Pakistan's official language is
English and many people in big cities can speak it. Urdu is the national
language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as lingua franca. In addition to
Urdu most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as
Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi,
English is the official language and is used in all government, educational
and business entities, and is also understood and spoken at varying levels
of competence by many people around Pakistan, especially by the upper
classes and people who have gone through higher levels of education.
Here are some basic Urdu phrases. If you can speak those, it will delight
everyone you meet:
- 'Assalaam Alaykum' - Hello (literally meaning 'may peace be on you')
- 'Khuda Hafiz' or 'Allah Hafiz' - Goodbye (literally meaning 'may God take
care of you')
- 'Shukria' - Thank you
- 'Maaf karo' - literally 'forgive me'; useful when dealing with beggars
- 'Mera naam John Doe hai'- My name is John Doe
- 'Mein Lithuania say hoon' - I am from Lithuania
- 'Mujhay Lahore bohat pasand hai' - I really like Lahore
- 'Aap ka naam kya hai' - what is your name?
- 'Aap kahaan rehtey hain' - where do you live?
- 'Khana bohot mazaydaar hai' - the meal is delicious
Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi
in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu). Just a greeting of Salam Alaykum will get you
far in endearing yourself to people. If you are travelling outside the big
cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad it is advisable to learn some
basic Urdu or a regional language.
Do not make silly jokes about religion, women, sex, or alcohol. You will
cause offence and it is something you're really ill advised to do.
Just respect and observe. Pakistan is a conservative country and it is
advisable for women to wear long skirts or pants in public (Pakistani women
wear the traditional shalwar kameez). Dress codes for men are more lax
although they should refrain from wearing shorts in public. As well, showing
someone the sole of your feet or shoe is considered an insult, and can lead
to you being considered disrespectful.