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Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness

Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness

Have you ever heard about Taarof in Iranian culture? It can be defined as a form of compliment or salutation to show respest, or welcome someone; mostly a guest. Taarof is sometimes expressed in an exaggerated but nice and pleasant way.

May 9, 2022

In every human communication all around the world, respect, politeness and kindness make that communication and connection more valuable and enjoyable. Obviously, sometimes politeness and etiquettes have different aspects in different countries according to the culture and history of that region, and even sometimes a specific behaviour might have a whole different meaning and concept in another part of the world. These contrasts make a foreigner travelers perception of a destination even more interesting. Iran, which is one of undiscovered and misunderstood countries of the world by many people, happens to be known as the land of hospitality by many visitors, a conception which is in complete contrast with what they thought about it because of news and media. By visiting Iran for the first time, each traveler would have new and interesting feelings and experiences in communicating with Iranians.


Travelers buying handicrafts in a shop in Iran

Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness 

What is Taarof?

In Iranian culture, Taarof is an act of politeness and respect which is practiced in different places from houses to workplace and even on streets. You will note that act of Taarof between family members, friends and even between two strangers in cities, as you see Taarof has a wide range in a socity. Taarof, which is one of the first things that you see in Iran, has a deep root in Iranian culture and is an inseparable part of this etiquette, as a sign of politeness which is both pleasant and sometimes confusing. Taarof is a cultural practice in Iran that involves offering and insisting on hospitality, favors, or gifts. It is a way of showing respect and politeness, and can be seen in various social interactions, such as when entering someone's home or negotiating a business deal. In Taarof, individuals may offer something without expecting it to be accepted, or insist on paying for something even if they do not intend to. It is important to understand Taarof in Iranian culture in order to avoid misunderstandings and show respect for cultural norms.



Travelers having dinner at with a local family in Iran

Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness 

Examples of Taarof in Iranian culture

Let us explain the meaning of Taarof with some examples. When you take a taxi, the driver might apparently refuse receiving the taxi fee by saying “Ghabeli Nadareh”, which means You are more worthy than the money, but in fact the driver prefers to receive his money and it has just been a sign of politeness. Taarof also includes offering the share of food to a friend or anyone sitting near you while eating. Another example of Taarof is fighting for paying the bill after having dinner with friends, while the cashier might use the term “Ghabeli Nadareh” or “Mehmane Ma Bashid” (be our guest) to express politeness to costumers. One of the common types of Taarof is insisting a friend to pass a door before you or holding all shopping bags to the car to show your respect to the friend. Also it happens that someone buys a new piece of clothing or accessory and shows it to a friend, and the friend says it is so beautiful even if they don’t mean it and don’t like it, to respect the friend’s taste.



An Iranian man offering tea in his farm

Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness 


How to response a Taarof politely?

What makes Taarof a confusing etiquette is that you may not recognize if the offer is a Taarof or the person really means it, especially for foreigners who have not experienced Taarof before, however you will learn to deal with this very soon.

When you are offered with help, food, or a free service in Iran, the polite way to act is to refuse accepting the offer by saying Thank you, for one or two times, and if the person keeps offering you can know that they really mean it, and it was not just a nice gesture.

What makes Taarof even more confusing is that today the young generation is not a big fan of Taarof and it is more practiced by older generation, so if a person doesn’t show any act showing Taarof doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not polite.

We know, Taarof is a strange way of showing politeness and respect, but it is a manner to show politeness and kindness, and it is a part of Iranian culture that can be interesting to travelers especially when they travel to Iran for the first time.

To respond to Taarof in Iranian culture, it is important to be polite, nice, and friendly. Accepting an offer may be seen as impolite, so it is best to politely decline at first. If the offer is insisted upon, better accept it graciously. Understanding and respecting Taarof is crucial to avoid misunderstandings and show cultural sensitivity.



Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness 

Taarof - Iranian etiquette of showing respect and politeness 

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