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Cultural Conversations - Unravelling the Shared Threads of Belfast and Pakistan

Rimsha explores the cultural differences and similarities between Pakistan and Belfast and shares how she's embraced and adapted to her new cultural environment.

Two students talking outside the Graduate School

Picture a student from the sun-drenched lanes of Karachi, now exchanging the relentless Pakistani heat for the mild drizzles of Belfast. It's more than a change in surroundings; it's a cultural flip with surprises around every corner. No Hollywood theatrics, just the everyday realities of a student navigating between two cities—a story as unpredictable as the Irish weather and as vibrant as a Pakistani wedding procession.

Navigating the Belfast dialect

Considering my passion for movies, I believed I was equipped to handle the British accent. Yet, my confidence wavered when I discovered that my extensive movie marathon, complete with English subtitles, couldn't entirely close the linguistic gap. Was I watching the wrong films, or had I inadvertently entered a world of linguistic puzzles?

What's the craic? Check out our NI vocab guide

Little did I know, I was in for a surprise as Belfast had its own dialect. Now, here's the gem of Belfast's linguistic charm: the locals not only understand your struggle but willingly blame themselves for it. It's a cultural phenomenon, where they genuinely believe that their accent is the culprit. You could be standing there, politely asking them to repeat their sentence for the third time, and they'll sigh and say, "Ah, it's this accent of mine, isn't it?’’ It's endearing and it's hilarious, that makes Belfast's linguistic landscape a delightful puzzle to unravel.

Belfast's umbrella culture

Hailing from Pakistan, a place where rain is practically telegraphed a day in advance, I encountered a whole new umbrella culture in Belfast. Longing for the sun that used to barbecue me back in Pakistan, and now, umbrellas have become my fashion statement - rain or shine, always in style.

Commercial Court Belfast

Commercial Court, Belfast

However, the practical twist in Belfast is that rain often comes with a side of strong winds, turning each raindrop into an eager performer. Every now and then, my umbrella takes on a rebellious stance, flipping itself inside out, and I am left contemplating whether it's defending me from the rain or storing water for my houseplants. But, hey, every cloud has a silver lining!

The rain in Belfast isn't just a shower; it's a spa day for the local greenery, transforming the streets into a vibrant oasis. So, even when my umbrella rebels, it becomes a charming addition to the practical allure that makes Belfast's weather such an intriguing ride.

A shared love for tea

Belfast and Pakistan share a deep love for tea, turning the simple act of sipping into a meaningful experience that unites their cultures. Let's delve into the rich tapestry of tea traditions that tie Belfast and Pakistan together, celebrating the beauty of our shared love for this beloved beverage. In Pakistan, we add excitement to our evenings by dunking rusks in tea, making this daily ritual an extraordinary adventure.

Various types of tea leaves on top of teaspoons

Pakistan and Belfast have a shared love of tea

Meanwhile, in Belfast, teatime is like a delightful performance - from selecting the best loose-leaf tea to infusing it just right for that perfect flavour while transforming your cozy mug into a sanctuary. Regardless of the weather outside, holding a warm cup feels magical. It's not just about drinking tea; it's like taking joy with every sip regardless of what surprises the weather may bring!

Also worth noting: while Pakistan sticks to its universally beloved traditional teas, Belfast has introduced me to various personal preferences - from classic English Breakfast teas to aromatic blends like Earl Grey. Whether dipping rusks or enjoying a cup of Earl Grey at our cultural mix-and-match gathering over tea time, we create unique tastes together which lovingly embrace each culture one lovely cup at once.

Etiquette codes

Expressing gratitude and saying sorry in Belfast is as tricky as navigating Candy Crush. In Pakistan, simply nodding communicates our thanks without having to say anything. It's a subtle form of communication where others can easily grasp your appreciation without any outward display on your part. But hold on tight—there's an entirely new etiquette spectacular in Belfast. A quick "sorry" or "thank you" does the trick, cutting through the drama of elaborate charades. I've seen Belfast locals apologising for things that aren't even their fault.

Two students walking through campus

Belfast was voted one of the top 15 friendliest cities in Europe (Conde Nast Traveller, Readers' Choice Awards 2021)

Imagine this: accidentally cross their path, and bam, you're hit with a heartfelt "sorry." And the "thank you" spectacle? It's a daily hit. I've been thanked for just existing, for a random sidestep in a hurry—leaving me wondering what heroic act I unknowingly pulled off. Feeling puzzled? Just ask—chances are, they'll apologise for the confusion and thank you for seeking clarification.

A shared dance floor

Whether it's the vibrant festivals in Pakistan or the lively happenings in Belfast, the joy of celebration is like a shared dance floor. Even if the cultural beats differ, the heartwarming vibe of gathering, sharing laughs, and diving into tasty treats is a universal experience that resonates in both worlds.

Belfast cityscape from Grand Central Hotel

Similarly, the warmth of the people remains constant. In Karachi, strangers become friends over a cup of chai, and in Belfast, the locals welcome you with open arms. The sense of community and the genuine curiosity to learn about each other's backgrounds create an environment that feels like an extended family, regardless of geographical origins. It's a global celebration where festivals and warm welcomes become the common language that transcends borders.

Find out more

Pakistan: Admissions Guide

More blogs about Belfast and NI

Rimsha Ali Siddiqui

MSc Marketing | Postgraduate Student | Pakistan

Greetings from Pakistan! Delighted to be a part of Queen's, where I'm navigating the exciting realm of marketing—a field that truly captivates me.

I am passionate about blending creativity with strategy, I'm here to make a mark and infuse the essence of marketing into every aspect of my student journey. Let's connect and explore the dynamic world of marketing together!

Rimsha Ali Siddiqui