Considering a move to Karachi. What should I know?
February 4, 2022 11:17 PM   Subscribe

While it's not clear yet if I will be offered this job, I will have a short window to decide should I be the finalist. This would be a big undertaking, and so I'm trying to figure out now what this move would mean. Finding non-sensationalist reporting or practical information on Karachi is proving difficult. (I've tried r/Pakistan, r/Karachi, and various YouTube vlogs) More below the fold.

I would be moving with my partner. Neither of us speak Urdu or any other language commonly spoken in Pakistan, besides English. My partner excels at learning languages, less so myself (though I've studied Arabic, which I understand has a degree of cognates with Urdu, and obviously uses the same script). We are both white Americans, though I'm a bit ambiguous, while my partner is unmistakably white. Heterosexual, unmarried, but would get hitched before moving as I presume this would make life easier. I have experience living in Muslim countries, in megacities on the scale of Karachi and with similar levels of poverty, so I have a basic idea of what I'd be getting into.

But I do have questions. Some are practical:
1. How much money would two people need to earn to live comfortably based on basic US-standards (i.e. reliable electricity, Internet, running water, etc.)? What sort of rent prices are we looking at for a 2br, and which neighborhoods would be suitable? I'm aware of DHA, but what else?
2. Transport: How hard is it to drive in Karachi? How difficult would it be to navigate public transportation with limited Urdu? How expensive are taxis?
3. How much of the city is relatively safe to visit/travel around, and is it fairly easy to learn which areas are to be avoided?

And some questions are more general:
1. How easy would it be to make friends? I could expect to make work friends, but how hard would it be to have friends outside of work?
2. How might life be different for me (as a woman) compared to my male partner?
3. How do Karachites have fun? What sorts of leisure activities would be available to us?
4. Would we adjust to the weather, and how long would it take? We've lived in really hot/muggy places before, but never anywhere that was that way pretty much year-round.
5. Anything else you can share that might better help us imagine our lives in Karachi, positives or negatives.


(Posting this anonymously since there is enough identifying info linked to my username, and this job search isn't finalized)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't want to give away any identifying info either so I'll keep this vague and just say I have Sindhi family and respond to the language bit for you. I have studied Arabic for many years and I speak/understand several languages from the subcontinent. I would urge you to learn Urdu. Perso-Arabic cognates are in most languages of the northern half of the subcontinent but that will not help you communicate other than understand a random word here and there. Knowing Urdu wouldn't help you pass as a local but will signal that you are immersed in the region - this will help! Good luck!
posted by bigyellowtaxi at 1:04 AM on February 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

How easy would it be to make friends?

Are you hoping to make local, Pakistani friends, or "expat" friends?
posted by trig at 3:49 AM on February 5, 2022

I've never lived in Karachi, but have been a frequent visitor. One thing which is very important to understand is that the city, and other urban centers, are all very class-stratified. As a foreigner, you would be mostly interacting with middle and upper-middle class parts of the city, and with people in those social spheres, and many of the things that are safe for them would be ok for you to do as well.

One important thing to note is that nearly all Pakistanis at this social strata can communicate in English, and so you would not *need* to learn Urdu if you did not need it for your job. If you lived in the DHA, or some other middle/upper class enclave (I dont know if there are others in Karachi), you would not need English to get around, or to make friends. Most shop keepers in this area also know enough English for you to get by.

Most people at this economic level do not use public transport, and many of the women I know consider it unsafe for them, as being upper/middle class and a woman both make you targets for robbery, harassment, etc. You could get around using apps like Uber (but not uber, which I think has been banned), or you could buy a car and hire a driver (I think monthly pay is in the 45,000 pkr range on the high end). You would be able to move around in the city in the areas upper and middle class women frequent safely, but you would have to learn the context cues that tell you which places are unsafe. This caution around public space might be one of the main things that would make your life different from your male partner, although as a foreigner he would probably have to be careful too. Girls at Dhabas (street cafes) is a local movement focusing on reclaiming public space that might give you more context for public space in Karachi

You can get all inclusive apartments in the DHA, with internet, electricity, and parking included for under a 1000$, though I do not know exact pricing.

There are tons of leisure activities available in Karachi, I think it really depends on what you are looking for.

A lot will also depend on your job, and what kinds of people it gives you access to.

Feel free to memail - I've lived in Pakistan and done research over there, so I will probably know a little about most things you are curious about.

posted by MFZ at 11:27 AM on February 5, 2022 [17 favorites]

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