Facts and Statistics
Location: Southern Asia, bordering Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km
Population: 159,196,336 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India at the time of partition and their descendants)
Religions: Muslim 97% (Sunni 77%, Shi'a 20%), Christian, Hindu, and other 3%
Language in Pakistan
Urdu is the only official language of Pakistan. Although English is generally used instead of Urdu in this regard. English is the lingua franca of the Pakistani elite and most of the government ministries.
Urdu is closely related to Hindi but is written in an extended Arabic alphabet rather than in Devanagari. Urdu also has more loans from Arabic and Persian than Hindi has.
Many other languages are spoken in Pakistan, including Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi, Pashtu, Balochi, Hindko, Brahui, Burushaski, Balti, Khawar, Gujrati and other languages with smaller numbers of speakers.
Pakistani Society & Culture
- Islam is practised by the majority of Pakistanis and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives.
- Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.
- Friday is the Muslim holy day. Everything is closed.
- During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing.
- The extended family is the basis of the social structure and individual identity.
- It includes the nuclear family, immediate relatives, distant relatives, tribe members, friends, and neighbours.
- Loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships, even business.
- Nepotism is viewed positively, since it guarantees hiring people who can be trusted, which is crucial in a country where working with people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.
- The family is more private than in many other cultures.
- Female relatives are protected from outside influences. It is considered inappropriate to ask questions about a Pakistani’s wife or other female relatives.
- Families are quite large by western standards, often having up to 6 children.
- Pakistan is a hierarchical society.
- People are respected because of their age and position.
- Older people are viewed as wise and are granted respect. In a social situation, they are served first and their drinks may be poured for them. Elders are introduced first, are provided with the choicest cuts of meat, and in general are treated much like royalty.
- Pakistanis expect the most senior person, by age or position, to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group.
- Titles are very important and denote respect. It is expected that you will use a person's title and their surname until invited to use their first name.
Etiquette & Customs in Pakistan
Meeting and Greeting
- Greetings are therefore often between members of the same sex; however, when dealing with people in the middle class, greetings may be across sex lines.
- Men shake hands with each other. Once a relationship is developed, they may hug as well as shake hands.
- Women generally hug and kiss. Pakistanis take their time during greetings and ask about the person’s health, family, and business success.
- Pakistani names often include a name that denotes a person’s class, tribe, occupation, or other status indicator.
- They may also include two names that have a specific meaning when used together, and the meaning is lost if the names are separated. • It is best to ask a person how they wish to be addressed.
- In general, this is not a culture where first names are commonly used, except among close friends.
Gift Giving Etiquette
- If invited to a Pakistani’s home, bring the hostess a small gift such as flowers or good quality chocolates.
- Men should avoid giving flowers to women.
- Do not give white flowers as they are used at weddings.
- If a man must give a gift to a woman, he should say that it is from his wife, mother, sister, or some other female relative.
- Do not give alcohol.
- Gifts are not opened when received.
- Gifts are given with two hands.
- If invited to a home you will most likely have to remove your shoes. Check to see if the host is wearing shoes. If not, remove yours at the door.
- Dress conservatively.
- Arrive approximately 15 minutes later than the stipulated time when invited to dinner or a small gathering.
- You may arrive up to one hour later than the stipulated time when invited to a party.
- Show respect for the elders by greeting them first.
- In more rural areas, it is still common to eat meals from a knee-high round table while sitting on the floor.
- Many people in urban areas do not use eating utensils, although more westernized families do.
- When in doubt, watch what others are doing and emulate their behaviour.
- Guests are served first. Then the oldest, continuing in some rough approximation of age order until the youngest is served.
- Do not start eating until the oldest person at the table begins.
- You will be urged to take second and even third helpings. Saying “I’m full” will be taken as a polite gesture and not accepted at face value.
- Eat only with the right hand.