Government: Islamic republic
Official Language(s): Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian/Farsi)
Population: 35.53 million (2017)
Ethnic Make-up: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 19%, other 1%
Culture and Society: Islam is practiced by the majority of Afghanis and governs much of their personal, political, economic and legal lives.
Dress: Afghan women typically wear a two-piece outfit consisting of loose trousers worn under a tunic with a high neck and long sleeves. Afghan men also wear a long tunic over baggy trousers and often wear a vest over the tunic.
Food: largely based upon the nation's chief crops: wheat, maize, barley and rice. Accompanying these staples are native fruits and vegetables as well as milk, yogurt, and whey. Kabuli Palaw is the national dish.
The family is the single most important unit in the Afghan culture
Men and women's roles are much more defined along traditional lines
Families commonly arrange marriages for their children
Families traditionally live together in the same walled compound, known as the “kala”. When a son gets married he and his wife begin their married lives in a room under the same roof
Hospitality is an essential aspect of Afghan culture
No matter who you are, if you visit a home you will be given the best the family has, which relates back to the idea of gaining honor.
notes for foreigners
Welcome: Salâm Welcome: Pakheyr
Hello: As-salâmo 'alaykom Hello: Khe chare or Salaam
Goodbye: Xudâ hâfez Goodbye: Da khoday pa amaan
Thank you: Tašakor Thank you: Manana
Social Etiquette, Customs and Protocol
Meeting and Greeting
When meeting someone, the handshake is the most common form of greeting. People also place their hands over their hearts and nod slightly.
One should always inquire about things like a person's health, business, family, etc.
Women and men will never shake hands let alone speak directly to one another
Eye contact should also be avoided between men and women. Between men, eye contact is acceptable as long as it is not prolonged.
Free mixing between genders only takes places within families
Should a woman extend her hand, it would be acceptable for a man to shake it
In professional situations such as at businesses or universities, males and females may be co-workers, but are nevertheless cautious to maintain each other's honor
If a man speaks to a woman directly in a social context, he is dishonoring them. If someone speaks to a woman on the street, that is equally inappropriate. Women should avoid looking men in the eyes, keeping their eyes lowered when walking down the street to
Women must always wear loose fitting pants under skirts and be sure the definition of their legs is indistinguishable. It is also strongly advisable to wear a headscarf in public.
Foreign men should note that it is inappropriate to initiate social conversation with an Afghani woman. Additionally, one should not ask a male about his wife or female relatives.
Men and women should never be alone in the same room. If this happens typically a door is left open.
Personal Space and Touching
At least an arm's length of personal space is common when speaking to members of the opposite gender. This space tends to be closer with members of the same gender.
Male friends often walk holding hands or with their arms around each other, but men and women hardly ever display any form of physical affection in public
Between friends and family members of the same gender, touching of the shoulders, and back slapping are common during conversations
There is no touching between genders after the initial handshake, and only if the woman offers her hand
Business meetings do not usually begin on time, however it is a good idea for a foreigner to be punctual
Small talk almost always precedes any formal conversations. It's appropriate to inquire about one's health, families, etc., before dealing with business
The "get to the point" mentality is usually seen as rude. Setting a friendly mood will get you a lot further than trying to be direct about anything.
Interruptions are quite common and agendas tend to be followed loosely if at all. It's best to remain patient and follow along.
Don’t point the toe, heel or any part of the foot at a person
Don’t show the sole of your foot or use the foot to move anything as it is viewed as the lowliest body part
It is very rude for men and women to show affection to each other in public
Avoid winking as it is generally construed as a come on
It is polite to accept offer of tea when visiting homes and some offices. Rejecting the offer will most likely result in offending the person offering.