The taarof or the persian way of life

Persian hospitality is famous throughout the world, and Iranian taarof epitomises Iranian hospitality. It is hard to define exactly, as there is no real western equivalent, the literal translation is ”to offer”, it is a form of social etiquette.

How it works? What should I do to be polite?

A clear example of taarof is a taxi journey, where upon reaching the destination, the driver responds that its free! The driver will tell you ”qabel nadare‘, dont worry about it, it was his pleasure to help you.

However don’t expect to leave without paying, the taxi driver will expect you to offer to pay atleast twice, almost begging to pay before he finally accepts your payment. Everyone plays his own role and knows what to do.

I don’t speak farsi!

Iranian people see taarof as standard social etiquette, however regarding foreigners they will be more tolerant on your lack of taarof, and are unlikely to be offended, in fact they are more likely to to laugh and criticise and make fun of the concept of taarof.

If you are invited for family lunch or dinner, which is surpassingly common, your hosts will constantly deny they are taarofing, in order to make you feel more comfortable however everywhere you go, all Iranians will tell you everyone else taarof’s except themselves.

Typical conversation you’ll see in every dinner:

  • Do you want some more chicken?
  • Oh no no thanks. I’m definitely full. I’m not hungry anymore.
  • Ohh please. Have some! You need it!
  • No no really I swear. I’m not doing taarof.
  • Tssss eat!

Once more the plate of the guest is full. You’ll never know if he was just acting and doing taarof or was really full.


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