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Taarof, the verbal dance


Dancing in public is forbidden in Iran, but you will be shocked when you face the verbal waltz dance when you get familiar with Persian culture. Referring to Urban dictionary, Taarof is a Persian word for a custom that is ONLY applied in Iranian culture. Persian Walk would say Taarof is kind of Persian etiquette for politeness and generosity. In another word, it is an exaggerated version of universally human behavior.

It could be seen as: Pretend you don’t want something when you really do. Offer something when you don’t really plan to give it away, or say nice things you don’t mean. Sometimes it can be extremely frustrating and seem disingenuous, but at other times, it provides a nice framework of how to interact with other people in an extremely polite and respectful way.

You did not get it? No worries. Let’s make an example:

In Iranian culture, it is customary to offer guests a glass of water or a cup of tea; many Western cultures do the same. But an Iranian guest who’s ta’arofing would refuse the beverage at first pass. The host would insist and offer again. Finally, on the third round, the guest would accept the drink. Any other scenario would be considered rude.

Taarof can be manifested in many situations, but the most case that you as a solo traveler cannot get rid of it occurs at shops. You ask the shopkeeper: gheymat chande? (How much is it?) He would smile and say ghabele shoma ro nadare  (which literally means it is free for you or be my guest), but no way, it is not free and he does not lie or want to defraud you, he simply does taarofing and shows his politeness. Simply say: thanks, that is nice of you. But how much I should pay.

Finally, if you still need some more input about Persian culture, in our free walking tour we practice Taarof and give you some hints how to stop taarofing. By showing in our free walking tour run by Persian Walk in the first or second day of your arrival in Tehran, you get equipped mentally how to deal with this sweet art of etiquette.

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