10 assorted additions to Pakistani culture

Published: August 23, 2011

Some quintessential elements of Pakistani culture that may be annoying, but endearing when you’re away. PHOTO: AFP

Whether they prompt you to scratch your head in puzzlement, raise your eyebrows in disbelief, or crack a spontaneous smile, life’s little idiosyncrasies break the monotony of one’s daily routine. Expats in particular have a fondness for quintessential elements of Pakistani culture that may be annoying when you live here, but are endearing when you’re away.

Here are a few, chosen at random:

10. Go-Gos:

Chanting “go” is a universal cheer, (like ‘Go team! Woohoo’) but to feisty Pakistanis, it literally means LEAVE. Example: “Go (head-of-state) Go!”

9. Outdated expressions:

Verbal relics from the Colonial era include: “Can I have your “good name?” (er…no, but you can have my bad one), and “You’re looking ‘smart’ today” (Really, I look intelligent?).

8. The Rights are the Lefts:

Getting scalded, by accident, because the hot water tap is on the left and cold water’s on the right. Or am I seeing the world wrong?

7. Urd-lish taking over:

Urdu alphabet books that read “Alif for Ischool, Bey for Baall, Tay for Trayctor.” Huh?

6. Logo-riffic:

No matter how squeezed-in the pose, ladies-who-lunch still manage to get photographed displaying the logos of their bags outwards so that everyone gets to see the flashy initials. *Yawn*

5. Designer Morphs:

Designer duos morphed into one entity without an “&” in between, who refer to themselves as one person. Anyone else find that bizarre?

4. Lady-ified:

A doctor who happens to be female isn’t a doctor, she’s a Lady Daktar,” a whole other breed.

3. Serfdom:

Slavery was abolished worldwide years ago, but not the mentality of slave owners, it seems; in Pakistan, ‘domestic workers’ are still called servants.”

2. Self-serving service:

At a Pakistani McDonalds, ‘self-service’ still implies that you don’t have to pick up after yourselves, throw your trash or deposit your tray. Just leave your mess on the table like everyone else.

And numero uno is:

1. Architectural irony:

It’s an unwritten rule—the ‘fuglier’ the house, the bigger the “Mash Allah that graces it’s exterior. Honestly, the only ‘nazar’ most of these hideously over-decorated houses will get is the kind that involves rolling eyes.


Laaleen Khan

An international columnist and media consultant who Tweets @laaleen

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