Cultural Summary – Overview

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

This cultural awareness training has taught you that Afghanistan is an historical crossroads for Central Asian, Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures. It is made up mostly of isolated villages and towns with between 35 and 47 languages and dialects.  Subsequently, ethnic and tribal affiliations are more pronounced than nationality.  Most people in Afghanistan see themselves as belonging to a clan, tribe, or ethnic group (e.g. Pashtun or Hazara) rather than as belonging to a nation (Afghanistan).

You have learned how thirty years of war have had a devastating effect on the society of Afghanistan and on its people.  With the dire economic, social and political situation, the Taliban has reasserted control and is denying basic human rights. Villages have strict authority structures which includes political, religious and resource leadership.

You should now realize how Islam provides an overall social structure and influences daily activities, and that the extended family is the basis of Afghan social life. They are highly conservative, yet hospitable people who prize honor, loyalty and education.  Relationship building and trust are critical to success in any endeavor with the people of Afghanistan. Attempting to rush a social or business encounter will remain unproductive, as Afghans are more focused on relationships rather than agendas.

You will recall that hospitality is an important element of Afghan life and includes generosity of food, relationship building, and polite gestures.  You have learned about behaviors that are not appropriate towards women (unless you are a woman), as well as social practices of eating communally, respecting elders, and using the right hand.  You now know that certain hand gestures including pointing, the middle finger and upward palms are considered offensive and should be avoided. Discussions regarding politics and religion should be avoided as well as any action or speech which criticizes an Afghan person.  And, lastly while many Afghans appreciate cats, dogs are not considered pets.

Complete the Do's and Don'ts activity on the following page to test your knowledge on the different aspects of dealing and interacting with the people of Afghanistan.

Back Home Next