Many scholars have defined culture in broader terms which place emphasis on a societys way of life. According to Paul (2015), culture encompasses the practices, morals, beliefs, customs, and ways of expression of people of a particular society or a group of people (p. 158). Toor (2011) described culture as a complex whole that comprises aspects of art, habits, beliefs, and knowledge which people acquire in the society (p. 11). Pakistan is located in Southern Asia and borders countries such as China, India, Afghanistan, and Iran. By 2014, the countrys population was 196 million people spread among its ethnic groups which include Sindhis, Punjabis, Kashmiris, Hazaras, and Pashtuns (Paul 159). Pakistans major religion is Islam (97 percent) followed by Christianity, Hinduism, and others which cumulatively constitute the remaining 3 percent of the population. Pakistans Muslim population comprises the Sunni (77 percent) and the Shia (20 percent) (Paul 160). The culture of the different ethnic groups has been modified by the cultures of their neighbors. This paper explores the culture of Pakistan, which has been defined for many years by the different ethnic groups. It analyses various components of the culture such as language, customs, religion, symbols, and family.
The people of Pakistan speak Urdu as their official language. However, English is used in place of Urdu among the Pakistani elite and in government offices (Warner, 2014, p. 22). The Urdu language has a close relationship with Hindi except that, unlike Hindi, it assumes an extended Arabic alphabet. Urdu exhibits traces of Arabic and Persian languages. Apart from Urdu and English, other languages in Pakistan include Punjabi, Pashtu, Siraiki, Hindko, and Gujrati which are spoken across the different ethnic groups (Warner, 2014, p. 24). It is imperative to note that Pakistani culture is an integral part of the modern Islamic civilization. The rich Islamic history defines the values and traditions of Pakistani culture. Studies by Paul (2015) described Pakistani society as cooperative (p. 10). In this regard, religious days are observed by Pakistanis and form important days in the National Calendar.
Fundamentally, Islam is the prevailing religion among the people of Pakistan. It influences every aspect of their personal, economic, legal, and political lives. In this regard, Islam obligates Muslims to conduct prayers five times each day. These include dawn, noon, afternoon, and sunset and evening (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 57). Every Friday of the week, Pakistani Muslims conduct prayers to mark a holy day. They are also required to observe the Ramadhan, which is a holy month of prayer and fasting. During this time, Pakistani Muslims avoid eating, drinking, and smoking (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 58). Because of the prevailing religious culture, most Pakistanis work six hours each day during the month of Ramadhan.
Various aspects of customs in Pakistan include meeting and greeting, dining, and gift giving. Traditionally, greeting takes place between people of the same sex. However, liberal Pakistanis in the middle and upper-class segments greet across gender lines. The male members of the society in Pakistan are allowed to shake hands and hug when their relationship develops in later stages (Toor, 2014, p. 15). Women are allowed to hug and kiss while greeting. Gifts are great treasures in the culture of Pakistan. It is recommended that before visiting a Pakistani, it is important that the visitor presents a small gift to the host.
Gifts may include flowers and chocolates. However, men are discouraged from presenting women with flowers except when the gifts are from their female relatives, such as sisters, wives, and mothers (Toor, 2014, p. 23. In the Pakistani culture, two hands are used to present gifts, and the recipient should wait until the visitor leaves to open the gift. Conservative dressing is recommended when invited to a Pakistani home. The visitor should remember to remove the shoes at the door. The arrival time should be a few minutes earlier than the expected time, although it may extend to one hour later when one is invited to a party. Pakistanis take meals while sitting and more conservative members do not use utensils (Paul, 2015, p. 161).
The symbols of Pakistani culture include performing arts, painting, architecture, visual arts, and cuisine. Performance arts include music and dances. Pakistani music is diverse and rich in traditional styles. However, the contemporary music in Pakistan is tinged with certain elements of western music (Tsui & Tollefson, 2007, p. 16). This transformation of music in Pakistan is an embodiment of a culture that is gradually evolving. For example, the Qawwaii style of music was a traditional form of Pakistani music which has been synchronized with western music. Examples of Pakistan classical dances include Kathak, Luddi, Sammi, Lewa, Attan, and Ho Jamalo which are spread across the various ethnic groups of Pakistan (Tsui & Tollefson, 2007, p. 18).
Pakistans architecture dates back to the pre-Islamic period. The development of architecture has progressed through the Islamic, colonial, and post-colonial era. As Islam spread throughout Pakistan, classical Islamic architectural design emerged. The most significant architectural work is the Lahore Fort that has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a defining component of the culture of Pakistan (Warner, 2014, p. 27).
Food is an important part of Pakistan culture. Pakistanis prefer Indian cuisines whose recipes are influenced by Afghans and Middle Eastern neighbors (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 62). In cities and urban environments, there are different recipes from various parts of the country. In rural areas, the recipes follow the cooking patterns and traditions of respective ethnic communities. Hot and cold drinks are readily available while a visitor may also find kebabs that are prepared locally.
Dressing varies across the different subcultures of Pakistan. For example, the people of Punjab have their dressing style that is distinct from the Baluchi people or the Sindhis. The Pakistani dressings are colorful and attractive on occasions such as festivals (Toor, 2014, p. 37). Both men and women put on long Shalwar Kameez as a national dress. Although the dress is long and baggy, it is popular because it does not reveal the shape of legs of people who wear it. The people of Pakistan love games, sports, and recreation. Consequently, they have embraced hockey, badminton, cricket, table tennis, and squash. Sporting activities such as athletics and boxing are also loved by a cross-section of Pakistanis.
Each nuclear family in the Pakistani culture is headed by the male members of the society. The head of the family is required to provide for the members of the family. The extended family comprises the nuclear family, relatives, friends, members of the tribe, and neighbors (Tsui & Tollefson, 2007, p. 19). Every individual is expected to be loyal to the family before they can express their loyalty to other relationships. Due to this loyalty, the culture of nepotism is perceived positively in Pakistani culture. A lot of emphasis is placed on hiring people who can be trusted. In this regard, the family members of the hiring authority are likely to be accorded primary importance in the workplace. Female members of the Pakistani society are protected by their countrys traditions.
Clearly, Pakistani culture departs from western cultures significantly. Unlike Western cultures, most families in the Pakistani culture are large and comprise six children or more. Respect is granted according to hierarchies. Age and position of people in the society determine the level of respect they should receive. For example, older people are perceived to be wise and experienced in the ways of the world, and consequently, should be accorded a lot of respect. In social places, old people are served first and treated with dignity. The Pakistani society anticipates that senior people should make decisions that are for the benefit of the society.
Paul, T. V. (2015). Culture or Structure? Understanding the Complexities of Pakistan. Asia Policy, 19(1), 158-162.
Toor, S. (2014). 10 Bengal (is) in the house: the politics of national culture in Pakistan, 194771. Being Bengali: At Home and in the World, 202.
Toor, S. (2011). The state of Islam: Culture and cold war politics in Pakistan. Pluto Press.
Tsui, A. B., & Tollefson, J. W. (2007). Language policy, culture, and identity in Asian contexts. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Warner, M. (2014). Culture and management in Asia. Routledge.
Yilmaz, I. (2016). Muslim laws, politics and society in modern nation states: Dynamic legal pluralisms in England, Turkey and Pakistan. Routledge.
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