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Dos & Don'ts

Useful info

Azeris are generally conservative in atti­tudes towards dress, especially outside Baki. Long trousers and a shirt are expected anywhere except the beach; women should avoid revealing or figure-hugging clothes unless they want to attract a lot of attention.


If you are offered a gift it is polite to refuse twice before accepting. Conversely, if you offer someone else a gift (or some petrol money after getting a lift in someone's car, say), offer it three times h giving up. Three refusals means you definitely don't want to accept something


Men should shake hands and say hello to every member of a group when meeting other men, even if they are strangers. Sitting down in silence and keeping yourself in a social situation like a teahouse or a railway compartment is looked upon as bizarre behaviour which, when you think about it, it is.


Working Azeri mosques are sometimes off limits to non-Muslims, but many imams seem happy to show visitors around (if you're male). If you are asked inside, re­member to take off your shoes first.


Nagorno-Karabakh is an extremely sensi­tive subject. There is hardly a family in the country that has not been personally affected by the war, and the feelings it raises are strong and deeply felt. Every town has its Shahidlar Xiyabani (Martyr's Lane), and if you are in Azerbaijan on Martyr's Day (20 January) you will see huge throngs of peo­ple remembering the dead. Well-meaning attempts on your part to take a 'balanced view' of the conflict in conversation are likely to go badly awry, and it is probably best to avoid discussion of the subject com­pletely unless you know the people you are talking to very well.


Macho boozing contest is very rare event, but it can happen. Remember that it is bad form to eat while someone is giving a speech or proposing a toast, and to toast someone in beer is an insult. If you don't want to drink at such an occasion, it's better to accept a glass of vodka and raise it to your lips with everyone else, rather than cause offence by refusing completely.

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