- Business Meeting
- Public Holidays
The following paragraphs offer a basic orientation to the informal rules and customs that apply to conducting business in Pakistan. When doing business with a Pakistani counterpart, it is good to know a few rules that Pakistanis follow in order to avoid misunderstandings or unsuccessful termination of cooperation. It takes place in a completely friendly spirit, despite the fact that certain formalities are observed. Knowing the customs, norms and tactics of Pakistani traders will help you to work more effectively and successfully with each other. However, the key to success in the territory is undoubtedly finding a quality and trustworthy partner who will play a major role in overcoming the many complications given by the significant cultural, mental and linguistic differences of the local environment.
Contacting companies or authorities in Pakistan via e-mail or telephone, without prior personal acquaintance, only works sporadically. For initial contact, it is ideal to go to the territory in person – for example, as part of a visit to a fair, exhibition or conference. Of course, a personal recommendation works, e.g. through already established companies, traders or intermediaries. The embassy can also help with establishing the initial contact, which, through a commercial and economic diplomat, can forward the contact, arrange a meeting, etc.
In Pakistan, business negotiations are mostly conducted in English, which does not distinguish between ticking and chirping. In Urdu, on the other hand, it is distinguished and it is not appropriate to offer tickling at the first meeting. It can be accessed after some time and it only happens among locals. It is common knowledge, not only in Pakistan, that correct and accurate pronunciation of partners’ names is important when dealing with foreign partners. Names should not be adapted to our pronunciation or garbled in any way. The best solution is to find out the pronunciation of the name in advance.
Furthermore, the most common greeting in Pakistan is the right hand, but even before the covid era, the hand on the chest with a slight forward bend. The left hand is not given, it is generally considered unclean. An elder, a person of higher position, and a woman shake hands with a man, regardless of whether he is older or younger. During a private visit, men greet women and give a gift, they do not shake hands, during business meetings or other social occasions, the woman’s hand is usually given. Pakistanis do not kiss each other on the cheek or pat each other on the back when greeting.
Expect to be offered tea, coffee or light refreshments and prefer to accept them, even if refusing would not be considered disrespectful in an urban environment.
Preparation and timing of negotiations
Preparation is an absolutely indispensable part of the entire business meeting and a lot of emphasis is placed on it. Pakistanis have a habit of taking care of their business partners in such a way that they do not feel any shortage in the slightest. Careful preparation for the meeting itself also reduces the percentage of possible failure and thus increases the probability of a successful completion of the entire process. When preparing, it is important to know how many people will participate in the meeting, prepare the program of the business meeting, provide refreshments, gifts and prepare all the information that can help to complete it successfully. The host will take care of these aspects, including accommodation in a suitable hotel, corresponding to the level and services of the position held by the business partner. They will also provide transportation throughout his stay.
All details of the meeting and stay should be confirmed by letter, phone or e-mail about a month before the meeting itself. Pakistani culture is more of a monochronic culture where punctuality is emphasized. The business partner should come to the meeting on time, lateness is not tolerated very much and is received negatively. If business partners are close enough, WhatsApp is considered a popular and convenient form of communication in Pakistan. The meeting is most often arranged for the morning after 10:00 a.m. or after lunch, sometimes a working meeting is combined with an informal lunch. Working breakfasts are almost non-existent in Pakistan. When planning the meeting, non-working days, national and religious holidays must also be taken into account.
Invitation to lunch or dinner
Pakistanis are excellent hosts and take good care of their business partners. If they are important guests or partners with whom they have known each other for a long time and have friendly relations, a joint dinner is preferred over lunch, although they would prefer both options. Dinner is usually served much later than we are used to in the Czech Republic. Pakistanis usually have dinner late, around 10 p.m., but they are willing to accommodate guests from abroad to an earlier time.
Fork and spoon are most often used when eating. If it is a dinner in the circle of family or close friends, Pakistanis eat some foods directly with their right hand, for example the popular “chapati” (pancake) and scoop up the sauce with a torn piece. During a business lunch or dinner in a restaurant, the usual international dining rules are followed. He sits down at the table according to the instructions of the host or according to the previously prepared seating order. Visit Animalerts for more information about Pakistan culture and traditions.
Pakistani business cards are often double-sided, with one side written in English and the other in Urdu. Business cards are passed automatically when introducing yourself from hand to hand. Once received, its contents should be given a moment’s attention, should not remain completely unnoticed; it is then stored in a pocket or purse. Placing a business card on the table could be seen as a sign of disinterest and could be considered an insult. It is not recommended to enter a personal mobile number in business cards, but it is customary to add the number manually during or after the meeting.
During a private or business visit, it is advisable to bring some attention, a gift. If it is a private visit, the most common gift from the locals is sweets and fruit, most often mangoes, dates, chocolates or even a basket with different types of (fresh or dried) fruit. During a business visit, a woman won’t be offended by a bouquet, a souvenir will offend a man. Such a gift is usually given on the last day of a working visit, and Pakistanis often present foreigners with leather goods, a set, a rug, an object made of copper or marble. When gifting foreigners with an object from the Czech Republic, it is advisable to think about the fact that the gift reflects our culture or is related to the area in which the company does business.
In Pakistan, business meetings can be seen with a Western-style suit and tie, but men often wear traditional loose pants and a longer shirt together, called a “shalwar kameez.” They also wear a plain colored traditional vest over the traditional shalwar kameez. A European style of dressing is common in a foreign company. In government offices, multinational corporations, banks, etc., the common attire for (high-ranking) men is Western style. Business casual (pants and shirt) is the norm in all other offices. For formal meetings at the strategic level, the recommended attire is “business formal” (ie jacket, tie, trousers). Showing status is important because people will take you more seriously.
Women do not wear tight clothing under any circumstances and their legs and arms are covered. Local women wear a kurta, which has a different cut than the men’s shalwar, and a scarf over their heads. For formal meetings, women wear sarees, including state visits or European dresses. For women, business casual clothing is also appropriate, with or without a dupatta (a piece of thin cloth wrapped around the neck or used to cover the head). In higher business circles, discreet western wear with loose long tops covering the arms and long skirts or trousers is fine. Although it is not necessary to wear a scarf or a dupatta, a scarf is definitely a must if you are visiting holy places.
The course of business negotiations
The partner is invited to the office and offered water, light refreshments, tea or coffee, the refusal of which seems to be unacceptable to Pakistanis. Despite the strict prohibition of alcohol in the country, alcohol is usually offered in complete privacy. After the performance, there is usually an informal conversation, the host asks the accommodation partner if he was satisfied with the hotel’s services, or to the plans that the partner has after the end of the business meeting.
The initial phase of the meeting is devoted to the introduction of the parties, an informal conversation and familiarization with the agenda. When a business partner arrives, the host greets with a handshake and introduces both parties and any other participants in the meeting. Reciprocity does not play a role in this case. If it is a smaller company, the owner himself participates without a team. He will negotiate the contract and the rest will be taken care of by his authorized persons. Pakistanis are therefore individualists when it comes to decision-making and negotiation.
Pakistanis do not require as much personal space as most Western cultures. Therefore, they will stand close to you during the interview and you may feel that your personal space has been violated. In this case, do not back down.
The meeting itself takes place after moving to the conference room or in the office itself. Business negotiations tend to be lengthy and tend to be conducted in the sense of persuasion. After signing the contract, however, the Pakistani businessman does not tend to change anything in the contract. After the negotiations have been successfully concluded, a letter of intent is sent. This is the most important for Pakistani businessmen, and after its confirmation, a classic contract is often not even signed. Pakistani businessmen emphasize on trust which means more than any contract. In the event that a Czech business partner flies to Pakistan for the purpose of agreeing a contract, the contract is of course signed immediately.
Negotiation strategies and tactics
Pakistanis prefer a cooperative negotiation strategy. They are ready to compromise, do not use superiority and strength and are willing to make concessions, which they do not take as a sign of weakness, but rather as a sign of goodwill. Their main negotiation tactic is to set a high price with the aim of slowly retreating. They like to negotiate and trading is a certain emotional affair for them. They like to see the partner walk away believing that they have made a good deal, even though the deal was much better for the Pakistani businessman himself. However, expressions of anger, irritation, coercion or setting time limits are not part of the negotiations. In their opinion, malice does not belong in negotiations. But they do not leave the overall failure unnoticed, references play a big role in Pakistan, and if the affected company circulates a negative reference,
Other tactics include escalating the situation at the last minute. Since Pakistani businessmen like to meander and surprise with new proposals, it is not surprising that even at the last moment before the conclusion of the contract, they will present a different, modified proposal. It is customary that, due to the good knowledge of the English language of both business partners, an interpreter does not participate in the meeting. This leaves room for a tactic where one party can feign a misunderstanding or reverse a decision on the grounds that it misunderstood the agreement.
Topics for conversation
During the conversation, it is important to avoid some topics that may be sensitive or could offend the partner. Private matters such as children, wife, salary or sex should not be discussed. It is also better to avoid discussing Pakistan’s relations with India and Israel or criticizing local politics. On the contrary, suitable topics include weather, travel or culture. The conversation between business partners usually begins with the question of how the trip was, whether the accommodation that the local arranged for the foreigner is in order, whether he slept well and whether the hotel’s services meet his requirements. Pakistanis have a friendly nature, like to laugh and listen to jokes, which of course depends on how the business partners relate to each other. If we know the business partner and know what we can afford in front of him, then everything is fine. However, a stumbling block can be the different humor of nations, which reflects both their approaches and problems, as well as mutual relations both within the nation and with other nations. Therefore, not everyone always laughs at what seems funny to us, and it happens that some things are not funny, they even find them offensive. Jokes should definitely not be about the above inappropriate topics for conversation.
In business negotiations, it is normal that Pakistanis almost never cut to the chase and like to negotiate for a very long time before they are really satisfied with the outcome. Thus, the “direct-to-trade” approach, as stated in some publications, does not capture the way negotiations are conducted in the local environment. We should expect a longer duration and define a certain time reserve. During negotiations, one can notice their very expressive gesticulations, which they complement with their speech. It is important to realize what information they are conveying with their gestures, as well as the fact that hand movements during conversation are completely natural for them. Facial expressions and eye movements are just as expressive as hand gestures. They usually don’t look at them directly or for a long time, and since their movement is as fast as their hands when talking, there is no opportunity to do so. Regarding interpersonal distance, Pakistanis have a habit of keeping a certain distance. During a meeting, physical contact is only at the beginning and end of the meeting, when business partners shake hands. As with greetings, patting on the back or other similar contact is not common. Eye contact is important to maintain during a conversation, but staring is an exception. Women generally avoid eye contact.
Pakistan has a tropical and mainly inland subtropical climate characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Therefore, it is best to visit Pakistan between October and April to avoid both monsoon rains and really high temperatures. There are also large differences in temperature between day and night.
The people of Pakistan are very friendly people for whom family is very important as well as friends and they will help them at any time in case of need. Individualism, an excessive desire for privacy, the desire to accumulate material goods are foreign to them and are replaced by team spirit, openness, spiritual and religious values. They are also alien to excessive strictness in terms of time, from our point of view, their approach may seem lax, although they expect accuracy and punctuality from their business partner. Religion is a normal part of life for the people of Pakistan and this should be respected by all visitors. Before traveling to this country, it is advisable to inform yourself about local customs and cultural differences in order to avoid possible misunderstandings and inconveniences.
Working hours are different for banks, shops and government institutions. Banks are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some shops do not open until 10 a.m., but most are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. or 12 p.m. Banks and offices are open every day except Friday, when they are only open until 12 noon, and also except Sunday, when they are closed all day. Saturday is a regular working day and Friday is considered a day off.
Closed days include the following official public holidays: Kashmir Day (2/5), Pakistan National Day (3/23), Labor Day (5/1), Independence Day (8/14), Defense Day (6/9), commemoration of the death of the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e Azam (11/9), Iqbal Day (9/11), commemoration of the birth of Quaid-e Azam/Christmas holiday (25/12). There are also bank holidays on 7/1 and 12/31. In addition to these official public holidays, important religious holidays dependent on the Islamic lunar calendar are also celebrated. Among these holidays are the holiday commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice “Idul-Azha,” the tenth day of the month of Muharram celebrated by the Shias as the day of Husayn’s death “Ashura,” the fifteenth night of the eighth month of Shabaan “Shab-e Barat,” the day of Muhammad’s birth “Miladun-nabi,” the Islamic month during which fasting is observed, called “Ramadan/Ramazan” and also its last day “Idul-Fitr.