As Iran has been the centre of many different civilizations such as the Kassites, Mannaeans, Gutians and Persians it have made Iran a multi-ethnic and multicultural country.
Iran is known to be one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Its rich history has had a wide-reaching influence on many countries including Greece and Italy.
If you’re looking for a country full of surprises, then Iran is the place to go. Traveling in Iran can be an eye-opening experience, especially for travelers who want to understand the country, and its traditions, people and their culture.
Etiquette and Customs
The most important things in Iranian culture are:
- Loving God
- Loving Iran
- Loving family
The core concept in Persian culture. It is based upon acknowledgement of other people. It shows humbleness and respectfulness.
Taarof is an aspect of routine cultural behaviour among Iranians, used in their daily interactions with old and new acquaintances alike. A practice of polite dissembling, where people express nice sentiments that they do not truly mean or feel.
Iranians are not offended by taarof.
In fact, a person who fails to engage in the system of taarof stands out as a person unfamiliar with Iranian culture and traditions.
Dressing in Iran
I would advise female travelers to wear tunics and cardigans that run below the waistline. Baggy pants and covered shoes are also highly recommended. Many Iranian women also wear a manteau, or trench coat with long sleeves. This is to demonstrate modesty.
There are no restrictions in color when it comes to the dress code.
For men, shorts and flip-flops are not allowed.
Men can dress in western attire.
Stick to t-shirts and long pairs of pants or trousers and covered shoes.
- greet the oldest people first, as age is highly respected.
- when greeting - salaam should be used. The phrase for leave-taking is khoda hafez – “May God protect you”.
- In formal situations, handshake is allowed with people of the same gender. Although informally Iranians kiss three times on each cheek. After the handshake, put your right hand on your chest to show respect.
- Any physical contact with the opposite gender is forbidden.
- Shaking hands with children is considered very respectable.
Visiting Local People
- It is a tradition for Iranians to bring a small gift when visiting friends or neighbors. (usually sweets or flowers)
- Don't forget to apologize for the inadequacy of the gift (taarof).
- When entering the house announce your arrival
- punctuality is important in Iranian society
- pay attention if host is wearing the shoes - if not, take off your shoes too.
- wait to be told where to sit
- Make your best effort to accept and try everything offered.
- there will be a lots of food, and eating everything on your plate generally indicates you enjoyed your meal.
- The thumbs-up gesture is considered rude and has the same meaning as raising the middle finger for traditional Iranians.
- Also it is rude to point your index finger at another person during conversation
- if you are a vegetarian, Iranian cuisine is probably not for you. Meat is in almost every dish, so it could be hard not to offend your hosts.
- Credit and debit cards are useless in Iran due to US sanctions, so it is advised to bring hard currency for the duration of your stay.
- Use bank offices when exchanging your currency, these are often found in Airports or around the town
- You might find that the salesman wants to gift you the purchased goods, do not take his words serious (tarof), instead, offer a fair price.
- Muslims pray five times a day — at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. The exact time is listed in the local newspaper each day. Friday is the Muslim holy day and everything is closed.
- Non-Muslims are allowed to enter most of the mosques and religious buildings in Iran, but women must wear a chador to enter. If you don’t have one - these places usually have chadors for you to use.
- Things happen more slowly during Ramadan. Foreigners are not required to fast; however, you must not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public.
Iran, is a conservative Islamic Republic, has stricter rules than most countries, but as long as you follow them, you will be sure to enjoy this fascinating country and its culture, history and people.