Pakistani Culture


When initially meeting someone, it is necessary to ask about a person’s well-being and that of their family. Only move onto the matter at hand after these personal questions are asked. Forgetting to ask about a person's family signifies a lack of sensitivity and an opportunist mindset. However, it is best only to enquire about male family members. Conservative Pakistani men may find it particularly dishonourable and disrespectful to enquire about their female family members, unless you know the family or person well.

Basic Etiquette

  • People tend to offer regular praise about others’ clothes, hair or personal items.
  • Wear clothes appropriate to specific occasions. Forgetting to do so is considered disrespectful.
  • It is best to always dress modestly in a way that doesn't over-accentuate one’s figure.
  • Laughing loudly in public is considered rude.
  • Stand to greet a person when they enter a room.
  • It is considered rude to sit with one’s legs outstretched.
  • If a Pakistani offers to pay for your food or shopping, do not immediately accept. They tend to make this offer out of and it is expected that the other person insist on paying. Alternatively, if once you have refused their offer, they continue to ask to pay, you may politely accept.
  • It is common for people to ask personal questions to ascertain a stranger’s background and status. For example, an individual may be asked where they live or what their parents’ occupations are.
  • Generally, Pakistanis are not very punctual and are commonly tardy. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, military families tend to be very punctual.


  • Hospitality is a strong aspect of Pakistani culture. It is not uncommon to be invited to a Pakistani's home without much prior acquaintance.
  • If visiting a military family's house, arrival should be prompt. More generally, however, Pakistanis are not particularly strict with time. Arriving to an event substantially later than the start time is acceptable, though this depends upon the context of the event.
  • With new acquaintances, it is not expected to offer to bring something for a meal. Hosts take pride in preparing everything themselves and may be taken aback by such a question.
  • It is polite to bring a small gift, such as chocolate, sweets or flowers to express gratitude for the invitation.
  • Offer to remove your shoes at the entrance.
  • It is important to praise the host's home. If it is a simple home, acknowledge their décor and contents.
  • When visiting a home with children, make an effort to engage with them no matter how young they are. Not doing so displays disinterest in your host and is considered arrogant behaviour.
  • At social events hosted by conservative families, men and women will socialise and eat separately. Children will generally play with each other; however, some may choose to stay with their mothers. Food is generally served in a common area as a buffet. Men and women will serve themselves separately – it is at the discretion of the host to dictate whether the men or women may serve themselves first. Elders will always be offered food first within their respective genders.
  • In more intimate or smaller settings, the entire family will sit together with guests in the living room.
  • Avoid discussing politics when initially invited into a household, unless initiated by the host.
  • Household staff are an important part of middle and upper class Pakistani homes. When staying in someone's home, make sure to tip the staff when departing and thank them for any food they prepared.


  • It’s polite to graciously accept tea and refreshments served in social situations.
  • People wait for elders to sit down and begin before eating.
  • Pakistanis will often use their hands to eat rather than cutlery. However, it is considered bad etiquette to pass, serve or spoon food to one’s mouth with the left hand. It should be used to hold the plate or assist the right hand in serving food.
  • Pakistanis often offer their guests additional helpings of food. It is acceptable to refuse; however, expect the host to insist. It can be easier and also more polite to graciously accept.
  • If offered food you don’t like or perhaps a ‘hookah’, you may place your hand on your heart and bow your head to decline the offer.
  • If eating out, one person usually pays for everyone’s meals. Paying individually on an outing is usually only done amongst close friends. Don't offer to pay someone back for a meal. Instead, reciprocate by purchasing a gift or paying next time.

Gift Giving

  • Gifts should be offered and received with two hands or the right hand alone.
  • If it is a Muslim household, do not bring alcohol, and ensure that all edible products are prepared to standards.
  • In more conservative settings, it is not appropriate for men to offer gifts to women. Therefore, they must convey that the gift is being offered on behalf of a female family member. For example, “my wife gave me this for you”.

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