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A Local’s Guide to Pakistani Dining Traditions

Every culture has specific customs for meals, including unspoken or unwritten guidelines. What is considered polite in some cultures may be viewed as impolite in Pakistan. It’s important that you become familiar with the eating customs of Pakistan before your visit. Continue reading to discover the social conventions of Pakistani dining etiquette.

When you visit a Pakistani household, they always insist that you should stay for dinner or lunch. Pakistanis are very welcoming people, and there is nothing more that they love than sharing a meal with their guests. At the dinner table, the honoured guest is served first, then the host, the kids, and then the women. No one starts the dinner until the eldest person at the table doesn’t start.

Under strict religious situations, men and women may be asked to dine separately. These etiquettes still exist in the modern society of Pakistan.

chinese tea

Table etiquette

To show respect for the cook, all guests are required to wash their hands before a meal. The host also occupies the chair at the head of the table. 

Food is typically eaten with the hands in Pakistani families because most of the cuisine is eaten with ‘Roti,” which is a kind of bread. However, when silverware is placed on the table, it should be used with the right hand. Eating with the left hand is considered disrespectful and unethical. Pakistanis use single plates and bowls for food. The use of a spoon is common, while the use of a fork is only limited to some Italian or Chinese cuisines.

On the dinner table, it is a custom that you should fill your plate with as much food as you can eat. Filling the plate more than your appetite or leaving the food on your plate is considered disrespectful and a wastage of food. It is frowned upon to waste any kind of food.

It is also common in Pakistan that the host may insist the guest to try other dishes on the table or the host may insist guest to have some more, and it is always considered respectful if you decline politely and compliment them for their hospitality and their food.

Drinks during Pakistani Dinner

Both respect and honor are important in Pakistani etiquette. Even if you simply want to take a few sips, you should accept beverages from the host since it is traditional in Pakistani culture. Furthermore, it is the job of the guest next to you to pour the drink for the guest. Guests should not pour the drink themselves, or else it can also be considered as disrespectful, especially if it is an elderly guest. If an elderly guest has to pour his/her own drink, then it makes others question the upbringing of younger ones in the house.

It is a custom in Pakistan that tea is served after the dinner or lunch. In some houses if the tea is not served after the meal, it is considered disrespectful.

Pakistani Dinner at Home

While it is usual to take off your shoes while entering a Pakistani house, this is not the case when dining out. Also, it is customary in Pakistan for the elder members of your group to enter any room first before you do.

You will be asked to take a seat anywhere you choose at the table if you are invited to a formal lunch in a Pakistani home. If you are the younger one in the group, wait for the host to instruct you are the older one in the group, then you can sit anywhere.

Another tradition of eating at someone else’s house is that the guests are required to bring something sweet for the host. Usually, it is either ‘mithai” or ice cream. After dinner is served, Pakistani families serve the dessert that is brought by the guest himself.

Attending a Business Dinner

Meals are not the appropriate time to conduct business or make any choices related to business. Wait for your Pakistani colleagues to start talking about the business before you start. That should be your cue that you may talk about it. Moreover, you should wait before taking the initiative in the discussion.

On the other hand, talking during the meal maybe considered as unethical in some houses, but it may not be an issue in other houses, so it is always better to wait for your host to engage with you in a conversation rather than initiating it yourself.

Paying the bill

The host of the lunch should typically pay the bill, although guests are sometimes expected to make an attempt to pay. Who pays the bill may also depend on other factors, such as rank. Don’t offer to pay back the money for the meal; instead, you can return the favour by paying for the next dinner, which is always considered a more respectful way to even things out.

On the other hand, it’s also acceptable to negotiate payment in advance of the dinner so that nothing is exchanged there. It is typical and often thought of as a sophisticated way to host. Although the majority of Western businesspeople have no trouble paying the bill, it is still preferable to establish payment arrangements in advance rather than waiting until the check is placed on the table.

Eating sweets on a celebratory occasion

Whenever there is a celebratory occasion such as passing out from school, college, or university or when there is an engagement or a new baby is born, it is customary in Pakistani tradition to send out delights to every relative’s house or gather them at your place. The host brings out the sweets and have the guests eat them by his/her own hands as a show for their excitement. Refusing to eat from the host’s hands is considered highly disrespectful in Pakistani culture.


These are the unspoken rules for Pakistani dining etiquette. Be sure to brush up on your dining manners before the next time you go out with coworkers or are invited to a Pakistani house. That should help you prevent from making an inappropriate gesture.

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