10 things overseas Pakistanis face upon their return to the homeland
This article is for someone who has spent a significant time away from Pakistan and returns to the homeland to experience culture, vivacity and a very unique country. No matter how much we may establish our lives abroad, there is such a wondrous pull that keeps us coming back for more.
So if you haven’t been back home for a while, start planning your trip because these are the 10 main things you have to look forward to upon your return.
1. The heat
It doesn’t matter if you arrive in winters, as soon as that plane door opens, you are smacked in the face with intense humidity/heat. It takes some getting used to as you try and wobble off the plane’s steps.
2. The crowds
So once your body acclimatises to the heat, you have to deal with the heaving crowds who are relentless and unforgiving in their rush to get to the passport counter. They push, prod, pull and do everything they can in their power to annoy you. You will often see queue jumpers but are powerless to stop them because no one will say anything. It’s each to their own and the strongest man survives.
3. The noise
Once you’ve managed to survive the assault course of getting out of the airport, you are then met with an array of noises – sputtering motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, vans, buses all teeming and bursting with people just trying to get home with their newly arrived passengers.
4. The relatives
So upon arriving dishevelled and completely jetlagged, you face the relatives who then proceed to tell you how fat, ugly and horrid you look. After they criticise you to their heart’s content, they proceed with the Spanish inquisition about what life is like abroad, and start analysing whether you have become too westernised (do not mention members of the opposite sex). They will question you about something you posted on Facebook four years ago even though it is something long forgotten.
5. The menopausal electricity
When you finally get a chance to get some shut-eye, you try and get used to the sounds of the whirring fan but don’t understand why it keeps shutting on and off. Then you realise the electricity is at the mercy of the city’s electricity provider and start to feel even hotter and more sweaty. Taking a shower is also out of the question because there is no electricity to pump the water to the shower. So you just sit in a hot, sweaty, irritating mess.
6. The mosquitoes
No doubt, those pesky, dengue-carrying bugs have a thing for pardesi (foreign) blood. They seem to revel in biting a foreigner 100 times more than a local person. So you are left with unsightly spots, lumps and bumps within 24 hours of arrival and start scratching like a mad man to try and alleviate the pain.
7. The trip to the bazaar
Once you get used to your surroundings and venture out into the market, you are then faced with a barrage of stares because the shopkeepers know you’re not a local. It’s almost as if they have an antenna which feeds them information about who is foreign and who isn’t. Of course, the prices of goods are then hitched up by a 1,000 per cent and don’t even try and haggle in Urdu because the hilarious accent confirms the shopkeeper’s suspicions about you being from abroad.
8. The frequent trips to the toilet
No doubt the taste of the food and explosion of flavours is second to none in Pakistan. However, it never bodes well with your bubble-wrapped stomach lining which is used to far more flavourless things. This often leads to some kind of expulsion from either end of the body, via vomiting or diarrhoea or both! Then you face further criticism for not being able to handle your food or being too gorafied (westernised).
9. The realisation that foreign currency doesn’t have much weight anymore
You check the exchange rate before flying out, £1 = Rs164, great! But when you spend your money, you realise that Rs10,000 is a drop in an ocean compared to the prices of clothes or other goods in Pakistan. I remember the days where wedding dresses cost Rs20,000. Nowadays, you’d be lucky to get a few rags for that amount.
10. The colossal sizes of the homes
Driving down the streets of Defence in Karachi or F-8 in Islamabad, one can find the most exuberant and exquisite homes. They look like mansions out of a street in Beverley Hills (okay maybe not that plush, but close enough!). It’s like having your own sanctuary or oasis in the chaos that ensues otherwise. Greenery, lush gardens and beautiful architecture is something to revere in Pakistani homes.
All in all, it is a crazy miasma of experiences and a unique culture that makes every trip to Pakistan memorable. Even if overseas Pakistanis feel completely lost and ill at ease, we will keep returning because it just feels so much like home.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.