Afghan Culture

Communication

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Verbal

  • Communication: Afghans tend to speak both directly and indirectly depending on whom they are interacting with. When the person is older than them or of the opposite gender, they tend to speak quite indirectly and respectfully. However, for people their own age or younger, the style is usually direct and open.
  • Language Style: Afghans like to talk a lot, but much Afghan expression is thoughtful, descriptive and loquacious. Proverbs are often used in conversation to communicate ideas and poetry is the favoured art form.
  • Raised Voices: Raising one’s voice at someone in public is very disrespectful and is likely to make everyone around feel intensely uncomfortable or even scared that something dangerous may happen.


Non-Verbal

  • Hands: In Islam, there is a separation between the functions of the hands. The left hand is used for removal of dirt and for cleaning. It should not be used for functions such as waving, eating or offering items. This custom is tied to Islam and Afghans respect this tenet of the religion. They, therefore, offer everything with their right hand and one should always gesture, touch or shake hands using the right hand.
  • Eye Contact: Both males and females lower their gaze and avoid sustained eye contact. This is considered respectful and observant of differences in status. Younger people may also lower their gaze from elders. However, when talking to people of the same age, gender or status, direct eye contact is expected.
  • Physical Contact: It is okay to touch friends and family in a friendly way (such as backslapping) when in the confines of the home. However, in accordance with the public separation of men and women, it is inappropriate to be physically affectionate with any person of the opposite gender outside the house or in the company of those one does not know well. After an initial handshake (if there is one), there should be no contact between genders. Public physical affection between men is permissible, and it is normal to see male friends walking whilst holding each other’s hands. Women are generally not allowed to show any kind of physical affection to anyone unless they are out of the public eye. This does not apply in necessary circumstances (e.g. a mother holding the hands of her male son when crossing the road).
  • Personal Space: Afghans usually give people of the opposite gender a respectful amount of personal space – usually around an arm’s length. However, people often sit/stand very close to those who are of the same gender. Some Afghans may stand at proximities that you consider uncomfortable or within your personal space. It is likely they have not been made aware of the discomfort Australians feel with it and won’t realise the awkwardness.
  • Gestures: To hook index fingers together signifies agreement. The thumbs-up gesture is considered rude and has the same connotation as raising one’s middle finger for traditional Afghans. The “OK” sign with the hand can symbolise the evil eye or something more lewd. Stroking one’s beard or pounding a fist into one’s hand may signify revenge.
  • Feet: Displaying the soles of your feet towards a person is considered rude.
  • Winking: Winking at a member of the opposite gender is considered extremely inappropriate. A man would likely be highly offended and angry if he saw his female relative being winked at.
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Afghanistan
  • Population
    34,124,811
    [July 2017 est.]
    Note: Statistical estimates on the population of Afghanistan may be unreliable.
  • Languages
    There are over 30 distinct languages spoken across the country. The most widely spoken are:
    Dari - including other Persian variants (80%)
    Pashto (47%)
    Uzbek (11%)
    English (5%)
    Turkmen (2%)
    Urdu (2%)
    [2017 est.]
    Note: Data represents more than 100% because many Afghans speak more than one language.
  • Religions
    Sunni Islam (85%)
    Shi'a Islam (14%)
    Other (0.3%)
    [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017]
  • Ethnicities
    Pashtun
    Tajik
    Hazara
    Uzbek
    Baloch
    Turkmen
    Nuristani
    Pamiri
    Aimaq
    Others
  • Australians with Afghan Ancestry
    53,082 [Census, 2016]
Afghans in Australia
  • Population
    46,799
    [Census, 2016]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Afghanistan.
  • Average Age
    30 [Census, 2011]
  • Gender
    Male (61%)
    Female (39%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Religion
    Islam (91.1%)
    Not Stated (6.9%)
    No Religion (1.3%)
    Other (0.8%)
    [Census, 2011]
  • Ancestry
    Afghan - nondescript (66.3%)
    Hazara (16.3%)
    Not Stated (9.3%)
    English (2.0%)
    Other (6.1%)
    [Census, 2011]
  • Language Spoken at Home
    Dari (50.3%)
    Hazaragi (20.7%)
    Persian [excluding Dari] (12.1%)
    Pashto (7.2%)
    Other (9.7%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 64.6% speak English fluently.
    [Census, 2011]
  • Diaspora
    Queensland (34.8%)
    New South Wales (31.3%)
    Western Australia (13.7%)
    South Australia (11.5%)
    Other (8.7%)
    [Census, 2011]
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 1996 (9.5%)
    1996 - 2005 (23.4%)
    2006 - 2015 (61.1%)
    2016 (3.4%)
    Not stated (2.5%)
    [Census, 2016]
    Note: Arrivals up until 9 August 2016.
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