Pakistani Culture

Greetings

  • Greetings are generally formal in Pakistan. When addressing a person for the first time, use their last name followed by “Sahib” or “Saab”, literally meaning ‘Mister’. For people of different professions, use their specified title, for example: “Brigadier” (Doctor) followed by their surname.
  • Strangers will speak to each other in the formal register of Urdu. The familiar register is only used when talking to friends and young family.
  • The most common greeting among Pakistanis is “As-Salamu-Alaykum” (‘Peace be upon you’).
  • Elders are greeted first out of respect.
  • Well-acquainted men may hug each other upon greeting. However, when greeting strangers, business associates or those of a very different status (i.e. an elder), one usually shakes hands and respectfully places the right hand over the heart afterwards.
  • Women may kiss each other on both cheeks if they know each other well. Strangers generally meet each other with a handshake.
  • In more traditional circumstances, men and women will share a verbal greeting but make no physical contact. Business introductions between men and women may involve a handshake if initiated by the women. Physical contact (e.g. hugs, handshakes and kisses) is only considered appropriate between men and women if they are family or close friends.
  • A Pakistani may simply place their right hand over their heart and give a gentle nod in greeting if they perceive the other person is unaccustomed to being touched.
  • The traditional greeting towards Hindus or Indians is “Namaste” (‘I greet the god within you’).
  • Liberal middle class Pakistanis may say “Adab” (‘Respect and politeness’) while lifting a hand to their forehead. This is usually used to greet people over the age of 40.
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