Lost in translation: 12 signs you’re new to Pakistani culture

Published: March 5, 2014
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When my mother-in-law asked me to clean charmaghaz, I was relieved to learn that I was supposed to clean seeds and not four animal brains.

Don’t’ wear bronzer in Pakistan; rather than getting compliments on a healthy glow, aunties will recommend Fair and Lovely. When my mother-in-law asked me to clean charmaghaz, I was relieved to learn that I was supposed to clean seeds and not four animal brains.

Recently moving from Canada, where I’ve lived practically my entire life, to Pakistan, I’ve had to do a lot of learning. 

Here are few of the things I have learnt since coming to Pakistan:

1) My mother-in-law asked me to clean char maghaz.

Source: Reactiongifs

I was relieved to learn that I was supposed to clean seeds and not four animal brains.

2) There is no uncle by the name of ‘lal baig’.

Source: Reactiongifs

3) Don’t’ wear bronzer in Pakistan; rather than getting compliments on a healthy glow, aunties will recommend Fair and Lovely.

Source: Reactiongifs

4) Chukandar (beets) and chuchandar (mole) are very different. You should have seen the look on my husband face when I said I put chuchandar in the curry.

Source: Reactiongifs

5) The concept of not littering is practically non-existent. After carrying an empty can for 20 minutes in search of a trash can, I was forced to throw it where my flat disposes trash, in a pile behind the building.

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6) You will get many evil stares if you call a Zuhljina a horse.

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7) While we are on the topic horses, there is a difference between gora (foreigner) and ghora (horse). To my dismay, it was people who were visiting the office from a foreign embassy, not a bunch of horses.

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8) Green smoothies are unheard of – nobody makes spinach smoothies.

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9) Milk can be stored in the pantry, it never goes sour! Is it even milk…?

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10) No matter how loose ones clothes are or the hijab on my head, I am not modestly dressed unless I carry a dupatta; yet it does not matter if it’s net or completely sheer.

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11) Flagyl, the pill for stomach problems of all kinds, is my best friend.

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12) Bharay huweh tindeh is the most uselessly annoying dish to prepare in the world.

  • Chop the tindeh,
  • Peel the tindeh,
  • Scoop out the insides,
  • Cook the inside goop,
  • Refill the tindeh with the inside goop,
  • Find the other half of the tindeh and place it on top of the filled one,
  • Tie up the tindeh with string and cook it again.
  • Remove the string before serving?

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In the end, it’s still just tindeh.

Six months after, I flipped over my life; single-to-married, Toronto-to-Karachi, I think I’m finally beginning to get the hang of things – well, mostly.

With Punjabi and Sindhi speaking in-laws, and a brother-in-law who is an Urdu Professor and shaayer (poet), I think it might take me just a little more time before I can analyse the works of Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal.

Have you guys ever been lost in translation? Let me know about your mix-ups!

Hajra Hassnain

Hajra Hassnain

A graduate from the University of Toronto who is currently in the process of immersing herself head first into Pakistani culture. She tweets as @ImHajra (twitter.com/ImHajra)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.