Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Social Customs of Pakistan


Pakistan is a Muslim society, and those who strictly observe their religion will pray five times a day. Friday is considered the holy day, and businesses are closed. The official language of this country is Urdu, but there are also many other languages spoken.

People in Pakistan are very close with their extended families. They generally know their whole nuclear family, as well as aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and tribe members. Sometimes friends and neighbors are considered to be close on this intimate level. Parents often have many children; it is common they will have up to six. People treat loyalty to their families as their top priority, coming before school or business matters. At work, people will usually hire people they know or are related to, and this is seen as a positive thing. Family life is kept private from outsiders. Women in Pakistani families are usually kept clear from outside influences, and it is rude to ask about a man’s wife or any other females in the family.

In terms of greetings, they are often executed between members of the same gender. If people are in the middle class, they might do co-ed greetings. Men will usually shake hands initially with each other, and then hug when they are more comfortable. Women will often hug and kiss one another.

You should ask people what named they wish to be called, as first names are not usually used with outsiders. Sometimes people have specific names that have to do with their status, tribe, class or occupation. It might even be two names that are used together that do not make sense if they are used alone.

Pakistan follows an existing hierarchy, where age and position are noted. The oldest person in the group is seen as wise and expects to be treated with respect, and is also usually the one who makes decisions on behalf of everyone else.

If you are invited to a Pakistani home for dinner, you should dress conservatively, and check to see if you should leave your shoes at the door. Showing up to 15 minutes late is fine for dinner or small gatherings, and up to an hour late is fine for parties. Bringing a gift is a polite gesture, but men should refrain from giving women flowers. Giving alcohol is also a bad idea, as it is a Muslim society. A good gift could be either flowers or chocolates, and they should be presented using both hands. Guests are expected to greet the elders in the room first.

During meals, rural families will generally eat on the floor off of a short table. Most people do not use utensils while eating, except for more Western-influenced families. The guests at the table are served first, and then the oldest people. Everyone must wait for the oldest person to begin eating the food. Only eat with your right hand.


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