How an expat lives in Karachi


With things becoming more and more settled in Pakistan politically and socially I thought it was time that I shared a bit about my life beneath the headlines. Although it is not a life quite as angst in danger as some of my friends might think, it is remarkably unique in the context of a place like Karachi and does bring me across some very interesting characters, Andrew Webster of the BBC reports.
My international community: Seeing international people in Pakistan at the moment is somewhat of a rarity to say the least. Karachi is not most people’s idea of a holiday destination and the international diplomats and businessmen that are here are kept firmly behind locked doors.
For me though, international people in Karachi are the norm. I live in an apartment with friends from Kenya, Singapore, Canada, Switzerland, Hungary and Slovakia (as well as Pakistan). We are all recent graduates who have come here for work experience placements and for the challenge of ‘experiencing Pakistan’. Whereas most people are posted here, we are the small group of people who have chosen to come to Pakistan to see what all of the fuss is about, and to be honest we have a lot of fun finding out.
Because we are so unique we seem to slip under the radar. Whereas most people visiting Pakistan are pre-occupied with comfort and safety, we live in relatively normal circumstances – going to work in rickshaws, eating from the local food bars and travelling the length of the country by train. This gives us what I would like to think of as a more ‘real picture’ of Pakistan and certainly generates a lot of interest from the average man on the street.
Interesting expats: Another community of people equally as interesting is the community of expatriates who, despite all of the country’s turmoil, have come to call Karachi home. And let’s face it, there’s no place like home!
I’ve got involved in this community through joining the GITS (golfers in trouble society) who meet for a game and a drink every Sunday, and through joining the committee of the United Kingdom Association of Pakistan; an organisation whose next event is a croquet and Pimms afternoon.
To live in Pakistan for such a long period of time requires strength of character and a healthy sense of humour, and the expats I know certainly have that in abundance. What they also have though, is unique and interesting stories to tell about their path to Pakistan. They range from my friend Matthew who has set up his home in Karachi with his four children that he adopted from an orphanage in Sierra Leone, to Ronnie who started working abroad a decade ago after accepting a job only to later realise it was based in Saudi Arabia.
It is a weighty commitment though, being involved in the expatriate community, purely because the social calendar is jam-packed. If it’s not the golf on a Sunday, it’s the Rose and Crown bar on a Friday night, or a house party or a trip to the beach. When you think about it, it’s difficult to imagine a group of settled expats negotiating a busy social calendar oblivious to the scaremongering headlines in their home countries… but trust me, it definitely exists.
Queens English: Alongside my busy work and social calendar I have started to give English lessons two evenings a week at a new English Language Centre, called Queens English. However, this is no normal language centre, but has been set up by a guy migrating from the UK to Pakistan to fulfill his dream.
Rizwan has Pakistani origins but is as London as they come, after spending the majority of his life in the capital. He moved to Pakistan two years ago with the goal of starting his own school and as a result Queens English opened in Karachi six months ago.
The school teaches English at all levels and the opportunity to help out with the teaching has added a huge amount to my Pakistan experience. The school has a fun, informal setting and I’ve got to know many more Pakistanis through it than I might have otherwise. They certainly give me a different perspective of Karachi as compared to the one I get from the high flying expats!
This network of people have become the cornerstone of my time in Pakistan, and I feel really lucky to have such an interesting and diverse range of people so close.
When reading about Pakistan in the news or watching it on the television it is easy to have visions of a country ripped apart at the seams. But it just goes to show that even in places like Karachi life does go on for the many amidst the chaos. In fact I am finding that it is strikingly easy to live with a certain amount of normalcy here even for a Cambridgeshire-born boy like myself.