached by somebody willing to show you the way – you don’t even need to ask.
Tradition and kindness are followed by a great sense of tolerance. Even if your behavior or appearance doesn’t fit in this country’s culture you don’t have to worry. Today I laugh when I remind myself reading on the Internet how inappropriate it is to wear shorts here and texting Azerbaijani guys: “how will I manage to live in such a heat in long pants?!”. They rarely wear shorts – this is true. But if they see people dressed so, they respect it and won’t ever say a bad word. The same with their belief that women shouldn’t be out of home late at night – again, this is very true, it is a rarity to spot a woman in a metro after 10 p.m. But when there is one, nobody frowns on her, only respectfully give her up a seat.
Kindness goes along with frank curiosity. Coming to Azerbaijan be prepared to be stared at – not only by kids – everybody regardless of age look at foreigners without embarrassment. And when you will be shown the way from this metro platform there is no way that you will go away without answering questions about your origin, impressions about Baku and so on.
You are being watched from every door and every corner!
All in all, before coming to Azerbaijan I was a little bit concerned about what I was going to find in this very different land. But I have to admit that Azerbaijani people are very positive surprise to me, maybe except some smaller annoying features like outdated mentality of older generations. Nevertheless, in general Azerbaijani nation is a combination of tradition, kindness and tolerance which makes a really good impression for a foreigner.
Jachu Bednorz, Poland
18 July 2016