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Thank you for the A2A, Ishaque.
Hmm … this is an interesting question. Being a diplomat kid, you are bound to end up imbibing some traits from your host countries. The host country that I spent the most time in was Pakistan, therefore I was bound to develop a few ‘very Pakistani’ habits. Bear with me. This will probably end up being a long answer.
These are the most ‘Pakistani’ things about me:
I love spicy food
It would be a massive understatement to say my spice tolerance was low when I moved to Pakistan. Brits do have a reputation for eating bland food. I am not exaggerating when I say that even black pepper was too spicy for me back then. My parents enjoyed the odd curry here and there but I was a complete lightweight. I don’t remember too much about living in Turkey, but I do remember the food was quite mild and I still thought it was too ‘spicy’. Fast forward to living in Pakistan and I spent the early years avoiding the local food. I couldn’t even enjoy crisps because every flavour seemed to be ‘masala’ or ‘salted’. The masala was too spicy. The salted was too salty, soI just stuck to international brands. It took a lot of years, but now I really enjoy spicy food. I love desi street food more than anything. Chaats, gol gappay, bun kabab … munh mai paani aa gaya 🙂 I would say that my spice tolerance is still lower than the average Pakistani’s, but its pretty close. For example, the famous student biryani is s bit too spicy for me. I love it but I need more raita and water with it than my pakistani friends. My spice tolerance level is still increasing so there’s hope 😛
2. I love Pakistani music and Bollywood
I was already into Bollywood before I moved to Pakistan. This had something to do with me having a massive crush on 90’s Shahrukh Khan after seeing him on the telly at an Indian friend’s house. I picked up Urdu really fast after moving to Pakistan. This meant that I could now watch Indian movies and songs. Whilst secretly drooling after SRK on a Pakistani cable channel, I discovered Pakistani music. Consequently, I grew up listening to the top 10 Bollywood, Pakistani and English music lists. I don’t have a lot of time to watch movies or to listen to music anymore. The few movies I do watch are usually English movies. I still have an affinity for Pakistani music but I’m not so keen on the newer Bollywood music. I don’t really like the type of OTT Bollywood movies I used to watch when I was younger anymore. However, I do enjoy the new story-based movies they make these days. My SRK crush is long gone 😛
3. Drinking tea twice a day
This is something that is common between England and Pakistan. We both drink a hell of a lot of tea. The thing that isn’t common between us is the way we prepare out tea. I already had tea in the mornings before moving to Pakistan. This was made by dunking a teabag in hot water a few times, and then adding milk to make a weak-ass, watery cup of tea. After moving there, I discovered this amazing thing called desi chai. It is brewed on the hob to make this rich, creamy, karak cup of chai. The only thing I don’t like is how sweet desi chai is. Too sickly sweet, and not healthy for long-term consumption.
4. Wearing chappals at home
When I was a kid, I used to wear closed shoes all day, every day. Sometimes, I would wear sandals in the summer but I wouldn’t take them off even in my bedroom. Now my outdoor shoes stay outdoors. In the home, I wear slippers or any open shoe similar to pakistani chappals that I can find. I cannot understand how people wear shoes all the time anymore. I feel suffocated just looking at them. Not to mention the risk of developing fungal infections from having your feet covered in sweat all the time. This is one habit I am really glad I picked up.
5. I have a strong stomach
As expected, my early days in Pakistan were rough on my stomach and digestive system. One advantage of living long term in Pakistan is that after a rough first week, I was able to eat and drink just about anything without any tummy issues. I can have super spicy food, street food, and unfiltered water without any trouble. My parents have also developed immunity to most of the bacteria that cause such trouble, but they can still have some occasional troubles. Perhaps it is because I was still a child when I moved there and they weren’t? Not sure.
6. I enjoy wearing shalwar kameez
I cannot say this enough. The shalwar kameez is one of the most comfortable dresses in the whole world. My mother and I are both big fans. It takes a little while to get used to all the extra fabric floating around your lower half. Once you are used to it, it is heaven. So roomy, so airy, so comfy. They can even beat sweatpants, especially in the summer. You never want to fit into a tight, suffocating pair of jeans ever again. The traditional shalwar shape is so comfortable. The newer trouser style pants definitely look good, but they cannot beat the shalwar in comfort. It is sad to see it falling out of favour for more western style pants because it is perfect for Pakistan’s intense summer heat. I miss shalwar qameez, and I miss lawn. Lawn is such a perfect, breathable fabric for summer. If everyone here wouldn’t say wtf are you wearing, I would wear shalwar qameez all the time.
7. Roti over rice
I love roti. I have eaten a lot of roti in my lifetime. When I moved back to the UK, my life was all sad and empty because of the lack of roti in it. I literally learnt how to cook roti after moving back just so I could have it. I like rice too, but I don’t love it. I must have my roti at least once a week.
8. Mixing English and Urdu
After moving back to England, it took a few months to become used to talking in only one language again. I would be talking to my British friends in English and drop in random Urdu words as if they knew what I was saying. Sometimes they wouldn’t notice. Other times, they would be like whaaaa???
9. Pakistani produce is the best
Every time summer rolls around, I don’t envy my Pakistani friends. I don’t envy the heat, the mosquitoes, or the bijli problems. But I really envy them for getting to be there for Pakistani fruit seasons. All Pakistani fruit is bloody amazing. I want to cry every time I buy visually perfect but completely tasteless, hard-as-a-rock fruit in the UK. Uff, I miss those Pakistani mangoes, the watermelons, apricots, plums, lychees, apples, oranges, peaches, bananas, guavas, and persimmons. Also, adding a sprinkle of salt to watermelon and guava – best idea ever. I miss when winter comes and dry fruits and nuts start selling everywhere. One thing I have not had in so many years is the chilgoza. I have never even seen them here. Maybe they don’t grow outside Pakistan, but the chilgoza nut is so delicious. Expensive, but so delicious.
10. I know the Pakistani national anthem better than the British national anthem
After moving out of an international school and into a private school in Pakistan, I started hearing the national anthem every day. I know all the words. I barely know half of the British anthem.
11. I can appreciate and enjoy unique Pakistani flavours
The Indian subcontinent doesn’t mess around with flavours. Everything is super intense. It is either super spicy, super salty or super sweet. There is no in between. Then there are all the local delicacies that have really unique and pungent flavours. The type of foods you need to develop an acquired taste for. British cuisine isn’t exactly known for bold, pungent flavours. So the first time I tried Rooh Afza, I almost puked. It was such a weird, flowery, unfamiliar flavour. Now, I love it. It is so refreshing on a hot summer’s day. My parents still find it iffy. I have similar stories for chat masala, imli, achaar, masala crisps, mithai and many others. The one famous acquired taste desi food that I am not 100% on board with yet is paan. I only tried it once many years ago and didn’t really enjoy it. I should probably try it again.
12. Water over toilet paper any day
Once you try water, you can never go back. I don’t even know why toilet paper usage is still so common in the world. It is harmful to the environment, and it’s kinda gross. Imagine how many trees would be saved every year if people stopped using toilet paper.
Suffice to say, I have a lot of habits which are very British, and a lot which are very Pakistani. The best of both worlds 😛
Edit: Thank you for all the upvotes and comments 🙂
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