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Customs & Traditions in Afghanistan

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

General Etiquette

  • Do not call Afghans “Arabs” or “Middle Eastern”. Afghanistan is not located in the Middle East. It is a South Central Asian country composed of many different ethnicities, none of which are Arab.

  • Avoid asking questions that assume Afghan people are uneducated or uncivilized, such as “Do you have phones in Afghanistan?”. Many Afghan migrants living in English-speaking countries are skilled, educated, urbanized, and familiar with the technologies of the developed world.

  • Use your right hand or both hands together to gesture or offer anything.

  • Should not touch people of the opposite gender unless they are very close family or friends.

  • Leave the door open if talking one-to-one with an Afghan of the opposite gender.

  • It is extremely inappropriate and disrespectful for men to enquire about an Afghan man’s female family members unless you know the family or person well.

  • If you wish to smoke, it is polite to offer a cigarette to everyone in your company.

  • Ask an Afghan’s permission before taking their photograph especially if they are a woman.

  • It is rude to walk away from someone while they are still talking to you.

  • It is very difficult to be punctual during one’s daily activities in Afghanistan as various incidents often occur (whether it be a pressing family matter, terrible traffic in cities, roadblocks, a power outage, or an insurgent-related threat).

  • Be sure to offer everything multiple times in return. If you only offer something once, an Afghan person may respond, “No, it’s okay”, out of modesty and politeness even though they meant to accept the second offer.

  • Be careful when you compliment an item in an Afghan’s house, as they may feel forced to offer it to you as a gift. If they try to give it to you, insist that you appreciate their gesture but do not want to take it.

  • Avoid telling dirty jokes or making fun of someone in a humiliating way. Such humor is unlikely to be appreciated.

  • Do not push an Afghan to tell you about their family. Some people have been separated from relatives or had family members killed. Others may be hesitant to talk about the family they have left in Afghanistan out of fear that it could endanger them.


  • The family is the most important unit in the Afghan culture.

  • Women are generally responsible for household duties, whereas men typically take the role of the breadwinners. In the cities, professional women do exist.

  • Families commonly arrange marriages for their children.

  • Families traditionally live together in the same place, known as the Kala. When a son gets married he and his wife begin their married lives in a room in his family house.