We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.

In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:

A primer on how to avoid mistakes in

Afghanistan culture photo

Photo by Todd Huffman

Afghanistan is an ethnically diverse country. Tribal and local allegiances are strong, which complicates national politics immensely. The largest ethnic group is the Pashtun, followed by Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek and others. Baloch tribesmen, still largely nomadic, can be found anywhere between Quetta in Pakistan and Mashad in Iran, including much of Western Afghanistan.

They make marvellous rugs, if somewhat simple. There are about three thousand Hindus and Sikhs living in different cities of the country but mostly in Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar who belong to the Punjabi, Sindhi, Kabuli, and Kandhari ethnic groups. Hazaras in the Central mountains look much more Asiatic than other Afghans. According to some theories, many of them are descended from Ghengis Khan’s soldiers. The two largest linguistic groups speak Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian).

Pashto speakers predominate in the South and East, Dari in North, West and central Afghanistan. About 11% of the population have Turkic languages, Uzbek or Turkmen, as their first language. Many of them are in the North, near Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Minor native language groups include Nuristani, Dardic and Pamiri, found in small pockets in the east and northeast.

Women in all parts of Afghanistan wear the burqa or chadori. On the other hand, many urbanized women in Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif don’t wear the burqa but rather put on the middle eastern style hijab, which is similar to Iranian fashion. Burqa or chadori are also rather uncommon in the Wakhan valley, which borders with Tajikistan.

Western women are highly encouraged to wear a head scarf (especially outside Kabul). Showing the bottom of the foot is considered rude. The farther south you go the more conservative the people are. Nevertheless, the average Pashtun -as well as other Afghans- follow Pashtunwali, a strict 2,000-year-old code of hospitality.

With this, you had the primer on key facts about Afghanistan, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Afghanistan food and drinks:

Local food you should try in Afghanistan and No miss drinks in Afghanistan.

Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Afghanistan? Please comment below.