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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.