Things which drive me mad about Pakistan

Don’t get me wrong – I love Pakistan, Pakistani people, and life in Pakistan. If, while reading the following blog post, you begin to doubt my sincerity in saying this, please refer to my Love Letter to Pakistan, posted in 2014. I even got it translated into Urdu, as a means by which to share the love.

But every now and then, there are things in Pakistan which drive me mad. They drive me so mad they make me wanna…. write a blog post about why they annoy me!

 

The geographically challenged

Pakistan Political Map

A visitor to a country sometimes takes a greater interest, or perhaps a different perspective, on the nation than locals. But in Pakistan, it reaches new heights where people almost redraw the map with their knowledge (or lack thereof) about their nation; “Don’t go to Peshawar – the Northern Areas are very dangerous…”.

Three issues; Peshawar isn’t in the Northern Areas, the Northern Areas aren’t dangerous, and the Northern Areas aren’t even the Northern Areas.

Sigh.

 

The disbelieving

Me, pretending to be a teacher in Melbourne

Me, pretending to be a teacher in Melbourne

A lot of people find simple facts simply baffling. Take conversations about my job, for example;

“I’m an English teacher” seems to be met with “oh… and what job do you do?”.

“That’s my job, I’m an English teacher.

“Oh… ok… so what about in Australia. What job do you do there?”

My response that “I’m an English teacher there too..” is usually met with an awkward silence, and then a pleasantly surprised expression. Is it really that hard to believe? You should see their faces when I tell them that I chose to be in Pakistan of my own volition. Stunned.

 

Hard of hearing?

Image: Jesslee Cuizon, Wikimedia Commons

Image: Jesslee Cuizon, Wikimedia Commons

When I first arrived in Pakistan, a friend told me that “one of the biggest problems you’ll encounter is that Pakistanis don’t listen”. At the time I wrote this off as being overly critical, but it’s true! Ask someone where they do their shopping from, and you might be given the answer “On Saturdays.” Ask them why they want to go to Murree for their holidays, and they’ll tell you “With my friends.” Ask how many brothers and sisters they have, and they’ll say “Actually my sister lives in Dubai with her husband – he went to GCU.” So… one sister then?

 

Trust versus naivety

Walled city of Lahore

This one is kind of sweet. Or stupid. or both. So many Pakistanis tend to trust each other so much, to the point of blind faith, that they are often astounded when things don’t turn out perfectly. I have heard so many stories of siblings who put thousands of dollars into their brothers’ businesses, only to see them fail and the money disappear. Then you ask what sort of business they were doing – he had invested it in a pyramid scheme which was “meant to work” – and he didn’t have any previous business experience, nor his own savings, nor a day job. And everyone is simply astounded (and bitter) that things didn’t work out.

Endearing or naive?

 

Mansplaining

Did you know that Pakistan is a Muslim country?

Did you know that Pakistan is a Muslim country?

And not just to women, but by women – and to everyone. If I had a rupee for each time I’ve had to listen to explanations about how “Pakistan is a Muslim country…” after four years of living there, I’d be a millionaire by now. Other explanations abound too; “in Pakistan we drive on the left side of the road”, “in Islam we believe in one God” and even “men are different than women”.

 

Paying dues

Attend any Pakistani event where speeches will be made, and expect the first five minutes of each speech to be spent delivering verbose thanks to every individual in the room. “Thank you to my highly esteemed dear colleague, Mr Syed Mir Abdul Ghafoor Hussain Shah Saheb, son of the respectable Ustaad Syed Hussain Shah Saheb from Mianwali, for giving me the golden opportunity to present this cherished speech. And thank you also to…”

I actually don’t know how these speeches end – I’m normally asleep by that time.

 

Speculative medicine (times two!)

(Image: from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons)

May I heal you? (Image: from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons)

Fall sick in Pakistan, and open yourself up to a whole world of speculation about how you fell sick. “Maybe someone is doing black magic on you.” “It must have been the vegetables – you need more meat in your diet.” “The heat causes the pain.” “You ate too much yogurt.” Speculating on how someone fell ill is a national sport. And it was probably none of the above – it was probably the chef who didn’t wash his hands after taking a dump.

Which brings me to point two of speculative medicine – the idea that spicy food is the cause of all illness in foreigners. “Hygiene in Pakistan is usually ok, but foreigners can’t handle the spice” is something I’ve been told a thousand times. Believe me, Pakistani food is nowhere near the spiciest I’ve eaten, a lot of foreigners handle spicy food better than many Pakistanis, and again, it was probably the chef who didn’t wash his hands after taking a dump.

 

 

National exclusivity

"OMG an unsealed road *scoff* - only in Pakistan!" *eye roll*

“OMG an unsealed road *scoff* – only in Pakistan!” *eye roll*

Many Pakistanis seem to think that the rest of the world operates in a way completely at odds with that of their own country. Sometimes the “only in Pakistan” label is actually appropriate; you see some 7-year old kid riding his dad’s motorbike to the shops, or a father fires a few rounds into the air from his AK-47 to celebrate his daughter’s birthday party, and you look at each other and say “yup – only in Pakistan!” But then someone turns up 5 minutes late to an appointment, or a car breaks down, or you have to walk across a lawn (instead of a paved path) to reach a gate and your friends roll their eyes and say “only in Pakistan.” Um, actually, no…

But on the flipside, we are so happy to be Pakistani when it suits us. 2 hours late for an appointment? Completely ignorant? Bankrupt? Don’t worry, just say “well, we’re Pakistani after all!” Is that the reason, or just an excuse for how we are?

 

Dumb questions

Obama White House press conference

“Are you a spy?” No… but if I was, is that the kind of thing I’d share?

“Can you give me a visa?” No, that would be the Australian embassy in Islamabad

“Are you a Muslim?” Yes, are you?

“Can you eat Pakistani food?” Are you referring to ability or permission? Either way the answer is yes…

 

Wake up and smell the coffee!

pellegrini's featured coffee

Few things make me as liable to become physically violent as Pakistanis’ attitude to coffee. Like any committed drug addict, I become fiercely protective when my my relationship with the brown liquid is challenged. And in Pakistan that happens frequently. My closest friends know how to stay alive and uninjured;

  1. No substitution of coffee with tea
  2. No mention of coffee being a ‘winter-only’ drink
  3. No amazement if I have it without milk or sugar
  4. No shock and horror that I can have it “so early in the morning” (i.e. – with breakfast)

 

This article!

me and the Pakistani flag

Having almost finished this article, I realise that I’m now obscenely guilty of one of my pet peeves about Pakistan, and that’s all the Pakistanis who complain about their own people. “Pakistanis are all chors (thieves)”, “Pakistanis are all dishonest” and “Pakistanis are uncivilised people” are common refrains from the general populace, both in social gatherings and in the media. Thank God they’re not in charge of the country’s tourism promotions!

 

And things which drive me mad about Australia? Don’t even get me started…

What drives you mad about your country? Vent your spleen in the comment section below – and please play nice!

Comments (16)

  • Sergej Gluhodedov Reply

    “but every now and then, there are things in Pakistan which drive me mad. They drive me so mad they make me wanna…. write a blog post about why they annoy me!”

    hahaha i loughted so much, i found them exactly the same…but is hard to find nicer ppl then them 🙂 so I am thinking to go back to Lahore and see them again 🙂

    January 16, 2017 at 12:32 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      That’s very true – my closest friends are Pakistanis <3

      January 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm
  • Andrew Boland Reply

    but seriously… whats your real job?

    January 16, 2017 at 8:32 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Sometimes I wonder that myself :p

      January 17, 2017 at 9:41 am
  • Weylly Reply

    Pakistan is a wonderful country, unfortunately it is too close to conflict zones

    January 17, 2017 at 7:52 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Very true. A great place, but with a bad reputation :'(

      January 17, 2017 at 9:42 am
  • veena Reply

    So many similarities with India, especially the speculative medicine! As the daughter of two doctors, I had to bit my tongue so many times when Indian friends would make wild and entirely inaccurate medical claims: “you gave me your fever”, or my all-time favorite, “I can’t have ice cream, it will give me a cold”.

    January 21, 2017 at 5:44 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      OMG yes! One time I was told by someone that they got a cold by eating too much yogurt o____o

      January 22, 2017 at 10:16 am
  • Renuka Reply

    Quite an amusing post. Sounds like Pakistan is quirky! 🙂 Love your Pakistan pictures! They capture its real, raw charm very well.

    January 24, 2017 at 12:04 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Haha, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yep – life in Pakistan is many things, but it’s never boring… except for when the wedding speeches start…

      January 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm
  • Hemangini Patel Reply

    hahahaha I think these kinds of things happen in each and every country. I wanted to know more about my neighbor country, your post is so funny. Thanks man 🙂

    March 19, 2017 at 11:33 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Hahahaha thanks for reading! Glad I could brighten (and perhaps enlighten) your day!

      March 20, 2017 at 3:57 pm
  • Abdullah Sher Dil Khan Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed it Sir, couldn’t be better…However such deep understanding really makes me wonder if you are only our teacher orrrr… 😀
    and yes Coffee without milk or sugar ..ahmm I think I came to know about this well in time 🙂

    May 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Hahahaha thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Even the countries we love can sometimes frustrate us!! And as for coffee without milk or sugar – start weak, then build up your tolerance!! :p

      May 13, 2017 at 2:56 am
      • Abdullah Sher Dil Khan Reply

        You are welcome Sir.. I agree though it is not Pakistan specific but holds true for this country too.. And I am not in a mood to further tolerate anything especially after tolerating 4.5 in reading in last week’s result :p
        We may (if ever) go for anything other than coffee to avoid this conflict 😀

        May 14, 2017 at 6:32 pm
        • Tim Blight Reply

          Hahahaha consider it done 🙂 All the best for the next exam!!

          May 15, 2017 at 5:56 pm

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