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Iranian Etiquette Tips
Politeness is incredibly important in Iran. In Iran, there is something called Taarof. Taarof dictates certain social behaviors, including politeness and hospitality. Taarof is a big part of Iranian culture, and since it's so important, you will find that Iranians are very accommodating to guests. However, in many ways Iran is a very conservative country, so out of respect for their traditions learn a little bit about their etiquette. Below is a list of etiquette tips to help you out on your trip to Iran!
1. Dress Attire
- DO understand that women are expected to wear loose clothing covering everything but their hands, face, and feet. Female travelers in Iran are also expected to abide by this dress code. In homes, western-style clothing is acceptable.
- DO wear pants and short-sleeved shirts if you are man. However, long-sleeves may protect you from the sun better.
- DO dress conservatively for business occasions. Ties are not traditionally worn by Iranian men but they are not looked down upon.
2. Table Manners
- DO note that in some homes meals are served on the floor without eating utensils, but in more modern homes meals will be served on a table with a spoon and fork.
- DON'T sit until told where to sit.
- DON'T use your left hand while eating.
- DO try a little bit of everything and expect to be offered seconds and even thirds!
- DO understand that refusals are considered polite and not taken seriously, so if you don't want more food you will likely have to insist.
- DO understand that restaurants will often have two sections: “family” and “men only.” “Family” is for women and their families.
- DO leave a little bit of food on your plate to indicate that you are done eating.
- DO note that alcohol is illegal under most circumstances.
3. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts
- DO wrap a gift nicely.
- DON'T open a gift immediately.
- DON'T give overly lavish gifts. Pens, art, home decor, or something from your home country are generally appreciated.
- DO understand that since conservative men and women do not socialize together, greetings are done only among members of the same sex. Because of this, wait for the member of the opposite sex to put their hand out for a handshake before shaking hands.
- DO shake hands upon greeting or greet with an affectionate kiss.
- DO greet by saying “salaam” which means hello.
5. Visitors Etiquette
- DO bring flowers or desserts for your hosts.
- DO arrive on time. Lateness could be considered rude.
- DO look to see if your host is wearing shoes. If they are not, take yours off before entering.
- DO accept food or drink.
6. Business Meetings
- DO make appointments at least a month in advance and confirm a week before.
- DON'T be late!
- DO have all written business materials and business cards translated into Farsi.
- DON'T take your suit jacket off without permission.
- DO be patient. Decisions are made slowly and Iranians can be tough business-people. They may get angry, storm out, or threaten to end the business relationship in order to get their way. Negotiations might be quite long.
- DON'T be forceful or use pressure tactics. It may wind up working against you.
7. Socializing and Conversation
- DON'T criticize Islam or the Iranian government.
- DO discuss soccer (football) because it's very popular in Iran.
- DO ask about family, but don't be too intrusive.
8. Religious Etiquette
- DO understand that in order to visit a mosque or holy shrine, women should wear a chador before entering. Chadors are sort of like cloaks. If you don't have a chador, sometimes there are kiosks where you can rent one.
- DO wear long-sleeved shirts when visiting a mosque or holy shrine if you are a man.
- DO remove your shoes before entering a prayer area of a mosque.
- DON'T take photos of a mosque while people are praying.
- DO ask before entering a room at a holy site, because some places forbid non-Muslims to enter.
In spite of the lengthy list of Iranian etiquette, you can always ask those around you if you are unsure what to do. Iranians are very friendly to tourists visiting their country. Just remember to be polite and conservative, and you'll be fine! Have a safe and happy trip to Iran.
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