A greeting is a way of acknowledging someone's presence or making someone feel welcome. Greetings are often used before a conversation or as a polite way to initiate a verbal exchange between people. Pakistan is an Islamic country, in which around 98% of the population is part of the Muslim community. In order to greet someone in the national language of Pakistan, called Urdu, there are specific rules to say "hello" in a respectful way.
Method 1 of 2: Say "hello" if you are not Muslim
Step 1. Know the rules on how to address people of different genders
Muslim countries are very concerned about respecting defined boundaries between the sexes. If you don't know anything about Pakistan and its culture, it is better to err on the side of caution when approaching a person of the opposite sex. Keep in mind that there are strict rules about men targeting women and women targeting men. Most Muslim women do not respond to greetings from men who are not part of their families, and many men consider greetings from women, especially non-Muslim women, to be quite inappropriate and rude.
Step 2. Practice the pronunciation
The complicated dialects of Persian and Arabic origin make Urdu a difficult language for non-native speakers. The accent can vary between regions, but the most appropriate greeting when speaking to a Muslim is the "salam" greeting.
- Use the phrase "As-Salam-u-Alaikum", which means "Peace be with you."
- This phrase is pronounced "as-saa-laam-muu-alai-kum".
Step 3. Modify the greeting based on your audience
As in other languages, the pronouns in the salutation "salam" will change depending on who you greet. For example, the salutation "salam" will be different if you meet a male business associate as opposed to meeting a colleague's girlfriend. To modify the salutation "salam", you must change the part "with you" in the sentence, which is represented by the section "kum" in the salutation "As-Salam-u-Alaikum":
- As-Salāmu `alayk (to): used when greeting someone of the male sex.
- As-Salāmu `alayk (i): used when greeting someone of the female sex.
- As-Salāmu `alayk (umā)- Used when greeting people of either gender.
- As-Salāmu `alayk (unna): Used when greeting multiple female only people.
- As-Salāmu `alayk (umu): it is used when greeting a group of three or more people, in which at least one person is male, or it is also used when greeting a member of the state, such as a prime minister, president, king, etc.
Step 4. Greet people in the proper order
Hierarchy is very important in Pakistan so greetings must be extended in a particular order. This is especially true if you know people with whom you are going to do business. Show respect by arriving on time and greeting the oldest person or person with the highest position in the organization first. Then greet people in descending order of age or position. If you don't know everyone in the group, ask a mutual acquaintance to introduce you. Do not introduce yourself as this is considered very rude. Here are some additional tips:
- It is customary in Pakistan to need less personal space than many Western cultures require, so don't be surprised or back off if people are very close to you while you are in a meeting.
- You only exchange business cards with your right hand or with both hands. Never use your left hand as this is considered very rude.
- Make sure your business card includes your title and any advanced titles in order to show your competencies. If someone gives you a business card, be sure to show respect by analyzing the card and admiring its position and titles before placing it in your card holder.
Step 5. Avoid physical contact unless someone else initiates it
Because proprietary conventions are much stricter in Muslim countries, you should perform any physical greeting, such as shaking hands or hugging, based on the signals of the Muslim greeting you. If you are someone close to the person or they belong to the middle class, shaking hands and hugging is much more common, even among members of the opposite sex.
- Men generally shake hands with each other, and hugs are also common between Muslim and non-Muslim men if they have developed a relationship.
- Women rarely hug or shake hands with men, however some upper and middle class women have embraced the use of gloves to circumvent the strict law that women can only make physical contact with male members of his family.
Step 6. Don't rush into the conversation
Despite the strict rules governing the sexes, Pakistani culture is an incredibly social and conversational culture. Once you have started the conversation with the salutation "salam", prepare for a longer conversation about the health of the person, their family, and their business. Show interest in the conversation, and don't try to cut the other person off, as this is considered rude.
Method 2 of 2: Greet a Muslim Companion
Step 1. Always greet a fellow Muslim
In Muslim countries such as Pakistan, it is considered extremely rude not to greet a fellow Muslim. According to the Muslim holy text, the Qur'an, the greeting “salam” has been mandatory since its inception, and the greeting is commanded by Allah. Not greeting a fellow Muslim with the phrase “As-Salam-u-Alaikum” is to go in against Scripture, which is immoral and punishable.
Step 2. Be aware of the rules that dictate who should initiate a greeting
In Pakistan, culture is informed and ordered by the Qur'an, including who is responsible for initiating a greeting. These rules are considered sacred and are strictly followed. When in Pakistan, the rules for initiating a greeting include:
- The person who arrives greets the Muslims who are present.
- The person who is riding a vehicle or animal greets the one who is walking.
- The person walking greets the one sitting.
- The smaller group greets the larger group.
- The young people greet the elderly present.
Step 3. Respond to any greetings promptly
If you did not initiate the greeting first, it is considered unacceptable not to respond to the greeting. According to the Qur'an, it is also mandatory for a Muslim to return the salutation "salam" regardless of whether the other person is Muslim or not. Not returning the salutation "salam" is against the scriptures of the Qur'an.
- Respond with the phrase "wa Alaikum Assalam wa Rahmatullah", which means "May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you."
- This phrase is pronounced: "waa-alai-kum-as-salam waa-rah-ma-tull-la-he."
Step 4. Greet the male elders first
In Pakistani and Muslim cultures, elders are highly respected, and your greeting should reflect this. If you are greeting a large group, always start by greeting the older men present. Even if you are an elderly person, if you are the person who arrives, you should be the one to initiate the greeting, starting with your older companions. If you are not sure who is the oldest, it is best to bow your head and say the salute "salam" in the general direction of the elders. This is considered very polite and will earn you the respect of the group by doing so.
Step 5. Greet the rest of the group in the proper order
After greeting the older male, it is best to acknowledge and greet the rest of the group in descending order, according to the Quran. Greet the other male members of the group afterwards, and then greet the women present. Current practices encourage extending the greeting to children as well so that they become accustomed to the practices of the “salam” greeting from an early age.
Step 6. Participate in the resulting conversation
Unlike other greetings, the “salam” greeting is actually a conversation starter in Pakistan and does not mean a “hello” in passing. Once you've initiated or responded to the “salam” greeting, sit back and prepare for a longer, more enjoyable conversation about your health, your family, and your business. Avoid talking only about yourself and be sure to ask the other person or people about their issues as well.
- If you are going to extend condolences to a person or group, do not use the salutation "salam." Instead, try to stick to phrases that minimize the suffering of loss by reiterating the great reward of eternal life mentioned in the Qur'an.
- Make sure to greet others with respect. For example, don't say "Merry Christmas" as a greeting.