Expats used to the work culture of the USA or Europe may struggle slightly to adjust to the way of doing business in Pakistan. When first moving, expats will do well to learn about the country's work culture.
The Pakistani business world assigns great importance to hierarchy. Respect and trust are extremely important and those who are older, more experienced and in a higher position should be greeted and addressed first. Once expats have learned the simple norms and nuances of the work culture in Pakistan, they should adjust quite easily.
8am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. The workweek in Pakistan is longer than in most countries in the world, at 48 hours.
English is the language of business. Urdu is also commonly spoken.
The dress code is conservative. Smart suits are appropriate.
If invited to a Pakistani household, flowers or chocolates are acceptable and should be given with two hands.
Gender disparity exists in the workplace, and women are seldom in senior positions.
Business culture in Pakistan
Men shake hands with each other and often hug when a relationship is formed. Men should not attempt to shake a woman’s hand unless she extends hers first. In Pakistani business culture, people are rarely addressed by their first names. Instead, refer to an associate by their title and surname.
Trust is important in the Pakistani business world, and non-business-related conversations usually precede a meeting. Avoid any controversial topics about politics, religion or terrorism. It is common for colleagues to ask about an expat’s family and other personal matters.
Meetings are best planned for the late morning or early afternoon. Deadlines are seen as flexible and business may take longer than anticipated, so expats should be patient and work around this. Ramadan is a significant part of the year for Pakistanis, and expats should not schedule any meetings over this period.
Dos and don’ts of business in Pakistan
- Don’t feel uncomfortable if colleagues stand very close, as this is common
- Do accept business cards with the right hand or both hands
- Do be punctual for meetings, but don’t be surprised if meetings are cancelled at the last minute
- Don’t maintain constant eye contact. This can seem threatening, especially for seniors.
►See Working in Pakistan for information on the country's economy
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