Everyone I met in Pakistan was very curious about India. Their top question was, “What’s the difference between India and Pakistan? Are they similar?” The answer is, yes, there is a familiarity between India and Pakistan. After all, they used to be the same country. But at the same time, there are a few differences.

Here’s what I noticed from a traveller’s perspective.

Food: Pakistan = non-veg, India = veg

I love to eat. So the first thing I noticed upon arriving in Lahore was the fantastic meat dishes. The meat is always freshly killed and cooked, and I think that has something to with why Pakistani meat dishes are always juicy. Try a seekh kebab in Pakistan and India, and you’ll see the difference straight away, the Pakistani ones are juicier.

Pakistanis are massive meat eaters, they consume 3 times more meat than all of India. So it makes sense that they’re experts in cooking it.

India, on the other hand, knows how to cook vegetables like nobody else in the world. You’ll struggle to find vegetable dishes at restaurants in Pakistan unless it’s breakfast. India’s variety of veg dishes is absolutely endless. Even a meat eater like me has become far less reliant on meat and consumer a lot more vegetables in India.

Language: Urdu & Devanagari Script

Hindi and Urdu are nearly identical languages except they have different scripts. In Pakistan, all you see is Urdu script everywhere whereas India is dominated by Devanagari.

Just looking at a photo from each country you can immediately tell which street is in India and which is in Pakistan.

Difference between Devanagari in India and Urdu script in Pakistan
Difference between Devanagari (top) and Urdu script in Pakistan. Photos by Wasif Malik andrajkumar1220.

City Design

Walking around Lahore and Islamabad, I found them similar to big Mughal influenced cities in North India like Delhi, Ajmer, and Lucknow. Clearly, South Indian design is nothing like Pakistani, but North India and Pakistan are similar. After all, both areas at one time were ruled by the same rulers. For example, Jama Masjid in Delhi and Badshahi Mosque in Lahore are nearly identical and built by the same emperor.

Jama Masjid, Delhi. Photo by Peter Rivera.
Jama Masjid, Delhi. Photo by Peter Rivera.
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore. Photo © Karl Rock.
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore. Photo © Karl Rock.

People & Hospitality

I found people on the street in Pakistan to be helpful but wary of a foreigner. Overall I found them less warm than Indians. I think this has something to do with their distrust and dislike of America. They probably assume I’m from there.

Usually, a local’s first question to you will be, “Where are you from?” I’d love to know what their reaction would be if I told them, “America.” I’m assuming it’s going to be different from New Zealand which has a cricket team that I found many Pakistani’s complimenting me on.

I find Indians warmer to foreigners in general. There’s no hatred of America there.

When it comes to meeting local friends in Pakistan and India, I found hospitality to be the same. Both my Pakistani and Indian friends show fantastic hospitality and a passion for showing you their country and making sure you are comfortable and enjoying. It was just the common man on the streets in Pakistan I found less warm than India.

All for me. The spread put on by my friends in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo © Karl Rock.
All for me. The spread put on by my friends in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo © Karl Rock.

Friends & Foes: Pakistan China

Arriving in Lahore, I was greeted with the Pakistan-China Friendship Underpass and a massive reef of flowers celebrating the China and Pakistan friendship elsewhere in the city. They even have a China Chowk (street). There’s no doubt about it, Pakistan China.

In India, you’ll see the same for different countries, but I can’t pinpoint any one country they love, unlike all the tributes to China I saw in Pakistan.

Religion

This one is obvious whether you’ve visited or not. Pakistan is dominated by Islam. Multiple times a day you’ll hear the prayer ceremony broadcast out across the city. You’ll hear the same in Muslim majority areas in India too.

India, on the other hand, is more visibly diverse. In India, you’ll see Churches, Gurudwaras, Hindu temples, Jain temples, and Mosques everywhere.

A Few More Differences

  • There seemed to be less poverty in Pakistan.
  • Very few stray animals in Pakistan.
  • Driving on motorways in Pakistan is much safer because the Police are very strict with fines. If people speed, don’t stay in their lane or don’t use their indicators when changing lanes, they get a fine.
  • There are no liquor stores in Pakistan.
  • More women out and about on the streets in India.

Overall Impression

Pakistan reminds me of walking into a Muslim area of Delhi like West Nizamuddin. You’ve got Urdu, butchers, mosques, and the colour green everywhere. Coming from India, Pakistan is a familiar sight. But the above difference constantly remind you where you are.

22 Comments

  1. very nice

  2. Good assessment boss. About US , I think two decades of three ago , it was very different . When I was born USA was thought of a friendly country but things have changed

  3. fair assessment mostly agree

  4. Watched your vlog on Youtube. It’s an epic journey. Do you have any plans to explore Pakistan more, specifically the mountainous regions?

  5. Süleyman

    KARL ROCK WOULD YOU PLEASE VISIT ISLAMABAD THERE ARE MANY BEAUTIFUL PLACES THERE AND PLEASE VISIT NORTHERN REGİONS . LIKE GILGIT ,CHITRAL ,I AM SURE YOU WILL LOVE IT

  6. You should visit northen areas of pakistan u will find them totally different

  7. Shahroz khan

    Wow! man you are really great and we very very warmly welcome you to pakistan please don,t forgot to eat Malai boti(pieces of chicken with rich cream) here
    You must be big fan of it.
    You are so amazing and super cool Thanks to
    Be a part of pakistan even just for few days.

  8. I am surprised you found Pakistanis less warm. Though tbh it doesnt have much to do with America. Yes, Pakistanis dont love america, but they still treat any american tourists very warmly. No one gets discriminated against because they are american. Lets be real here, pakistanis love any guests. Even indians get treated warmly, let alone americans or other foreigners. I think the lack of warmth you felt it is more to do with culture. Let’s be honest and admit, Pakistani men are a bit more shy and reserved except for punjabis 😛 That aggressive rickshaw driver being an example of an outspoken punjabi. I could easily tell that he was trying to say ‘are you having any problems?’ I know this because his tone, the cadence of the way he said it was so typical of when we ask locals if they are having any problems. He was making all the same mistakes in his spoken english that our gardener makes. Mainly taking english too literally. ‘What’s your problem?’ probably made perfect sense to him. Even his saying urdu is good, flashing the thumbs up was encouragement. Its easy to notice when you can read the cultural connotations in the body language, tone etc. It was simply a misunderstanding due to cultural differences. But I absolutely can understand why you felt spooked by that guy So I will not ask you to change your mind on that point. You felt how you felt.
    Also, since you visited Peshawer, people are bound to be wary. Do you want to know why? Peshawer is mostly filled with pathans. They are wary of everyone. Even punjabis or sindhis. They even look at us with suspicion if we go there. Pathans are very traditional, conservative and they are also clannish. They like to stick together, speak their own language, wear their own clothes. But generally speaking, lower income pakistani men tend to be kinda shy and awkward especially because they dont know how to speak english. In pakistan, if you cant speak english people just remain quiet rather than trying to communicate. That is the culture here. And on average, less pakistanis can speak english than indians. On top the fact that foreign tourists are rare in Pakistan, especially outside of northern pakistan. And then you can pass off as a Pathan, especially if you’re hair is covered. You speak urdu and were wearing the local dress so people will probably be like what is up with this guy? The accented urdu doesnt work as an excuse because pathans and northern pakistanis also have accents.Unfortunately, your good urdu probably worked against you there. If you speak in english, everyone knows for sure you are a ‘gora’. There will always be some things that are lost in translation, but these small things dont matter. I hope you enjoyed your trip. Definitely share your videos from your visit to Islamabad, and Lahore as well. I hope you visited some of the nicer places, as well as the older places so that you can get a good idea of a developing country.

  9. What about cleanliness.??

  10. Also many foreigners may not know, India is very big on vegetarianism hence most restaurants are pure vegetarian.

  11. i dont know why but i think you are little bias over pakistan.bcz you have spend lot of time in india therefore your thoughts about pakistan are same as indians have

    • I don’t see any bias.He said that Cleanliness,Roads in Pakistan are better.Poverty is more visible in India.
      These are very important factors,and he said without hesitation that Pakistan is better.

  12. i like your videos but after watching your videos and read these articals i realize that you are actualy narrow minded and little bias person. dont mind bro

  13. Would you like to visit kasur city 30km from Lahore.
    Give us a chance to serve you.
    Plz
    Plz
    Plz

  14. Arpit Gamit

    I would like to welcome you to Gujarat
    Please visit Gujarat and explore it’s unique culture and language.

  15. God bless u good thinking

  16. Sheeraz Khan

    Your experience for Pakistan would me much better if you visit more cities in Pakistan like northern areas of Pakistan Giligit, Kashmir in Pakistan and Karachi. Karachi is the biggest city of Pakistan you missed that this time. I hope you will come soon to Pakistan and then explore more cities their food history etc. Waiting for your next visit in Pakistan Lots of Love Karl 🙂
    Sheeraz Khan

  17. Sheeraz khan

    Well Thank you for writing this blog and i just want to add something about your experience in Pakistan i know you had not much good time in Pakistan for some sought of reasons and well you Visited Peshawar even i am born in Pakistan and living here never get a chance to be there but i have visited the northern areas of Pakistan and all provinces cities in Pakistan except Peshawar and soon I am planning to go there and have some delicious food there. you have missed some cities in Pakistan especially the northern areas and Gilgit Baltistan and one and only Karachi where from I am writing this for you. You missed Karachi men Karachi. Karachi is the biggest city and you will found everything here so you missed that i hope you will come soon to Pakistan and will visit Karachi and other beautiful places in Pakistan. Waiting for your next visit in pakistan. Lots of love Karl Rock Peace

  18. I think the reason you were spied was your earlier visit to India. Pakistani Intelligence keep an eye even at there own citizens who have cross border relations. As a nation coming out of a Trauma so agencies are extremely sensitive. If you have entered from Islamabad then perhaps situation might had been little different. Well, I am sad you missed the real beauty of Pakistan which are the Northern areas of Pakistan.

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