Behavior and Etiquette: Physical Gestures - Head, Feet and the Left Hand

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Feet and Head
Big blunders can arise if Westerners are unaware of the significance of the head and feet in an Islamic culture. It is always important to be aware of how the bottoms of your feet are pointed whenever you are in a room with others. Pakistanis typically sit with legs crossed or will squat with the soles of their feet flat on the ground. Pointing the soles of the feet towards someone is impolite as the soles of the feet (shoe) are considered dirty, closer to the devil, and farther away from God. When in the presence of Muslims, be careful not to raise or cross your legs in such a way that the sole of your foot faces others in the room. It is important to be aware of how the bottoms of your feet are pointed whenever you are in a room with others. Never let the sole of your foot or shoe come in contact with a Pakistani person.

Be aware that forcing a Muslim's head to touch the ground may make him an enemy. Muslims only touch their heads to the ground when praying. You may also see Pakistanis holding their hands up in front of their face in request of divine assistance.

Left Hand
Remember, in Pakistan people use their right hand exclusively for all public functions. These functions include shaking hands, eating, drinking, and passing something to another person. Using the left hand is an insult and if done in the presence of many others, could bring shame to a Pakistani. The left hand serves a specific purpose – hygiene after the use of the toilet. Pakistanis will wash their hands immediately afterwards. In fact, many consider the Western practice of using paper to be offensive and question how paper can make one sufficiently clean. Some historians believe this may be the reason hand shaking is universally done with the right hand in all cultures.

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