In general, Iranians are kind, polite, and giving people who are fascinated by outsiders and different cultures. The following traditions and etiquette guidelines may be helpful while interacting with Iranians:
Despite its well-known stringent Islamic moral code, Iranian regulations are not as severe as those of other nations such as Saudi Arabia. Respecting the hundreds of unwritten norms and regulations of Iranian life may be intimidating for visitors, but don’t be put off. As a foreigner, you will be granted freedom, and it will not take long for you to adjust.
The civilization, like the majority of those in the Middle East and Central Asia, has a long history of hospitality. Guests are often treated very nicely. On the other side, there is some insularity; any stranger is likely to be treated with mistrust. In Persian, for Mr. and Mrs., they use “Aghaye [name], Khanoome [name], and they utilize plural verbs and pronouns out of respect. They often welcome by extending their hand to shake or/and offer a hug, as is customary in the Middle East. And they’ll say: Kheili Khosh Amadid. (For greeting, say “Welcome!” If you are a male, do not try to shake hands with a woman until she extends her hand willingly. When you meet a seated, he or she will rise.
The majority of Iranians are not Arabs, and their main language is Persian (also known as Farsi or Parsi). In general, referring to them as “Arabs” may annoy them. Iranians are very proud of their history, nationality, and country, and they are quite sensitive to this.
Iran has a documented history and a civilization that dates back over 4,000 years. It was captured three times: once by the Greeks under Alexander in the fourth century BCE, once by the Arabs in the eighth century CE, and once by the Mongols in the thirteenth. The term “Persia” is of Greek origin and is given to Iran. “Persian” and “Iranian” are not synonymous, since Iran is home to several ethnic groups, including Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Arab, Baluchi, and Mazandarani. Following the Arab invasion, the Persian alphabet was replaced by an Arabic-based one. Indeed, the term “Farsi” is an Arabic articulation of the word “Parsi,” which originally meant “Persian.” Many loan terms from the Arabic language are now used in the Persian language. Some Persian terms have also made their way into Arabic. Kurdish, Persian, and Balochi are all Western Iranian languages, while Pashto is Eastern Iranian. Persian is the official language of three countries: Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, and it is spoken in 13 other countries in the area as well as by the Iranian diaspora worldwide.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Iran was often exposed to adverse political intervention by the Russian Empire and its successor, the Soviet Union. The British, and later the United States, attempted to influence and control Iran’s politics, resources, and destiny. Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein and backed by the majority of the world, attacked and invaded Iran in 1980, resulting in a brutal 8-year war that severely harmed the country’s infrastructure and depleted its resources.
Given the above, the Iranian people believe that history has not always been on their side and that the international community owes them respect and compassion.
The modest clothing required of Iranian residents is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the country’s Islamic leanings. Although regular Western-style attire is allowed in private houses, women are expected to cover everything except their faces, hands, and feet when out in public.
The most popular uniform is a head scarf (roo-sari, ) to cover the head and neck, a formless, knee-length coat known as a manteau (), and a long dress or pair of trousers. In holy places, you will be required to dress even more modestly in a chdor, a full-length swath of black fabric intended to conceal everything but your face.
As a foreigner, a female tourist is required to cover her hair and body, save for her hands and feet. Foreigners are usually tolerated more than Iranian women when it comes to the details of the dress code. This does not, however, involve letting one’s hair completely exposed under any circumstances. In the summer, a “appropriate” attire could include a long, loose dress or blouse worn over a loose skirt or trousers and a scarf, and in the winter, a full-length woolen coat and scarf (calf-length is acceptable if worn over pants). All colors and patterns that are modest in nature are allowed. Even while participating in public sports activities (such as tennis or running), the above-mentioned clothing code must be followed.
Men must also adhere to the following dress code: Short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are appropriate for everyday use. Only shorts and three-quarter length pants are permitted on the beach. Men’s dress clothing is comparable to that seen in Europe. Neckties should be avoided while visiting one of the more conservative government agencies. Neckties are seen by the government to be a symbol of Imperialism and a harbinger of the pro-western monarchy period, and are thus prohibited for officials and office employees in state-run businesses. Outside, it is perfectly permissible, but it implies apathy for or hostility to governmental laws and ideals. For males, jogging in tracksuits (but not shorts) is allowed.
Individuals of the same sex should be greeted with a handshake, three kisses, or both, while people of the opposing sex should avoid physical contact in public. Instead, wait for them to introduce themselves, or just introduce yourself regularly. (Bowing with your hand over your heart has been out of style since the 1970s and is seldom seen nowadays.) Shake hands with a member of the opposing sex only when he or she extends his or her hand first.
Be wary about starting political debates. The relative political openness of ex-President Mohammad Khatami’s period is rapidly disappearing, and outspoken resistance may be more hassle than it’s worth, even if your Iranian friends join in. It is better not to address sensitive issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the role of Islam in society, regardless of your point of view.
Tarof is a real Persian politeness that emphasizes both self-deference and social status. The phrase refers to a variety of social behaviors, ranging from a guy showing etiquette by opening the door for another person to a group of coworkers standing on ceremony in front of a door that can only let one person through at a time, pleading with the most senior to break the stalemate.
The predominance of tarof often leads to negotiating techniques that vary from those seen in European or North American cultures. A worker negotiating a salary, for example, may begin with a eulogy of the boss, followed by a long negotiation session consisting solely of indirect, courteous language – all sides are supposed to grasp the implicit subject of discussion. It is very typical for an Iranian worker (even one working in an Iranian neighborhood inside Europe) to labor free for a week or two before discussing pay. Similarly, a merchant may refuse to name a price for an item at first, implying that it is worthless. Tarof forces the client to insist on paying, perhaps many times, before a merchant ultimately estimates a price and the actual bargaining begins.
Tarof also controls hospitality rules: a host is obligated to provide everything a visitor may want, and a guest is equally obligated to reject it. This process may be repeated many times until the host and visitor decide if the host’s offer and the guest’s rejection are genuine or just polite. It is possible to request that someone not tarof (tarof näkonid), but this introduces additional complications since the request itself may be a cunning kind of tarof. The best way to deal with Tarof is to be straightforward yet courteous. Accept or reject as quickly as you want, knowing that Iranians will not be upset. Despite the fact that Tarof is simply about the art of politeness, your participation in Tarof may lead to a vicious circle of hypocrisy that will spoil your whole stay. The exception may be food; as previously said, visitors are required to accept food given during dinner, regardless of whether they plan to eat it.
Visiting sacred places
Although no journey to Iran is complete without seeing the magnificent architecture and solemn settings of its mosques or sacred sites, many visitors are intimidated by the idea of entering the alien world of a mosque. Don’t let your concerns deter you; Iranians are kind and will understand any unintentional violation of etiquette.
Some mosques and the majority of holy sites demand women to wear a chdor before entering the compound. If you don’t have one, there are usually booths at the entrance that lend or rent chdors. Inside a mosque or shrine, males should wear long-sleeved shirts, but this is not required.
Shoes are not permitted in mosques or shrines where prayers are held. In busier mosques, there are free shoe repositories where you may exchange your shoes for a token. Also, try to avoid mosques on Fridays since they will be considerably crowded, and don’t photograph a mosque when prayers are in session.
Non-Muslims are generally not permitted to enter holy shrines like as those in Mashad and Qom, but the surrounding complexes are acceptable. Always inquire first before entering a room you are unfamiliar with.
In Iran, the thumbs up sign is considered highly impolite, approximately comparable to raising the middle finger in Western nations.
Hitchhiking is uncommon in Iran, since the nation has a well-developed public transit system. If you hitchhike, don’t give a thumbs up. Instead, extend your hand, palm down, and move it up and down below the waist in a gesture similar to a British driver’s hand indicating that he is stopping for a pedestrian crossing. As in Japan, if you are clearly an outsider, you are likely to make quick and amicable progress. Also, keep in mind that drivers usually want to be paid, and hitchhiking is frequently more costly than riding the bus, unless you are an experienced haggler.
Contrary to common perception, public practice of various faiths is officially allowed in Iran, with the exception of the Baha’i faith and Ahmadiyyah. There has a significant Christian population, the most of whom are ethnic Armenians or Assyrians/Chaldeans, as well as a tiny Jewish population (which is nevertheless, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel). Aside from the Abrahamic religions, there exist a sizable number of Zoroastrians who are essentially free to practice their own religion.
However, keep in mind that this is still a conservative Muslim nation, and avoid doing or saying anything that might be seen as an offense to Islam. It’s also worth noting that Islamic clothing rules still apply to non-Muslims.
Western music and dancing in public are prohibited. Visitors may note, however, that even shared taxis freely play music of their choosing. However, customs may seize any music cassettes or CDs brought into the country since certain western music is deemed un-Islamic, demeaning to women, and damaging to the minds of the young. Many Iranian youngsters, on the other hand, have easy access to a broad range of music. Women are not permitted to sing in public (including traditional music); they may only perform in private for other women.