Cultural Summary: Overview

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Through the cultural awareness training you have learned about the history, religion, culture, and ethnic groups of Pakistan. You learned that Pakistan has historically been a main trading route throughout Asia and the Middle East. Its strategic position has led to successive waves of invaders for thousands of years, including the recent control of this area by India and then by the British. You now know that this democratic nation from the beginning has been wrought with political instability coupled with ongoing conflicts with India over Kashmir.

People in Pakistan relate more to their ethnic and tribal groups then they do to a Pakistan national identity. The lack of a consistent government has led to poor economic development and infrastructure. People, especially in rural areas, lack adequate education, health care, and sanitation. The vast majority of the population is very poor and a little over half are illiterate. These economic hardships have fueled sectarian and ethnic tensions. Throughout the country prostitution, drug use, human trafficking, theft, and other crimes are common and increasing.

Though Pakistan's past has historically been unstable, the extended family has persevered and has supplied individuals with financial, physical, and emotional support. Islam and the Qur’an have created the basic structure in which a person lives out their lives and has added stability and uniformity into their lives. The Pakistani people are extremely hospitable and value honor, loyalty, and education. The Pakistani people are generally very friendly, and once you have become friends with one, you are friends for life.

You have also learned proper dining etiquette, conversation skills and meeting/visiting etiquette, and gestures. When talking or visiting with people it is important to listen intently, take the time to get to know one another, and do not speak to an elder unless spoken to. When greeting people, shake hands using your right hand and address an individual by their full name and titles. Appropriate conversation can include things like sports, education, health, and business success but does not include religion or politics. You also learned that it is never appropriate to insult or correct a Pakistani in public as it would shame them and may lead them to vengeance to reclaim their honor. When visiting a person's home it is proper to take off one's shoes before entering. You should wait to be seated by the host and should wait to start eating until the eldest person does. Remember to use your right hand while eating, as using the left hand would be considered rude and disgusting.

Appropriate gestures include calling someone with your palms facing down and motion inward (do not motion with your palms facing upwards). You should not point at someone or call them with a crooked finger as this is used to call dogs. It is also acceptable for men to hold hands with friends and to rest their hands on their friend's shoulder while talking. It is never alright to use the middle finger, thumbs up, or the Okay sign as these are seen as disrespectful and rude. Most importantly, never show the bottom of your feet as they are seen as dirty and closer to hell. When sitting on the ground one should sit cross-legged and tuck their feet under themselves. You also know that it is not alright to greet women (unless you are one) and stand close to them, stare at them, talk about them, or show them any affection.

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