Howard Schweber in The South Asian Idea:
My first impression of Pakistani students was that they are … well, just college students. How utterly, disappointingly unexotic. Grade-conscious careerists, canny manipulators of the system, highly competitive … future engineers and finance majors.
But there are some differences, after all. That word “elite” comes into play, here. In the U.S., no college student would describe him or herself as “elite” – that word is primarily reserved for use as a political insult. Americans, notoriously, valorize the idea of belonging to “the middle class,” sometimes to a ludicrous degree. Pakistani students have no such compunctions, and are quite pleased to describe themselves and their family backgrounds by saying “we are the elites” and other words to that effect. Partly this tendency reflects an inherited colonialist culture, partly it reflects the reality of a deep economic divisions reflected in the ubiquitous servant culture that every American I spoke with privately described as jarring. American college students at top schools tend to have a sense of entitlement … but nothing that compares with the “elite” classes of Pakistani society.