When I first started thinking about travelling to Pakistan, many AIESEC members warned me against the cultural shock I was about to experience. I mainly ignored them thinking that Iâ€™m tolerant and adaptive person who wouldnâ€™t have any problems with the new environment. As it turns out though the people offering advice were right. No matter how adaptive I am the differences between Pakistani and Bulgarian way of life hit me right in the face the second I stepped out of the Allama Iqbal Airport in Lahore.
At first I noticed the outward differences like the hotness, the local way of dressing, and the craziness of the traffic. Later I realized itâ€™s not only in the looks of it, itâ€™s substantive. Pakistanis are very open and warm-hearted people. They become your friends the second you meet them and they express an honest and vast interest in your feelings, personality and state of mind. In relation to this another peculiar habit of the people here is to stare. To a newcomer it may seem unwelcoming but eventually I realized it stems out of pure curiosity for the different. Given the fact that currently Pakistan is not too popular as a touristic destination, foreigners are met with big and openly expressed interest. It may seem a bit too overt to Europeans, but itâ€™s common here and should be accepted as a positive thing.
Another typical Pakistani trait is informality. People sit on the floor, often eat their food with their hands and talk over a cup of chai at any point of the day. Tension and worries are not commonly found amongst these people. They may have their problems but they donâ€™t let themselves get immersed in them. Instead they joke and laugh and make sure that everybody is feeling fine. They talk a lot and share everything. In Bulgaria people tend to keep to their circle of close friends and family, while here everyone becomes part of this circle easily.
In Bulgaria people are hospitable to some degree, but when you visit a Pakistani home your host would usually bend over backwards to make you feel welcome. He or she will make you meet the whole family and they will not let you go quickly. Remember that turning down an offer for a drink or a snack is unacceptable. Thatâ€™s only good for the guest though since Lahoris are famous for their passion for food. This passion can be found (and tasted) not only in homes, but also in the famous Food street as well as throughout the whole city.
Keeping in mind that Pakistan is an Islamic state and thus a conservative one, it still offers a big diversity when it comes to people and mindsets. Many wear the traditional shalwar-kameez outfit, while others prefer jeans, shirts and tops. In the same way some of the women find covering their head their duty, while others are embracing the western way of dressing, modifying it accordingly to Pakistani perceptions. Itâ€™s controversial whether the westernization is a good process leading to progress or a big step towards loss of national identity. Suffice it to say it is irresistible and I see it happening here as well, but somehow it hasnâ€™t succeeded yet in altering the specific Pakistani colorful and vivid image of life.
Pakistani and Bulgarian people differ greatly in the way they think, the way they dress and most of all in the way they perceive life. I wouldnâ€™t say which is better but Iâ€™ll tell you this: I enjoy life here greatly and I believe Pakistanis are happy people.