The historic country of Azerbaijan is undoubtedly opening up to modern urban living. Azerbaijan fashion is not as conservative as most people would think. Islam is not the official religion, which explains why the country is not as conservative when it comes to dressing. They do not have an official religion, and so religious customs and beliefs do not dictate what to wear in Azerbaijan.
According to the country’s constitution, this former Soviet state is now a secular state, which means its citizens practice freedom of religion. As compared to Muslim countries, foreign tourists to Azerbaijan will not feel as intimidated dressing up casually, although Muslim Azeri women do cover their face, arms and legs. Generally, however, the women of Azerbaijan wear casual Western fashion.
Muslims do dress modestly as expected, especially when visiting the mosques, shrines and other religious sites. Other religions in the country are Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Russian Orthodoxy.
In general, men and women walk around in casual jeans, shirts, skirts, and trousers. When visiting Azerbaijan, Western tourists will definitely not feel awkward or intimidated fashion-wise. However, there are other social and cultural practices that foreigners might find awkward and strange at first encounter
The simple and common act of smiling, for instance, is frowned at in public places. Azeri people are friendly, but smiling is reserved for family members and close friends. Smiling at just anyone, especially strangers, are seen as insincere and hypocritical. In this ancient country, a smile is more than just a social gesture but a special expression of love and joy that are shared exclusively by family and close friends.
Public displays of affection are also considered offensive and inappropriate especially in rural areas. However, locals in tourist destinations and modern urban centers may be more forgiving. The public also specifically dislikes gays and lesbians openly showing signs of affection. Homosexuality is not prohibited, although it used to be a crime in the not-so-distant past. In some parts of the country, the stigma of being gay still exists.
The Azeris also tend to be very quiet when in public. People speak softly to make sure conversations and business transactions are kept decent and respectful. Foreigners who wish to impress their local friends, hosts or business partners should keep their voices down when talking.
Also, women are highly respected. It is normal for Azeri men to open doors, offer a hand to help women up or climb the stairs, offer to carry a woman’s handbag, and pay the bill after dining at a restaurant with a woman. Local women expect nothing less from foreign men. Women are also made to board the bus, metro and any other vehicle first.
How to react to these cultural practices is more important than thinking about what to wear in Azerbaijan. But perhaps the most important consideration when deciding what clothes to bring is the weather. Tourists should keep in mind that weather in Azerbaijan widely varies depending on different locations and months of the year. The country experiences very cold, below-zero temperatures in winter and scorching heat in summer. Some areas also get plenty of rain. It is good to bring an assortment of summer and winter clothes, which could include sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, T-shirts, and jeans. And by the way, the country is very mountainous; visitors might want to bring along shoes for trekking or mountain climbing.