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.
For example, it was amusing to me to find Dal Maas (lentils and meat) in Pakistan, whereas in India they don’t put meat in Dal.
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.
When it comes to food safety. I got sick in Pakistan from street food on both trips, 2018 & 2020. I get sick in India roughly every 3 months from food. If I had to choose one, I’d say Pakistani food preparation areas looked cleaner to me.
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 having been built in a very similar style.
People & Hospitality
2018 Experience: 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.
2020 Experience Update: My opinion has changed since 2018. On my second trip, I felt very few people being wary of a foreigner. Below are two beautiful examples of how I was treated as I roamed the streets alone.
When it comes to meeting friends in Pakistan and India, I found hospitality to be nearly the same.
When it comes to travelling alone it’s similar, but there’s one caveat.
India’s tourism industry has been booming with over 10 million foreigners visiting every year. Pakistan on the other hand has only started taking tourism seriously since 2019.
Big Indian tourism destinations like Delhi and Jaipur have been overrun by conmen trying to scam tourists. This isn’t present in Pakistan… yet. So Pakistan is a far more relaxed experience with many locals being surprised to see foreigners and eager to show their hospitality.
In the smaller Indian cities, where tourists don’t go, you will find classic Indian “Guest is God” culture still. Just not so much in the big cities anymore. But it still can happen in the big cities as you’ll see in the below clip.
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.
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 – although around 79% of Indians are Hindu. In India, you’ll see Churches, Gurudwaras, Hindu temples, Jain temples, and Mosques everywhere.
A Few More Differences
- English is more prevalent in India.
- There seemed to be less poverty in Pakistan.
- Streets are generally cleaner 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.
- There are more women out and about on the streets in India.
- Women in India are more approachable in general.
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 reminds you where you are.