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Culture in Pakistan

Culture in Pakistan

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Pakistan’s culture is varied and vibrant, albeit very conservative. Religion dictates and influences culture at almost every level. Keep that in mind and tread carefully when traveling to Pakistan.

Due to its diversity, it’s difficult to make generalizations about Pakistani culture… but try, I shall! Here are some cultural nuances travelers should be aware of:

Hospitality

Pakistan’s hospitality is renowned. In Pakistan, guests are a gift from God, and many people are honored to treat them as such. During my travels through Pakistan, people have…

  • Invited me to stay in their homes despite not knowing me at all.
  • Slept on the floor so I could sleep in their bed.
  • Fed me a million and one times, even when they were fasting during Ramadan.
  • Taken the time to show me around their cities, villages, regions.
  • Gifted me everything from clothing to food to souvenirs.
  • … and then some.

The hospitality is incredible and continues to amaze me even after repeat visits to the country.

However, in recent times—and due to some careless influencers—I feel some travelers are interpreting this hospitality the wrong way.

Pakistan is NOT a place to go because ~*everything is freeeee!!!*~. By all means, enjoy their hospitality—I sure do—but don’t take advantage of it. Give back where you can.

You can give people small tips (maybe 20 to 50 rupees) if they do something to help you out, or if they’re visibly poor but still feed you or give you things. More if they help you a lot over a period of time. Help out around the house, or buy gifts of fruits, sweets, or nuts (called “dried fruits” in Pakistan). Meat is also a good gift for poorer people in villages. Bring small gifts from your own country or home for people who host you (think postcards, sweets, trinkets, etc.).

Sometimes people will not accept, but it doesn’t hurt to offer. If it’s a matter of pride over money, you can always give a little financial gift to the kids, or leave money somewhere in their house where they’ll find it.

TL;DR: don’t be a mooch. Pakistani hospitality is something to appreciate and learn from, not take advantage of. Enjoy, then pay it forward!

The Pakistani mindset

Let me preface this by saying Pakistanis are the most hospitable people I’ve met in my travels (shout out to Iranians and Bangladeshis as runners ups).

Pakistanis make you feel wholly welcome and are the country’s greatest asset. Some of the best friends from my travels are Pakistani. I’m not sure there’s a country where it’s easier to meet and interact with locals than Pakistan.

The flip side: Pakistanis can be difficult people to deal with.

Because the country is conservative and religiously homogenous (about 97% of the population is Muslim), I’ve found people can be very intolerant. There is a way to do and think about things in Pakistan, and those who do or believe otherwise are often met with opposition. Though many people harbor “alternative” opinions, they are often hesitant to speak them unless in close company. People are not used to differing opinions.

Pakistanis also do not handle criticism well. I knew this, but had a nice reminder (translation: aggressive awakening) of this inability when I posted a critical video about Pakistan’s tourism scene this year. I had to field hate for weeks on end despite constructive intentions.

Don’t let me put you off Pakistan and its people; my point is that you should be very cautious when speaking about sensitive subjects and be careful to respect Pakistan’s culture. By all means discuss, but choose your battles wisely.

The rest of this guide is meant to help you get a grasp on what is and is not okay in Pakistan, and how to act once there. Read through, and you won’t need to worry about clashing with locals. As I said, Pakistan is a brilliant country for adventurous travelers… so long as you respect local culture

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