If you are planning to visit Iran, you will be interacting with a lot of Iranian people. Here is a closer look at Iranian people which should help you know what to expect in your interactions with them.
Iranian people by nature are very warm, friendly, respectful and formal. Most people mainly speak Persian (Farsi) and it helps to learn a few basic words and phrases in Farsi to get by. In case you are lost, seeking directions or making purchases at stores this will help you get your message across.
Iranians, both men and women are fashion conscious and love to dress in their best. Life in Iran is governed by fashion and trends that change very quickly. The Islamic dress code is applicable everywhere in Iran and is strictly enforced, something all visitors need to be aware of and adhere to.
Iranians love having people over and a visit to Iran almost always means your friends will invite you over for a meal or high tea. You will be treated to tea, dry fruits, gez, sohaan, salted nuts, cream puffs and delicious meals of freshly baked breads, broths, chicken and meat with rice.
Should you be invited to an Iranian home, do not forget to carry gifts – soghaati, that could be anything you would like to give. Flowers, sweets, cakes and cream puffs are commonly carried to any Iranian home you plan to visit.
If you have a meeting with an Iranian, typically expect people to arrive a little late as they tend to be very laid back. They are passionate and easy going all at once because they strongly believe in certain things and are ready to go all the way in their pursuit of something.
Most celebrations in Iran are governed by the Zoroastrian faith which was the first religion in Iran until Iran was invaded by the Arabs in the 7th century. However modern day Iran has a majority of Shia Muslims and a number of Sunnis, Christians among people from other faiths.
Iranian Culture – Iranian Etiquette & Manners
Family is the foundation of Iran's social structure and is much more private than in many other societies and cultures. Iranians see themselves as having two distinct identities: "zaher" (public) and "batin" (private). Female relatives must be protected from outside influences, so questions about an Iranians wife and female relatives are deemed inappropriate.
Although the nuclear family is generally small, with one or two children, the extended family is quite close, with loyalty to family coming before any other social relationships.
It is this inner circle that forms the basis of an individuals social and business networks as the duties of members of the inner circle extend to offering advice, to helping other members find jobs, and to cutting through bureaucracy.
Iranian culture is replete with rich cultural symbols which date back to prehistoric times. What is unique about Iran is that it is the only nation in the Middle East that makes use of solar calendar, and the only country in the whole world which celebrates the coming of the New Year with the coming of spring. Iran is a multicultural, multinational, multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious home to its citizens. It paves the way for proliferation and coexistence of various beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, and traditions. This feature has led to preservation and survival of many traditions in Iran. The rich culture of Iran cannot be separated from worthy arts and artifacts which present Iran as a fertile land of civilization.
Another example of the distinction of public and private can be seen through taarof, a system of politeness, communicated both verbally and non-verbally, that has deep roots in the Iranian tradition of treating your guests better than your own family and in being great hosts.
If invited to an Iranian persons house, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
Punctuality is appreciated, so try to arrive at the invited time;
dress conservatively; check to see if your spouse is included in the invitation, as conservative Iranians do not entertain mixed-sex groups;
check to see if your host is wearing shoes, if not, remove yours at the door;
expect to be shown into the guests room that is usually decorated with European furniture;
shake everyones hand individually;
accept any offer of food or drink, although first declining what is offered until your hosts insistence becomes greater while this behavior may be deemed annoying and antiquated by foreigners, Iranians are very sensitive to what others will think of them and so this behavior has become an inherent part of their culture.
When at the table, it is crucial to keep in mind that Iranians are quite formal. Meals taken in the home are served on the floor and the fact that they are eaten without utensils does not automatically indicate a lack of decorum (it is only in more modern homes that meals are served on a dining table with place settings).
Here are some mealtime pointers: wait to be told where to sit; most tables are set with a spoon and fork only; eat only with the right hand; try a bit of everything that is served; there is often more food than can be eaten (Iranians like to shower guests with abundance!), so expect to be offered second and even third helpings; initial refusals will be assumed polite gestures (taarof) and not taken seriously; leave some food on your plate when you have finished eating; restaurants tend to have two sections, one for the "family" where women and families dine, and one that is men only.