Thinking about what it is like for me to live here, and trying to put it into words for anyone thinking to do the same is difficult. I don't want to complain too much, because it is just depressing, but it is important to see all sides. I have been here in Karachi for more than 2 years, and I was in the UAE for a year before that. I have never left Karachi and have no experience with what life is like elsewhere in Pakistan.
Also, any Pakistani who would like to comment please do, I think there are some things that only those born to a place will be able to understand. I would like to get input on what you view as the positives and negatives of life here. Please do keep in mind the comment policy of this blog, on the bar at the top of the page. I am not trying to attack Pakistan/Pakistanis, just showing what I view as the negatives of living here, I can only speak to what I have seen and experienced, in my own family and area of the city.
Pakistan is a very difficult place to live. I will not sugar coat it for you. It has some benefits and many drawbacks. You just have to look at your particular situation and decide if you can take the negatives and live with them so that you also get the positive benefits.
I like to see the positives, but for anyone who wants to move here it is important to see all sides, here are some of the negatives-
Water is a big problem, we only drink and cook with bottled water. We have tried to get used to the "meetha pani", that everyone else drinks, but it makes us violently ill every time without exception. You may have to use bottled water as well. This can get expensive, we use the big water cooler types(5/6 gallons), and get eight to ten delivered weekly. They are 70 Rs each.
Food is another issue. What we cook ourselves is no problem but when eating any type of outside food we are very careful, because cleanliness is questionable in many of the smaller restaurants/food stands. Also prices increase all the time, especially during Ramadhan. Last year in Ramadhan sugar was double the price it is right now, and basic foods like chickpeas, besan, dals, got very expensive also.
Electricity is a major issue, in Karachi is it getting worse and worse because it is summer now and in some areas of Pakistan they have no lights for 18-20 hours a day.
Muslim country-this is both a negative and a positive. It is nice to go to the market and find abayat, scarves, niqabs, and modest clothing very easily. I love the fact that I can hear the adhan anywhere in my house. But as a foreigner it can be hard(depends on where you live) to find places that can teach you(especially if you don't speak Urdu very much).
I do like the way I don't get stared at for wearing abaya, but that is because they are too busy staring at me because I am a woman. Even when wearing an abaya/hijab/niqab, I still get cat-called, and stared at as if I were naked. Some store keepers try to brush my hand when handing me my items, or try to flirt by complimenting you on what is visible-white hands/feet, blue eyes, you have to watch out. This is why I prefer to go with my husband rather than his sisters, so they don't try sleazy stuff.
Corruption/bribery-it is endemic, top to bottom it is everywhere.
Begging-beggars are everywhere, it can be heart breaking. It is difficult to tell if they are truly needy or just scamming. I have come home from the market several times in tears, because I just can't help enough, and I don't like to say no. I get depressed because there is no real safety net for people who truly need help, little elderly men and women, who should be at home, being taken care of by family, either have no family or have been turned out as a another mouth to feed.
Healthcare-HMMMMM, Both the baby and I have been ill on multiple occasions(mostly due to the water, and also the milk). Once the baby was so ill he had to have an IV, while we were in the hospital a cat walked right through the room. This was in a medium nice hospital. There are very nice hospitals, but they cost a lot. If you have serious chronic health issues it would be wise to really think twice(or three to four times) about moving overseas.
Since or son is so little and we are planning to go home we have not enrolled him in a school here(we also worry a bit about security issues). I have no real experience of schools here except second hand information from my DH and his sisters about what they learned. There seem to be rather large gaps, for instance WWI and WWII(any Pakistanis please correct me if I am wrong in this). Tariq learned all he knows about it from war movies he watched in the US, and his sisters had only a vague notion that there had been some wars before Pakistan was formed. I guess it would be different depending on what schools you send your children to, and maybe things have changed recently, since Tariq's smallest sister is now 21.
Politics/violence-ugg, I try no to think about this, at the local level political parties can often be run more like gangs. Also, especial in Karachi, there are "target killings", someone from one political party/ethnic group/tribe, will go out and kill someone from another political party/ethnic group/tribe, as a way of taking revenge or scaring a group of people. Last week a couple streets over from us, a man was shot dead in the middle of a crowded street for not allowing a thief to snatch his mobile phone.