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Iranians, like any other nationality in the world, have some unique traits and habits due to their geographical location and their historical background, in addition to globally common behavior. Because of the ethnic diversity in Iran, people's behavior depends on their specific respective region too; for example people from deserts are usually more conservative due to had been having to work very hard to obtain their basic needs: or people from the green, humid north have a much more liberal social life due to close proximity of towns and villages in Northern Iran. There are also some general common traits among all Iranian ethnicities, like taarof, curiosity, hospitality towards strangers, wishful thinking, etc... which you can see pretty much everywhere in Iran. Here we are going to talk about some the more emphasized traits which are commonly shared among most Iranians



Taarof can be considered the most important part of the Iranian behavior.

While demonstrating taarof, people try to do somebody a favor or at least show that they are willing to do it. An Iranian can always tell if this intention is fake or real, but it can be hard for a foreigner to see the difference.

Let’s start with an example of a telephone conversation between two people in Europe and in Iran.

First scenario: Somewhere in London A: Hello? B: Hi, how are you? A: Thanks, I’m fine, how about you? B: I too, thank you. I just wanted to ask you if you are free to meet up today. A: Sorry, today I’m so busy but I will be free for 2 hours tomorrow after 5 p.m. B: Ok, see you tomorrow then. A: Ok, take care. Bye.

Second scenario: In Iran A: Hello? B: Hi, Mr. A, how are you? Is everything all right? How is your family doing? A: Hi Mr. B. I was thinking about you the other day and was going to give you a call. How are you and all your family? I’m so glad to hear from you. B: Oh, I always ask Mr. C about your health and about your family. (A similar sentence omitted!). A: I would like to invite you to come to my house tonight with your family for dinner. B: No, we don’t want to bother you and your family. You come to our place instead. A: Oh, no, I will be sad and disappointed if you reject my invitation. My family will be sad too, so please come. (We omitted some similar sentences again!) B: All right then. See you tonight. Say hi to your wife. I apologize beforehand for bothering you. A: Oh, don’t say that. We will be so happy to have you in our place. (After that Mr. A immediately calls his wife) A: Hi. Look, I’m sorry, but Mr. B wants to come to our place tonight. Wife: What? Why? You know we'll be tired when we get home and besides we don’t have enough food for them. A: Yes, I know but he called me and I invited him, and he said they will come. What else could I do? Wife: Oh no. Well then I guess I will go home sooner today to clean the flat and you buy something for dinner.

As you can see, it is quite complicated. And it doesn’t happen only when inviting guests. Even after going to someone’s place, the host will insist that the guest should eat more and the guest will insist on eating less instead. So sitting at the table they will keep discussing the matter.

There is yet another type of taarof. It occurs when you are invited somewhere and the host keeps asking you to eat more because he is afraid you are doing taarof, or they don’t tell you that you have to pay for something and they will pay for you out of taarof.

Fortunately nowadays the new generation in big cities is gradually doing less taarof but even so it is probably the most characteristic aspect of Iranian behavior.

What we suggest: Relations are not as simple as they may seem in Iran. Iranians are clever enough to understand that you are a foreigner and you do not know about taarof. But if you see an Iranian insisting on doing a favor you should know it is part of their culture and nothing is unusual.

Tourist as an attraction

Iranians like foreign tourists. They look at them as an attraction. They even like to have tourists as guests in their homes because they always like to learn about new people and their lifestyle, so you are sure to see that while travelling about Iran. You will notice that many Iranians like to talk to you and will even invite you to their homes.


Iranians are curious about everything and they want to know how you live in your country. When a street accident happens, people will stop to see what has happened and whose fault it was. The result is of course a terrible traffic jam. Sometimes it is annoying yet also funny. If Iranians realize you are a foreigner they will try to ask you where you are from and whether you like Iran or not. So if you are coming to Iran, be ready to tell many people about your country and your own life!


Like everywhere else money is one of the most important items in Iranian life, but it is surely not more important than taarof. In fact Iranians care about their guests more than money. They will often try to pay for you if you are their guest. But they are smart enough to recognize people who want to abuse their hospitality. So if you go to their place it is always a good idea to buy some food or bring small gifts. There is no need to buy expensive presents because the host might feel uncomfortable. Just show that you appreciate their hospitality and remember that attention is more appreciated than the price of the gift you are bringing.

Living in clouds

Some Iranians are not very down-to-earth people. And again because of taarof they rarely say No. So sometimes they ask each other for favours that are not very realistic. For example, you may be invited to an Iranian home and then they might end up asking you for an invitation to get a visa to your country or to help them get a Schengen visa. They might even ask you to help their relatives or children living in your country to get around in the new surroundings. This does not mean they are trying to abuse your kindness. They simply are often not very aware of the procedures necessary to pass or the situations in your country. In those cases just say that you will check what you can do about their request and get back to them.

BAD driving

Iranians' driving leaves much to be desired. Iran has a high rate of car accidents in the world, so be careful while crossing the streets as a pedestrian or in case you are driving. The best way to get around is by train, bus or taxi from famous companies. Luckily Iranian police is getting more and more professional and the accident rates are decreasing rapidly.