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Arts and Culture Citizen Voices

Five things Pakistanis miss the most living abroad

Being away from home for any reason is not easy for anyone. No matter which part of the world you belong to and whichever part of the world you have decided to reside in for whatever matter, you will always miss certain aspects of your home country.

So here are five things that I, as a Pakistani national, very much miss while being in Germany for my studies.

  1. Flexible internet usage regulations. Ok, fine. Piracy.

Copyright is quite a serious matter in the developed part of the world (which is a good thing). However, it really is not a big deal at the place where we come from. Like a song? Google its MP3 version and download it just like that. Love some video on YouTube? Copy-paste its URL in one of those websites they have for downloading videos online and you’re good to go. Interested in reading the new book everyone’s talking about? Search through the many good websites made for bibliophiles and download it in pdf or epub. Want to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Hundreds of torrents with multiple video qualities are at your disposal.

I do not intend to encourage violation of copyright laws here. The point is that in most developed countries, one is

not at liberty to retrieve anything from the internet with this much flexibility, and we folks aren’t quite used to this at first.

Here, we’re always concerned with not getting caught when it comes to streaming live events, or downloading reference material, or accessing information that is not available at trusted websites. We may have a gazillion things to worry about back home, internet usage was certainly not in that list (which is good or bad depending on how you see it).

  1. Watching cricket with all your cousins from Gujranwala and Sargodha

If you’re in the UK or Australia, this one does not concern you. But if you’re stuck in a Central European country like I am, or you’re living in any part of the world where people are not remotely literate about cricket, then you would know how it feels.

We don’t have many people around us to talk about the sport. We miss the gatherings taking place whenever there’s an important match. All the fun, the excitement, and the emotions associated with the game are rarely there to be found.

If, fortunately, there are folks who happen to have cricket equipment (only Indians and Pakistanis have it) and they decide to play, the sheer astonishment they get to witness by the locals or the non-cricket literate people around them can be quite an interesting observation. It’s like they’re watching the most famous sport of Mars being played.

  1. Going movies

If, by fortune, you happen to be in a country where they speak English, this one would not affect you much. But if you’re an avid cinema-goer like me, and fate has chosen a place like Deutschland as your (temporary) abode, where they don’t play movies in English on the big screen, you’re in quite a conundrum.

We miss going to the cinema once or twice every month. We recall the days when we were so excited about a film’s release that we planned months ahead about where will we be watching it (and with whom we will be watching it. Ahem.).

We think of all the thrill those Marvel, and DC movies entailed; the horror that gripped everyone in the cinema hall while watching Annabelle, or Insidious, or It; the liveliness and comedy that happened to be an essential feature of the Pakistani movies released every Eid. Good times.

  1. Khaabaasss

We desi people have the best food in the world. No counter argument. The very absence of chicken/mutton/dumba karahi, quorma, pulao, biryani, nihari, paye, haleem/daleem, tawa-piece, tikkay, seekh-kebab, dahi-bhallay, gol-gappay/paani-poori from our lives while we are away from home is quite a crisis to deal with.

We do not expect to have naan-chanay, nor halwa-poori on Sunday mornings. We do go out with friends but we don’t have qeemay-walay-naan with us. Whenever it rains, we miss having pakoray, and Butt kay samosay. There is no gaajar-ka-halva nor Kashmiri-chaey around during winters. And then there’s the fast-food. I can go on, actually, but I’ll just stop here.

The basic ingredients that we use here to make our food seem very dull, if you ask me. The salt isn’t very salty; the sugar isn’t sugary; the chilies aren’t that spicy; the meat isn’t very meaty. There is no desi ghee that can be added in our meals for making them taste better and for blocking our arteries. The fruits aren’t that sweet either. I’m not trying to be ungrateful for all the blessings we have around us here; it’s just that we’ve (somewhat) better food back home.

If you’re a practicing Muslim, you can’t simply go to the market and pick up anything you find tempting, as we used to do back home. You have to have a good look at the ingredients before putting it in the cart, just to make sure that there isn’t anything non-Halal in whatever you’re buying. If you’re fortunate like me to have friends who respect your belief, then they shall go the extra mile to make sure that they have the right kind of stuff just for you whenever they invite you over or whenever there’s some gathering to make sure that you are not left out simply because of the food you prefer to eat.

  1. Friends and family

They are an essential part of our lives. We are with them every day when we are home. They are always there for us whenever we need them. The feeling of the absence of your loved ones around us is something that we have to deal with every single day when we’re away from home.

Since many of us belong to joint family systems, we miss the energy that is generated by the presence of multiple individuals with diverse personalities living under one roof. The love and comfort, the respect and care, the fun and games are no more there to be experienced.

Ammi isn’t there to wake you up in the mornings. Bhabhi isn’t around to make the perfect breakfast for you. Abbu is nowhere to be found to discuss current events and studies. Bhai is not with you every time you go to the market to buy groceries. Baji is missing when you feel the need of talking to someone about something (or anything!). Naani/Daadi is not around to take care of you when you get sick. Naana abbu/Daada abbu is not available to gladly give you money every time you ask. You miss not having the army of your cousins around to show up every now and then, staying up all night and having a great time together.

You don’t have your jiggars at your disposal with whom you can make never-to-become-true plans of visiting the northern areas, or to hang out with at any particular time of the day for no particular reason, or to show up at their place just like that and demanding to be fed just because they made teenday at home today. The list goes on.


As is the case with everything in life, being away from home has its pros and cons. I do not intend to give the impression that folks living abroad are always struggling, or that they don’t enjoy their lives. We do happen to make several wonderful memories, in general, and come across numerous amazing people from so many parts of the world that play an important part in shaping the experiences we have during our time abroad. However, at the end of the day, the fact remains that there is no place like home.


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