You can work as a waiter or a driver in the US, but not in Pakistan

Published: December 18, 2015

We have to give respect, share the burden and bear the cost of our own luxuries to be able to live the way Americans strive for their lives. Some reverence, a bit of love not only for our parents but for our country, would make Pakistan a much better place to live. PHOTO: ANAM SAEED

My love for Pakistan is unfathomable! From the lush green valley of Chitral to the hustling bustling streets of Lahore, my love for my country has, in fact, grown over time. Pakistan is my home – mom’s food, sister’s amazing chai, random hangouts with school friends, street food, the streets of Lahore; the list of things I absolutely adore about my home is unending.

When I came to the US, initially I thought this journey was more like a survival challenge for my existence. I was nostalgic and missed everything about home. But now I feel those things are not missed so much anymore.

While roaming the streets of the US, I realised how I didn’t miss my very own Pakistan anymore.

The first thing that struck me hard in Texas were the smiles and kindness with which everyone greeted me. Not just my friends or classmates but everyone everywhere was kind enough to wish me luck for the day ahead. At first, I thought they all knew that it was my first day here because I looked lost and homesick, but in a few weeks, this way of life became my lifestyle as well.

As much as the gesture touched me, it also made me think about why we don’t show the same warmth and kindness towards each other back home? Imagine looking at a random stranger and smiling at them in Lahore, that too being a female. It’ll definitely send out the wrong message. While we’re all indulged in our work, we somehow forget to share our happiness with those around us.

Every smile has a domino effect and I experienced that in Austin. I smiled at this homeless man, sitting on the corner of the road with his paintings, a few broken cans and a box full of pennies. He stopped me, asked me about my hometown and to my surprise gifted me one of his paintings. Sometimes, all someone else is looking for is a gesture full of humility and appreciation.

The Americans not only appreciate their people but they adore their history as well. The upkeep of their monuments has been phenomenal and thus attracts tourists from all over. Let it be the streets of New Orleans or the buildings of Washington DC, the remnants of slavery in Louisiana or Muhammad Ali’s memorial in Lexington, they’ve kept everything alive and open for discovery for people like us.

So, when I see this, it breaks my heart to think about the muddy streets behind Badshahi Mosque, the broken walls of Sheesh Mahal and the flood-stricken homes of Chitral. We, as Pakistanis, in addition to our government, need to take responsibility of keeping our history and heritage alive. Stop littering around the beautiful streets of Lahore, stop harassing female tourists and refrain from damaging walls of the great monuments of the Mughal Empire. We are all responsible for ruining our rich history, a history and heritage capable of stirring hearts everywhere.

Apart from our history, we need to work on our future as well. I’ve realised that we’ve become too comfortable with playing blame games. We are taken care of by our parents, financially and physically, till the age of 25 or sometimes even 30. No worries, no debts and yet we complain and whine about our miserable condition. While the kids here start working as waiters, drivers or whatever job they can land, exploring every possible avenue to earn and be independent, we, on the other hand, use and abuse the privilege of ‘independence’. We are least bothered about the fact that our parents are struggling with finances, and all we want is the liberty to go out and spend their hard-earned money mindlessly.

I met a photographer in New York who stopped to inquire about my camera. During our brief conversation, he surprised me twice. When I commented on how I saw so many ‘non-Americans’ (by which I meant people who are not white) on the streets of New York, he said,

“You don’t have to be a white person, to be an American!”

And it was so true. America in general, but New York in particular has so much diversity that it is actually overwhelming.

While observing his gear, I thought he was some big shot photographer with an array of lenses and a professional studio. But to my surprise, he was just a 30-year-old Master’s student, working part-time as a bartender at night. He had dropped out of college earlier because he couldn’t fund his tuition at the time and now he was back in school pursuing his passion.

While I had nothing but sheer admiration for him, I couldn’t help but feel sad about how we, the so-called elites of Pakistan, don’t value the strong support system we have in our culture. We’re either financially supported by our parents or university scholarships. To further aggravate the situation, we rarely respect those who are actually striving to financially strengthen their future on their own two feet. We disrespect and look down upon people such as servers, waiters, drivers, gardeners etcetera just because they belong to a lower socio-economic class.

We’re a generation of complacent and self-obsessed young men and women, struggling with our rights without acknowledging our duties. We fantasise about the liberated people of the US, but forget that life is not a one-way street. We have to give respect, share the burden and bear the cost of our own luxuries to be able to live the way other more successful nations strive to make their lives better. Some reverence, a bit of love not only for our parents but for our country, would make Pakistan a much better place to live in.

 All photos: Anam Saeed

Anam Saeed

Anam Saeed

The author is a Fulbright Scholar, Economist, Lecturer, Artist and Lifestyle Photographer, based in Lahore. Her photography work can be accessed on and

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

  • MJ

    The grass is always greener on the other side.Recommend

  • Gujjar

    The simple answer to the question above is that the salary of drivers and waiters in Pakistan is peanuts compared to the counterparts in USARecommend

  • Nael

    You met middle class Americans. Americans with money are very much like Pakistanis with money. The only thing is that in the US, rich Pakistanis are merely middle class (or even lower middle class), so they work as waiters or drivers or whatever. As for the upkeep of monuments, the US and Europe can afford the luxury of preserving their monuments because their incomes are on average 30 times (that’s 3000%) higher than in a 3rd world country like Pakistan.Recommend

  • Adnan

    Stupid article, off course you can work as waiters or drivers in Pakistan. There is no shortage of these employees.Recommend

  • sterry

    Beautifully written. I particularly appreciated your line that Pakistanis – and I would say all Muslim societies in general – are all very knowledgeable about their perceived rights but they are woefully ignorant of their duties. It’s heartening that this awareness is growing among young people in Pakistan where there are many new organizations out there trying to build a better and more equitable society. This is still missing in a lot of our neighboring Muslim states, including the Arab states. I have always grappled with the notion that Pakistani immigrants are always open to doing any job overseas but they are very picky about work at home. I have seen people from Pakistan work in factories, restaurants, as cabbies and any number of profession that they would never consider at home but still belittle the same people when they come across them on the streets of Lahore or Karachi. What’s worse is that I have seen Afghan friends who I know live on social assistance or welfare in the US meaning they don’t work, treat workers and labored with contempt when they are dealing with people in Peshawar or Islamabad. As though visiting from abroad gives them a license to be abusive. The irony is that I am sure that the laborers serving these people would have the biggest laugh if they only knew what some of these overseas visitors did abroad for jobs or in the case of the Afghan refugee , knowing that they had no job but just lived on other peoples’ tax dollars!Recommend

  • Sid

    Developing a culture starts with one.
    Rome was not build in a night my lady. If currently our homeland and our people have social limitations its upon us we start giving them glimpse of good things we learn from other culture. Maybe they will like, learn and follow too.
    I have lived in USA for about 15 yrs now, and I love my life here, but I have never felt the peace I feel back in India amongst the chaos. Even the frowning on nonchalant look of strangers are as soothing as smiling faces here. Because in the end they are our people. And for us to care and motivate them to excel. Smiles.Recommend

  • curious2

    Most foreigners have no clue about how big the USA is nor the varying cultures within the USA. East Coast is entirely different than the West Coast – same goes for North and South. Portland, Oregon on the West Coast has an entirely different culture than NYC as it does New Orleans in the South. Tourist who visit their first retail shopping Mall are confronted with a variety of cultures, races, religions which often defies their per-conceptions that the USA is a White Christian society. Like most countries – smiling and being friendly gets a similar response.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    I have a driver’s position available, would you like to driveRecommend

  • Jayman

    This choice has literally been wrenched away from Pakistanis. No western nation is issuing visas to Pakistanis anymore. The recent stand by the Interior minister to not take back deported Pakistanis has only made the West even more reticent about issuing visas.Recommend

  • akman

    once we conducted a survey in twin cities of Pakistan to count the number of smiling faces we met while travelling, rarely can we find one or two. i think smiling is not part of Pakistani culture.Recommend

  • sanjita

    I beg to differ.There has been no change in visas being issued to Pakistanis or for that matter any other Muslim nation. Western nations are careful not to be drawn into fear mongering for political reasons. As for Pakistan taking back deported refugees from Europe who have no papers, this has been effectively dealt with by Pakistani officials. Pakistan will not take in failed refugees from other countries and this is supported by a majority of Pakistanis. Even if Germany wants to send back Afghan refugees, who use Pakistan as a transit point, Pakistan has effectively told European nations, that foreigners who are not Pakistanis will not be accepted. Every country has a right to stand up for itself.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I liked what you tried to say……..but your drawing a comparison was not even an apples to oranges situation…….it was apples to monkeys.Recommend

  • IndianDude

    When I commented on how I saw so many ‘non-Americans’ (by which I meant people who are not white) on the streets of New York, he said,

    “You don’t have to be a white person, to be an American!”

    …As the American sure ain’t the sharpest knife in kitchen..Recommend

  • Fakiha

    Have you ever been to US? The writer spoke my heart
    Yes you can work as a driver or waiter in Pakistan but what about respect? There is no respect for such professions in Pakistan
    We love our country, but its very sad but true that we are heading towards wrong and negative side.

  • Sane

    You find smiles and kindness (if true) in Texas, reasons:
    1. They have sincere and honest politicians and govt. who work day and night for well being, security and safety of people.
    2. They do not face water or gas shortages.
    3. They do not face long duration electric breakdowns in scorching heat.
    4. They do not face traffic mess.
    5. They do not see different attitude towards affluent and poors.
    6. They do not have dual system including judicial for rich/elites and lower middle class and poor.
    7. They do not worry if they get unemployed, their govt. is at their back to support them financially.
    8. They do not worry to earn their bread, medicines and treatment as govt. support them.
    9. They do not need to worry that their mobile phone or wallet shall be snatched when they will be out of their homes.

    There are many other reasons that they smile and show kindness. Do we have any one of those? That’s the reason we are like the people of other side.Recommend

  • sanjita

    The US has sincere and honest politicians? Ask any American and she would laugh in your face ! In Texas everything is bigger all right and even corruption is bigger too ! So sad who 3 rd World people think that there is no corruption outside their 3 rd World homelands with ” honest and sincere politicians and governmen who work day and night for well being, safety and security of people.” Need to stop laughing at some point today!Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Its unislamicRecommend

  • Sudesh

    Every culture and every place has some pros and cons. Try to find good things around you and you will find plenty.Recommend