Meet the Probashi behind Switzerland Probashi

The story behind how one man’s frustrations abroad gave birth to one of the funniest Bangladeshi pages on the internet

I am a Swiss expatriate. In this country, we eat a very delicious food called pizza. It is very delicious. I would like to know if the pizza has reached Bangladesh yet. I have not been to Bangladesh in many years. As I am settled here in Switzerland, I do not know what’s going on there. If there are no pizza shops, I will open a pizza business in Bangladesh. So that even our Bangali brothers can taste pizza and get to know a new kind of food.

– Osman Goni, Swiss Expatriate Association

Chances are you’ve stumbled upon such posts on social media where our compatriots based in foreign countries earnestly try to show off the finer things in foreign life, to all of us stuck back home.

This is but one of the many posts on the Facebook page ‘Switzerland Probashi,’ where Osman Goni, Kamruzzaman Kamruzzaman, Abul Kalam the plumber, and a few other expats living in Switzerland, share tidbits about their life abroad and ‘enlighten’ their fellow countrymen about their Swiss way of life. 

This page has now amassed a whooping 96k followers within six short months of its founding. The page, which has been a big hit in Bangladesh, posts content on how ‘great’ the expats living in Switzerland have it compared to Bangladeshis living back home: the great food they eat, the gorgeous sights they see, and the extravagant lifestyle they enjoy. 

They also frequently dispense advice to their ‘downtrodden countrymen’ and share insights about the admin panel’s personal dynamics, which sometimes devolve into a fight for control over the page.

At first glance, the posts appear to be straight-up jabs at Bangladeshis. However, on closer inspection, they appear to be double entendres satirising particularly abrasive members of the Bangladeshi expat community.  

But why Switzerland of all places? Well, Switzerland, a breathtakingly beautiful country, introduced one particular Bangali living abroad to the ugly side of his fellow countrymen. 

Once, the founder of Switzerland Probashi (whom we shall refer to as Probashi for the sake of anonymity) uploaded a Facebook post on the hardships of living abroad.  He pointed out that Switzerland is so different from even its neighbouring countries, that even those who are accustomed to living abroad will find it challenging. 

The post, however, drew sharp criticism in the comments section. “Why did you go there if you can’t afford it?”, “Why didn’t you educate yourself on the norms here?”, “The only thing Bangladeshis are good at is coming abroad and tarnishing Bangladesh’s name by littering everywhere.”

Who knew calling a spade a spade would rub so many the wrong way!

These unsavoury characters were not just social media trolls. The ‘Probashi’ would soon discover some of them were present in his own social surroundings. 

He decided to document the “obnoxious things” these characters say and do. And thus Switzerland Probashi was born.

Now two other people, one living in Bangladesh and the other in Sweden, help him run the page.

“Since moving to London a year and a half back, I have been approached by random Bangladeshis on the streets many times and was told to avoid Bangladeshis there. Instead of helping me, the expat Bangladeshis became the source of my misery,” recalled Probashi.

Bangladeshis living abroad often resent students from back home, since they might not “struggle” as much as those moving there as labourers, or in more vocational jobs.

There is a wide range of cliques among Bangladeshis living abroad – people coming in from Sylhet stick together, whereas people who originally moved to Italy and then moved somewhere else, stick together. Another group are those coming from Portugal, and another are those coming from other European countries.

Some do not even consider those living in Europe or North America as NRBs. To them, only those living in the Middle East are the ‘real’ NRBs.

Although the page has gained a huge amount of traction, the takeoff wasn’t all that smooth.

“At first, people thought I was belittling those living in Bangladesh. So, they would comment on the page’s posts, rebuking me, and shared my posts with elaborate captions as a way of protest,” said Probashi.

“But my posts are not belittling Bangladeshis, but rather a satire on people who belittle Bangladeshis despite being their brethren. Soon, people started to understand that and took a liking to my content,” Probashi explained.

“One thing about my content is that it does not have any innuendos; it is healthy entertainment. I think that is why people like my page,” he added.

Another terrible experience that inspired him to open the page time when he went to a restaurant to interview for the position of chef. The restaurant was owned by a Bangladeshi man and managed by his ‘desi’ girlfriend. 

The restaurant was quite dirty and seemingly maintained no hygiene standards. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg. What the manager said upon a mere delay in serving a dish was the real kicker.

“You’re a slave so behave like it. You should not raise your voice with me, rather speak with respect,” she told the executive chef, which was Porbashi’s signal to hightail it out of there.

Instead of building others up, Bangladeshis living abroad are pulling each other down. Many of them harbour a distorted perception of Bangladesh and propagate that as well.

Probashi believes that foreigners often have a low opinion of Bangladesh. To change this perception, he has invited many foreigners to pay his country a visit to see for themselves. 

However, even if they show interest, ” it’s fellow Bangladeshis who discourage them by highlighting negative aspects, like political unrest or people dying in freak accidents. But that is not all there is to Bangladesh,” said Probashi. 

“This happens mostly in the case of those who seek political asylum. They describe Bangladesh as a very unsafe country, citing political violence and terrorism,” he added.

It wasn’t all bad though. “Not all of them are the same. There are good people here too, but it is very difficult to scope them out,” said Probashi. 

But if you are not fortunate enough to find such people, he suggested staying clear. Reading about Osman Goni and Co might be fun, but encountering them in real life sure as hell is not. 

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