Afghan Refugees

Culture Orientation for Host Nations


Dari and Pashto are the official languages of Afghanistan. There are six more official languages: Uzbeki, Turkmen, Baluchi, Pashai, Nuristani, and Pamiri. Dari, also called Farsi, is Afghan Persian and is used as the language of education in Afghanistan for the past several decades. Pashto is the language of the Pashtuns. It is estimated that one third of the Pashtuns live in Afghanistan and the remaining two-thirds in Pakistan. Most Afghan Pashtuns live in southern and eastern Afghanistan.


Afghans tend to identify themselves by their tribe or ethnicity, not as “Afghan. There are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Nuristanis, Baluchis, and Pashai and more.


As such, the following culture orientation for the host cultures receiving Afghan refugees is meant to be a guide, not hard and fixed rules, as Afghan culture varies from group to group, how educated or uneducated, village vs. city, high status or low status, etc.

The material is written to show the host nationalities receiving Afghan refugees insight into how the Afghan refugee may be viewing culture, and hopefully will provide empathy when there is misunderstanding and/or miscommunication as Afghans learn the new culture in which they find themselves in the fall of 2021.

Obviously, this guide cannot answer all the questions that may arise. If you are unsure how to handle something, ask the older Afghan what you should do, but also ask someone who has more experience with shame/honor cultures as they may be able to offer some awareness as well.