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.

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.

Source: Reactiongifs

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

Source: Reactiongifs

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.

Source: Reactiongifs

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

Source: Reactiongifs

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

Source: Reactiongifs

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.

Source: Reactiongifs

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

Source: Reactiongifs

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?

Source: Reactiongifs

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.

  • AS

    Seriously? what was the point of this article!Recommend

  • vaqas

    Obviously not written first thing in the morning. Or else it would have started with ‘Canada, Oh Canada’. Thats what canadians do first thing in the morning dont they? Sing their national anthem. Recommend

  • Nadia

    Innocent humor never fails to make one smileRecommend

  • Anushe

    Which world were you living in? Or at least pretending to be Pakistani while living in it? Bronzer, spinach smoothies? Girl you’re as Canadian as they come! What boggles my mind is why you would want to move to Pakistan, aren’t there enough Canadianized Pakistanis there already? Or was it the lure of being the bahar ki bahu? Recommend

  • RJ

    Hey, all you Debbie Downers posting negative & blah like comments…LIGHTEN UP!
    If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all-isn’t that a rule that’s obligatory for all mommies to teach us. I could swear it’s in the universal mommy manual.

    On a brighter note. I found this absolutely hilarious & being a Canakistani myself, very helpful & informative for my next trip to Pakistan! Well written, truly made me smile & laugh! Looking forward to reading more of what you write Hajra :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was cute.Recommend

  • ss

    what’s with the GIF images? :-/Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Typical and cliched article.Recommend

  • saima

    omg! i so feel you sister! i so feel you, being born & raised in dubai and moving to NY and living there for 7 years, than moving here 4 years back, i too had a tough time with words. but mentality is still something i struggle with, for e.g. when someone asks you “why dont you come to the house someday?” than when you actually end up going over, their faces are like they have consumed something really sour? why say something if you dont mean it? the writing of urdu converted/ morphed into English, is absolutely a big no no. There is a lack of logical understanding amongst people even of the highly educated kind & people living here have their own logic! this country & the people of its nation completely defy my understanding!Recommend

  • M

    Humour was the point. I know it’s foreign to you, I’m pretty sure you don’t know how to laugh or smile either.
    Now get off this page!Recommend

  • ruwi

    I moved to pakistan for three years couldn’t handle their mentality so glad im back home, May Allah always keep me here in sha Allah.Recommend

  • Shazia

    it isn’t even funny and worse than a bad joke.This is not even close to reality either.Recommend

  • Khan

    I thought it was just me. Thank God there are others who feel the same way. No I’m not a girl and yes the people here have their own logic. Even the educated onesRecommend

  • Khan

    Excellent write. Keep posting :) it was really fun to read.Recommend

  • Bubloo

    This article is running rife with grammatical errors. When will tribune learn? *sighs*Recommend

  • punjabi

    lol loved the tindey one!
    I once thought the word ‘jumbish’ had something to do with ‘dumbaas’ (the animals you sacrifice on Eid)…yeah everyone around me had a good laugh at itRecommend

  • Noman Ansari

    It was amusing but this attempt to copy Buzzfeed is too transparent. My advise to the blogs team is that they should innovate rather than play copy cat. At least if you want to copy, then do it right. The page layout is just not good enough.Recommend

  • http://abdullahsaigol.wordpress.com Muhammad Abdullah

    The humour is appropriate, but would only appeal to someone who’s already been through the ‘tranlsation’ and wouldn’t be understood by potential transitioners. I think the images choosen should’ve been more ‘Pakistani’ and that would’ve made it more interesting. Lastly the blog title refers generally to anyone whos new to Pakistani culture but the images and content only relate to women, so that could confuse the reader.Recommend

  • M.S. (word)

    the point is about the changes she is learning while adapting to a new placeRecommend

  • Mohammad Hussain Shah

    Amazing article, the process must be difficult, is this paanch maghas? BTW. your blogs are all easy to relate to, although i never had to do that at as much of a level, only on short visits.Recommend

  • Nida

    I still don’t know if watermelon is a tarbooz? melon is a kharbooz or watermelon is called tarbooza? and melon a kharbooza? what do we call a honey melon btw?!Recommend

  • Nida

    anddd I discovered they are char maghaz not saat(7) maghaz still dont know who are the 4 :PRecommend

  • Rida

    Hahah this was refreshingly funny and decent – something not common here on ET!Recommend

  • Quratulain fatima

    lols..i enjoy the tindeh partRecommend

  • annie

    I really beg your pardon but I’ve been living in Pakistan all my life and I’ve never heard most of the things in the blog that she’s heard from the Pakistani side. Fail to see how she could away publishing such a thingRecommend

  • AK

    Dear Hazra,
    I loved the Tindehs tossed in your article. Keep blogging. Never mind the odd critical comments from the dead-pans. Have a blast and enjoy your chukandars. :)Recommend

  • AP

    Not Canadianized Pakistanis…duh…it is Pakistani Canadian!Recommend

  • Kohistani.

    Exactly! These @#&!* have nothing better to do.
    Excellent reply.Recommend

  • fizz

    the chuchandar part was funny lolRecommend

  • Citizen

    omg it was hilarious ! !Recommend

  • Citizen

    omg it was hilarious ! !Recommend

  • Luis Carruthers

    Cringe-worthy imitation of BUZZFEED, although hilarious writing on the authors part, i wish you guys wud stay off those gifs, this aint the way you guys approach stuff.Recommend

  • Iffat

    It is about what you seek in life.For people who want to take shade in a bit of humor ,away from the serious going on’s,her blog may bring that smile and that little break and escape.For others who want to see life out of their own window of choice,all the twelve things ‘lost in translation ‘
    might just be missed.Recommend

  • Ramsha.

    HAHAHHAHAHA! this is super awesome! :D Good one! Best of luck with the chukandars and chuchandars though! :PRecommend

  • a

    meetha kharbooza?Recommend

  • Bisharat

    Please don’t eat Flagyl too much. It’s an antibiotic. It’s going to mess up your immune system.Recommend

  • Amtul

    so hilarious, especially the Chachundar and the teendey bitRecommend

  • sarwat aj

    so true and so beautifully presentedRecommend