Customs, beliefs, norms and behavior tend to be more modern and Westernized in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad while those in rural and tribal areas tend to be more conservative. The Punjab and Sindh have traditionally been ruled by feudal leaders. The remainder of the country has been traditionally governed by tribal customs.

According to the Pakistani government: Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu). Just a greeting of Salam Alaykum will get you far in endearing yourself to people. If you are travelling outside the big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad it is advisable to learn some basic Urdu or a regional language. [Source: Ministry of Culture, Pakistan ]

Just respect and observe. Pakistan is a conservative country and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts or pants in public (Pakistani women wear the traditional shalwar kameez). Dress codes for men are more lax although they should refrain from wearing shorts in public. As well, showing someone the sole of your feet or shoe is considered an insult, and can lead to you being considered disrespectful.

British customs such as tea time endure in some places. Cricket is the most popular sport. Some upper class Pakistanis send their children to exclusive boarding schools in Britain and hope they can get into Oxford or Cambridge.

Pashtun Code of Honor

The Pashtuns (Pathans) are an ethnic group that live in western and southern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan and whose homeland is in the valleys of Hindu Kush.

The Pashtun code of honor is known as “Pashtunwali”, or the way of the Pashtuns. It is an ancient and absolute set of rules that defines: 1) how a host must care and protect guests and their property, 2) the chastity of married women and the way men must defend women’s honor; 3) rules of restraint accorded those regarded as weak (namely Hindus, women and boys); 4) defense provided for those who seek refuge; and 5) how killings should be avenged. “Pashtanwali” has precedence over the law of the land and even Islamic law. It is regarded as an ideal, which Pashtun may not be able to meet but they should try to live up to and is so strong and prevalent in some areas it negates the need for a government.

Central to adherence to the male-centered pakhtunwali code of conduct is the notion of honor, nang, which is articulated in a starkly black-and-white, all-or-nothing manner. Without honor, life for a Pashtun is not worth living. Honor demands the maintenance of sexual propriety. Complete chastity among female relatives is of the essence; only with the purity and good repute of his mother, daughters, sisters, and wife (or wives) does a man ensure his honor. Thus women are restricted to private, family compounds in much of the province. Census takers, invariably male, are constrained not to ask about the women in another man's home, and the number of men in a household is often overstated because sons and brothers are a source of strength. Accurate enumeration of the population hence is not possible. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]

Among the three most important obligations of “Pashtanwali” are 1) “nanawatai”, or giving asylum to a refugee, even a mortal enemy; 2) “melmastia”, extending hospitality to strangers, even enemies; and 3) “badal”, or obtaining revenge for a slight, which are usually over “zamin” (gold, land and women). [Source: Bern Keating, National Geographic, January 1967].

The punishments for breaking the code are very harsh and often involve death. The penalty for illicit sexual behavior, for example, is death. Death is often regarded as preferable to dishonor. This code allows for, even encourages, revenge killings. Pakhtunwali in some cases contradicts and generally takes precedence over Islamic law. It is enforced by strong social pressure. Violations of law outside of the activities the code encompasses are dealt with by the jirga or the government administration.

One Pashtun saying goes: “He is not Pashtun who gives a pinch for a blow.” Ellis observed a five year old boy make five trips across the border in less than an hour to get cooking oil for an Afghan merchant who filled up a large tank. On his last trip the boy was slapped by a border guard. "He was Pashtun," wrote Ellis, "But being only five or so, the spirit of Pashtunwali had not taken hold of him. So he cried."*

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: Hospitality (Milmastia) is important to Pashtun, as is a reliance on the tribal council (jirga) for the resolution of disputes and local decision making. Other Pashto codes include: courageousness (Tureh, which is also the word for sword in Pashtu); the spirit of taking revenge (Badal); protection of honor (Ghayrat); and nanawati, a method of terminating hostility, hatred, and enmity (i.e., when a person, family, or tribe goes to the hostile people through elderly people, they will accept their apology and the feeling of hatred and enmity are dissolved). Important elements of Pashtunwali code are personal authority and freedom. Political leadership is based on personalities rather than structures and ideologies. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

Sindi Customs

Sindhis are the natives of the Sindh province, which includes Karachi, the lower part of the Indus River, the southeast coast of Pakistan and a lot of desert. The caste system is more alive here than other places. In villages of Sindh, the gatherings between castes are largely restricted to men. Women largely communicate within their own caste, within which they marry exclusively. Opportunities for meeting women of other castes become more restricted with higher status. Rajput women observe strict purdah (seclusion) while poorer Bajeer, Bheel, Menghwar and Kohli are freer to undertake their field tasks. They are victims of centuries-old customs like Karo Kari, marriage with the Holy Quran and latter occur specially in the Upper cast in Muslims or most conservative families. But it is very hopeful that this custom is very low. Tribal system is more powerful and implementation of laws is another question.

The center of social life for Sindhi men is the “otak,” (autak) a special room or building building where they gather to discuss politics, play cards, watching television, watch cockfights, listen to musicians, watch dancers, drink alcohol; and chew on betel nut mixtures. The otak is often outside the walls of the house compound a discrete distance beyond the thorn hedge of the family quarters.. Each hamlet will have at least one otak. If for some reason it doesn’t a large shady tree is designated as meeting place. The otak is where landlords traditionally asserted their power and meet their followers. [Source: Sarwat S. Elahi, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1992]

Sindhis follow many Muslim norms but also veer away from them. The usually greet one another with the Muslim greeting "Salaam" or "Salaam alaikum") but also still use the Hindu "Namaste." No visitors are allowed to enter a Sindhi home without the consent of the head of the family. Landlords hold great power and prestige. Further honor and prestige comes from having family members, including daughters, who have achieved high levels of education, have professional careers or hold political power. [Source: D. O. Lodrick “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009]

Greetings, Titles and Names in Pakistan

Various honorifics and family names are used. The family name can be first or last. Names often indicate caste, religion, tribe and home region. "Khan" is a title of respect. It is better to refer to people by their surnames.

Men generally shake hands when greeting one another. Among the middle and upper classes men and women shake hands. As a rule women don't shake hands with other women. Close friends and family members sometimes hug one another, and women kiss each others. If you are unsure what to do when you meet a women let her make the first move. [Source: “The Traveler's Guide to Asian Customs and Manners” by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti]

The Brahui are a Dravidian language group of tribes that live mostly in Balochistan and the Sindh. Brahui greet each other by shaking hands and embracing. They exchange pleasantries about after each other's health and convey news (hal) about family, friends, cattle, and other matters of importance to them. Brahui are known for their hospitality to their guests. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures,” The Gale Group, 1999 /=]

Many Pakistani use a salaam style greeting which involves a weak handshake with the right hand followed by putting the right hand on the heart. Some Pakistani use an "Namaste"-like greeting. The namaste is an Indian-style greeting in which people touch their hands prayer-style in front of their face and touch their forehead as a sign of respect. Best to avoid anything associated with India in Pakistan though.

Muslims greet each other with the greeting, "Salam ali kum." The response is "Wali kum salam." When greeting someone, use titles like "Dr." or "Prof." if a person has one. Otherwise use "Mr.," "Mrs.," or "Miss. If you don't a person's name you can say “sahib” (meaning "Sir") or “begum” (for women). Never use first names.

Important foreign guests in the Punjab are welcomed with receptions with dancing camels, rose-petal alters and thousands of pungent oil lamps. When the guest walk by the camels they bow, rise and then kick high in the air.

Public Customs in Pakistan

Women and men don't display affection in public. This should be avoided at all costs. Men should never touch a woman in public. In some places, it has traditionally been considered respectful for men and women to maintain a distance of one meter from one another. Men often hold hands with other men, especially when engaged in a deep conversation. Women also hold hands. If you see two men or two women holding hands, they are probably friends, siblings or cousins. It doesn’t; mean they are gay.

Pakistanis are not big on waiting in lines (queuing). Neat orderly lines are hard to find. In banks, post offices and telephone offices, people often butt in line and aggressively try to get to the counter first. There is often a lot of pushing and jostling on public transportation.

Try to stay calm even in the most unnerving situations. Displays of anger are frowned upon. Avoid yes or no question. People will often tell you what you want to hear rather than tell you the unpleasant truth. When foreigners ask for directions, a group often forms and a passionate discussions ensures on the best route.

1) Direct eye contact is often considered rude. 2) ) Don' eat while walking down the street. It is considered rude and inconsiderate to people who might be hungry and can not afford to eat. 3) Don’t blow your nose in public. 4) Showing someone the sole of your feet or shoe is very rude. 5) Show respect towards elders. [Source: The Traveler's Guide to European Customs & Manners by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Bragant]

Mosque Customs

Mosques and shrines are often not open to non-Muslims. Those that do welcome them expect them to be appropriately dressed: no shorts, short skirts, revealing halter tops or exposed shoulders. Mosques that allow women often require them to at least wear a head scarf. Some require them to cover their entire bodies, except the face, hands and feet, and not wear trousers. Sometimes mosque provide women who don’t have one with a head scarf. Sometimes they have robes for men wearing shorts.

The Muslim faithful are expected to remove their shoes and wash their feet in a sacred basin before they enter the mosque. If no water is available Muslims are supposed to wash themselves with sand. Foreigner visitors s can usually get away with just removing their shoes and are not required to wash their feet. In any case, make sure you feet or socks are clean. Dirty feet in a mosques are regarded as an insult to Islam. In large mosques you remove your shoes and place them on a shelf with a number.

Inside a mosque don't walk in front of someone who is praying, don't touch the Quran, never sit or stand on a prayer rug and never place a Quran on the floor or put anything on top of it. Also, don't cross your legs in front of an older people and don't step over someone who is sitting down Show respect, remain quiet and stay out of the way. Taking photographs is frowned upon.

Women Customs

The traditions governing the behavior of women is known as “purdah” and is very similar to a code of the same name used by Hindu women in India. It involves covering the body and face and segregating from males. A study in the early 1990s found that 82 percent of urban women observed purdah restrictions and 47 percent of those in rural areas did.

Purdah has traditionally been regard as a middle class and upper class custom, indicating that families were well off enough so women did not have to work and that her male relatives could take of her and protect her. Many women prefer purdah. Not having it means they have to work.

Sometimes men and women are segregated on buses, trains and boats. Sometimes there are separate lines for men and women. In some places, especially tribal areas, men should not touch women or even look at them.

In many places, men and women are segregated and women lives have two components. Their private household one and their public one outside the home. Inside the home they can dress as they please and associate with male relatives. The home is regarded as the women’s realm and specific areas are set aside for men to meet with male visitors. Outside the home they are supposed to be chaperoned by a male relative.

Often in mosques, buses and trains there are separate areas for men and women. Women should not visit mosques on Friday, it is considered rude. Segregation is not so pronounced in village life because much of the agriculture and field work is done by women.

Women are not supposed to have eye contact or speak formally with men. When meeting strange man out of necessity, say at a market, the inaction should be as short as possible. Women should never wink. It is regarded as flirting.

Pakistan is one of the last few places in Asia where you can find schools that teach manners to young women. The Pakistan Air Force Finishing School near Islamabad teaches girls from elite civilian and military families about make up, fashion and cooking. As part of their military training they are taught how to set up tents and camouflage.

Social Customs

Pakistanis are very welcoming and willing to chat with strangers. All you have to do is introduce yourself. They extend al kinds of invitations and are very hospitable. If you want to decline don't say no directly say you are doing something else. [Source: The Traveler's Guide to Asian Customs & Manners by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti]

Good conversation topics include family, cricket, food, arts and crafts, and places. When talking about family, better to talk about children rather than wives and husbands. Topics to avoid include India, Kashmir, Afghanistan. Israel, terrorism, tribal groups and politics. Never say anything bad Mohammed, Islam or Muslims. Pakistan has the death penalty for blasphemy. Do not make jokes about religion, women, sex, or alcohol.

People often ask personal questions almost immediately after meeting. They ask questions about marriages, and sometimes ask how much money you earn. This is sometimes don to size you up and work out the most respectful way to communicate with you. People you just met often will ask for address. It is considered rude to refuse. It is best to give a vague address or even a false one if you expect to never see the person again.

Pakistanis are often not very punctual. Even so they often expect foreigners to be. Some Afghans and Pakistanis are big on hugging. During conversations they are used to long silences.

Pashtun Hospitality and Refuge

The Pashtuns (Pathans) are an ethnic group that live in western and southern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan and whose homeland is in the valleys of Hindu Kush.

Pashtuns are as legendary for their hospitality, or melmastia, among strangers as they are for their bellicosity among themselves. They share the contents of their water pipes with anyone who pulls up a seat. Every village or neighborhood has a “hujra” (guest house) to entertain casual guests. Special guests are given the best bed in the house and presented with a gift when they leave. Hospitality has precedence over revenge and blood feuds.

Hospitality is expressed through commensalism, a means of showing respect, friendship, and alliance. A complex etiquette surrounds the serving of guests, in which the host or his sons, when serving, refuse to sit with those they entertain as a mark of courtesy.One traveler told journalist Rob Schultheis that he befriended a Pashtun chief by buying him a pot of tea. The chief returned the gesture by providing the traveler with an armed escort from Afghanistan to India. The escorts came in handy when some people tried to take their seats on a train. The Pashtuns pulled out their pistols and had little trouble getting the people to move.

Closely related to melmastia is the requirement of giving refuge to anyone, even one's enemy, for as long as the person is within the precincts of one's home. These codes, too, are related to the concept of honor, for the host gains honor by serving his guest, and the person who places himself under another's protection is weak, a supplicant. Refuge must extend to the point of being willing to sacrifice one's own life to defend one's guest, but a person who demeans himself so much as to plead for mercy should be spared. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

If a Pashtun is being attacked by a group that outnumbers his own group he can seek refuge in the house any Pashtun even those who are attacking him and he will be granted asylum and protected. Once a Pashtun encampment fought off a Mughal hunting party after the wild boar they were chasing ended in the camp and was thereby granted "asylum." [Source: Bern Keating, National Geographic, January 1967]

Pashtun area, it is said, is best avoided by travelers unless they happen to be on the run from police or authorities. Another important element of the Pashtun code is for tribes to grant asylum to anyone escaping the law. Pashtun tradition of “panah”, or asylum or refuge. A Pakistani politician told the Washington Post, “It’s ingrained. The guest is a very honored commodity; we have to look after them. Even if I know this person had committed 20 murders across the road if he asks for protection, I’m sorry, I have to give him protection — until someone comes for him and we sit down and talk.”

Observers credit the relatively minimal tension that initially existed between Pakistani Pashtuns and the large number of Pashtun refugees from Afghanistan to the deeply felt obligation of Pashtuns to obey the customary dictates of hospitality. However, Pakistani Pashtuns' frustration with the refugees escalated after the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Many Pakistani Pashtuns were upset that the internecine violence resulting from warring clans in conflict in Afghanistan was overflowing into Pakistan. In 1994 Pakistani Pashtuns were as eager as other Pakistanis to see the refugees return to Afghanistan. *

Gestures in Pakistan

Pakistanis are very expressive. They use a lot of hand gestures. Sometimes Pakistanis twist their wrist with palms open. This means, "How it going?" or "What's happening." Clasped hands are an expression of submission. Touching the ears is considered an indication of sincerity or repentance. The thumbs up gesture is obscene. When counting, the pinkie is one, the thumb is five. Counting is done by bringing fingers down. Smiling and repeatedly touched one’s forehead is a gesture of thanks.

When Pakistanis agree with you or say yes they don't nod their head up and down they tilt it sideways. As is true with other South Asians, Pakistanis wobble their head in a way that is strange to Westerns to indicate “yes.” In northern Pakistan, people twist their head sideways more while people in southern Pakistan seem to move their head from side to side and up and down at the same time in a fluid motion. Many foreigners think they are going “no.” The twisted head gesture has many purposes. It can mean “okay,” “sounds good” or it indicates that a person is listening and paying attention. In Pakistan, “nodding also means “yes” and a clear up side to side shaking means “no.”

Don't gesture by pointing with your finger. Pakistanis often point using their chin or eyes. When beckoning someone don't use your finger; face your palm downward and move your fingers, together, back and forth. Don’t whistle or wink. Whistling is something you do to beckon an animal. Winking is associated with flirting. These are regarded as vulgar gestures. Don’t fold your hands. This is regarded as arrogant. Don’t cross your legs. It is considered dirty to show the show the soles of your feet. See Head and Feet below

When accepting or giving something, you should use your right hand. The left hand is considered dirty. The taboo of using the left hand is especially strong in places where people eat with their hands. See Eating Customs, Toilets, Hygiene

Don speak with your hands on your hips (regarded as aggressive) or your hands in your pocket (implying you’re not interested). American-style waving hello is often interpreted as “I am leaving”. In its rudest sense it can mean go away. A raised little finger means I need to go to bathroom. Usually kids use it.

Head and Feet in Pakistan

Among many people in South Asia and Southeast Asia, the head is considered the highest and most sacred point of the body, both literally and figuratively, and the bottoms of the feet are lowest, least sacred and dirtiest part of the body.

It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or a sacred object. Pointing your foot at someone is like saying you are the lowest, dirtiest creature on earth. Also don't expose the soles of your feet. Never put your feet on a table or couch. When sitting on the floor keep you legs crossed do tucked under you so air no not to point your foot at anyone. When sitting in a chair don’t cross you legs. Don’t push anything to anyone with your feet. Don’t step over someone or a special object that is on the floor. Apologize if your feet accidently touch something, particularly a person.

Because the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body a great effort is made to avoid steeping over someone, food, utensils and sacred books. It is much more polite to ask someone to move than to step over them. If you accidently touch someone with your feet you can touch your hand to their feet or make a gesture that implies that you apologize.

Don't pat a child on the head. Patting the head is disrespectful. Many South Asians carry good luck charms in their shirt pockets instead of their pants pockets, because the higher up you go on the body the more evolved it is.

Home Customs in Pakistan

Pakistanis often invite strangers into their homes. Home customs vary from place to place. In many places homes are segregated. Even when they are not men tend to hang out with men and women hang out with women. As a general rule don't enter the kitchen or wander round the house. Pakistanis are known for making vague invitations and saying “drop by anytime.” People sometimes drop by unannounced. [Source: The Traveler's Guide to Asian Customs & Manners by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti]

It is customary to remove one's shoes or sandals when entering a private home or mosque. In homes raised off the ground, shoes or sandals are left at the stairs. Otherwise they left outside the doorway. Sometimes they are placed to the side of the door. Don't have holes in your socks. Sometimes there are bathroom slippers, which people are expected to use when using the bathroom..

Guests are often invited into a special room. They are not supposed to wander around. There are generally some rooms for women that are off limits to non-family members.

People often sit on the floor with cushions behind them. There sometimes aren't many chairs in an Pakistani home because families often spend most of their indoor non-sleeping time sitting or lying on the floor. In a traditional home, one sits on low seats or cushions on the floor. Tables tend be low. Men may sit with legs crossed or folded to one side. Women sit with legs off to one side.

Many upper-class and middle-class homes have servants. They include nannies, cooks, and cleaning staff. Treat them all with respect. To do otherwise is considered rude not only to them but also to their employers. At the same time don’t be shocked if your host orders the servants around to do things they could easily do themselves. Don’t offer to help; servants are expected to do that.

Sweets, flowers or fruit or something from your country are common gifts. Don't give pork or alcohol. People usually don't open their gifts in the presence of giftgivers. Gifts of money with odd numbers are thought to be auspicious. Moving into a new house is an occasion worthy of celebrating with a party.

Eating Customs in Pakistan

Pakistanis eat sitting at a table and sitting on the floor. Eating customs vary from place to place, income level to income level, religion to religion and caste to caste. People often sit on the floor when they eat. Peasants sometimes sit outside when they eat. In Westernized household people are more likely to eat at a table. People wash their hands before a meal in the washroom or from water-filled bowls. [Source: The Traveler's Guide to Asian Customs & Manners by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti]

A typical meal may include a dozen or more dishes. Different dishes, such as meat, lentils, rice, vegetables and bread, are placed in different bowls and served from a tray called a thalis. With guests, Pakistanis typically offer them lots of food. It is not considered rude to leave food on your plate. At the end of a meal, guests may be served tea or fruit, which should not be refused. One should at least take a taste.

Dutch treat is not common. If someone invites you to dinner at a restaurant they generally pay. You are expected to return the gesture if someone invites to their home or out to a restaurant. force food on guests.

Sometime foreign guests are provided with utensils when other people are eating with their hands. When Pakistanis eat with a knife and fork they tend to eat British-style. The spoon is used more than other utensils. Pakistanis generally wash their hands carefully before meal. There are often no napkins served at the table. After the meal is over guests are given a towel and expected to wash up at a sink.

Eating at an Pakistani Home

When Pakistanis invite guests to a meal, they usually invite them to their home rather than go out to a restaurant. It is considered an insult to the guests and the wife to go out. Pakistanis like to eat late and entertain before a meal. At dinner parties the main is often not served until 11:00pm or midnight. Meals are often buffets and guests leave immediately after eating. The meal indicates the event is over. Socializing is done before. Guests often arrive at around 8:00pm or 9:00pm. If someone invites you too meal or to their house it is considered rude to turn them down.

Pakistanis are very hospitable and often insist that their guests eat a lot. Refusal to eat is regarded as refusal of hospitality friendship. At least try something. You can indicate you are finished by putting your fork and spoon in the middle of your plate. If there are no utensils you can indicate you have finished by eating everything on your plate and sitting back in a relaxed position or getting up and washing your hands.

At some homes a guest is served while everyone else sits around and watches. Often the men eat first, with women and foreign guests being included among them, while the women serve them. At dinner parties, dishes are served by the host or hostess or servants. It is considered rude to help yourself. Muslims often eat communally from the same bowl or plate.

Westerners are often offered forks, spoons and knives. When Pakistanis eat with Western utensils they usually eat British-style with their spoon in their right hand and fork in their left hand and push food with the fork onto the spoon and eat with their right hand using the spoon. People help themselves to food from serving dishes, with serving spoons, in the middle of the table.

Eating With Your Hands

Pakistanis often eat with their hands, handling the food with right hand. Many Pakistanis eat food with their hands. Some restaurants don't have any utensils at all to give their patrons. Instead each table comes with a water pitcher that is used to clean the hands after the meal. As a rule, Pakistanis eat with their right hand. The left hand is kept clean and sometimes used for things like holding a glass and passing dishes to others. Some people also pass things with their right hand. When in doubt watch what other people do first and try to avoid a situation in which you need to pass something when you right hand is covered with food from eating.

Northern Pakistanis eat with only first two joints of their fingers, not their entire hands. Southern Pakistanis make sure their sleeves are rolled up and eat with their entire hand. In the north, most meals come with chapatis (pancake-like bread) that is used to scoop up the food which is usually something that resembles stew. In the south (and to a lesser extent the north too), meals come with rice and a number gravy-like and stewlike dishes in bowls. You mix a little bit of stewlike dish with the rice and make a ball which you then eat.

Pakistanis believe that eating with your hands gives you the feel of the food and eating with a spoon or fork adds a metallic taste to the food. One cooking teacher said, "Using your fingers—not knives or forks—you can enjoy dining much more. Brushing beans and tearing off a piece of chapati with your fingers adds to the enjoyment of the meal. In doing so, you are not able to only smell and taste, but also to feel the food."

Muslims have traditionally used their left "dirty" hand to take care of wiping their dirty butt and other "unclean" bodily functions. As a result, they never eat or touch someone with their left hand. People always eat with their right hand even if they are left-handed.

Drinking Customs in Pakistan

Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. A lot of Muslims drink but they are either very secretive about it and just do it occasionally. In Muslim countries that have alcohol prohibitions alcoholic drinks are generally available at hotels with Western customers. Sometimes alcohol is offered to Western guests by Westernized Pakistanis.

Tea is often served to guests and enjoyed during breaks. A lot of socializing revolves around drinking tea. Many people drink milk tea served in small cups. Muslim law and tradition even describe how a person should drink tea: three slow sips, not blowing on the tea, but waiting for it to cool naturally. Sometimes tea is spilled into a saucer to symbolize generosity of a host.

When drinking with a group in a party style atmosphere it is customary to pour drinks for other people not yourself. When drinking from a communal container or glass don't touch your lips to the container or glass. As a rule women are discouraged from drinking with males and smoking.

Bathing and Bathroom Customs in Pakistan

Many Pakistanis prefer squat toilets. They don’t like Western toilets for health reasons. Squat toilets often have a bucket with a scoop for flushing. Nonflush latrines are banned in many states, bit these rules are clearly not enforced.

Pakistanis often don’t use toilet paper. They clean themselves using water and their left hand and thoroughly wash themselves every time they go to the bathroom. Some Pakistanis are appalled that Westerners wipe their butts with paper only.

In much of rural Pakistan there are not toilets, people take of their business in fields. Salman Rushdie wrote in the New Yorker, "The absence of simple toilet facilities obliges millions of women to control their natural functions so that they can relive themselves under cover of darkness. Saris worn with underpants make it possible for many women to relieve themselves on the side of a road in a field without compromising modesty.

In homes toilets and showers are often in separate rooms. Sometimes only cold water is available for showers. Some people take two or three showers a day because of the humidity. Men and women often bath and shower outside while wearing clothing. People often wash their feet when they wash their hands.

Clothing Customs in Pakistan

Pakistani are reasonably tolerant people and almost any clothing style is acceptable. Some Pakistani dress smartly and fashionably. Others dress in jeans or shabby clothes. Pakistani men generally don't wear shorts. They wear long pants even in the hot weather. It is generally unacceptable for foreigners to wear shorts too. Don't wear clothes with holes or go without a shirt.

Among women wear a head scarf. It is often more important to keep the shoulders covered than the midriff area. Women in jeans or short skirts are seen in the cities but may offend some people in the countryside. Keep in mind also that shorts, exposed shoulders and short skirts are regarded unacceptable in mosques.

Dress properly in mosques and temples. No baseball caps and the items mentioned above. Some mosques and temples require women to cover their head and arms and men must war slacks. Off the beaten track women should wear long dresses and cover their arms. Men should also wear long pants. At beach resorts, shorts and T-shirts are acceptable.

Baloch Customs

The Baloch, also know the Balochi, Baluch or Baluchi, are an ethnic group that live primarily in the sandy plains, deserts and barren mountains of southeast Iran, southwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

According to the “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “When Baloch greet each other, they normally shake hands. However, if an ordinary tribesperson meets a religious leader, the tribesperson reverently touches the leader's feet. A meeting usually begins with inquiries after health (durahi) and then goes on to an exchange of news (hal). It is considered the height of rudeness not to ask for news from the person one is meeting. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures,” The Gale Group, 1999 /=]

Baloch are guided in their daily lives and social relations by a code of conduct known as the Balochmayar Baloch Way, in which a person is expected to be generous, hospitable to guests, offer refuge to people who seek protection, and be honest in dealings. The " Balochmayar Baloch Way" is the guiding principle of proper Baloch people and covers things like hospitality, mercy, refuge, and honesty to one's fellows Baloch men must be merciful to women and refrain from killing a man who has found sanctuary in the shrine of a pir (Sufi saint). He is also expected to defend his honor (izzat) and the honor of the women in his family, and his other relatives. The Balochmayar Baloch Way is reaffirmed in Baloch songs and poetry.

D. O. Lodrick wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: Some insults are avenged only by blood, leading to reprisals and blood-feuds that have lasted generations. When both parties involved agree to it, such feuds are settled by the tribal council or jirgal. Invariably blood-money or some form of compensation is required to be paid. Another means of resolving disputes is through mediation, in which an informal gathering of tribal leaders and elders volunteer their services to help reach an end to the conflict. [Source: D. O. Lodrick, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“Baloch are organized into territorially based tribes such as the Marri and the Bugti, each under the leadership of a central chief or Sardar. The tribes are made up of various kin-groups such as clans, clan sections, and subsections, with the smaller of these groups coinciding with the actual units of settlement found throughout the region.” *\

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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