Most decent travelers know the importance of respecting the local culture of their destination. Many women would dress more modestly when visiting an Islamic country even if it’s not necessarily required. You would probably not wear your super expensive Italian shoes when you visit a village where people face extreme poverty, and the list goes on.
Many times the Do’s and Don’t or the Rights and Wrongs of one place can inverse as soon as you cross the border. We’ve all had those embarrassing moments when our actions as tourists have caused everyone in the room to look back and stare and we didn’t want anything but to melt into the earth. It’s fine. We all go through it and we’ll have a memory to share and laugh about later on. But doing a little research before you board on that plane might just save you a lot of those awkward moments.
This post is all about me being frank. It’s very unpersian, I know! And my mum would kill me if I ever mention any of it to our guests since we Iranians are constantly taught that our guests come first even if we really want to kick their awful trouble making children out of the house.
This is for you. So you know what you’re getting yourself into and act less of a tourist when you’re around.
Trust me the whole Iranian nation will secretly thank me later. 😉
#1 You’re using the squat toilet wrong!
First of all you are aiming for the hole so you need to be sitting with your back to it. Second, you’re only supposed to take your trousers half way down or you’re going to be stuck in there for ages!
Third, if by any chance things are getting dirty, then you’re definitely doing something wrong! Ask for a local for help immediately!
#2 You use the few Arabic words you know to make conversation with a local.
Your blood is on your own hands! We Iranians are extremely patriotic when it comes to our language. Come here and assume we speak Arabic and we’ll hate you forever.
#3 You empty the olive oil jar on the table.
Yes we get it! You’re a southerner from Europe who likes to have his salad floating on a pool of olive oil. But that jar of olive oil on the table was suppose to serve a lot more people. Ask for a refill from the waiter and he might give you a suspicious look thinking you’ve been flushing the whole thing down your throat. Just sayin’.
#4 Expect toilet paper in public toilets.
Haha! Doesn’t exist. Period.
#5 You think cars will stop at a zebra crossing.
In your dreams my friend! Just because there’s a zebra crossing it doesn’t mean the cars are going to stop for you. They won’t! You need to get out there and make them stop!
Tip: If you’re freaking out just follow others and let them block the cars for you (or in your head, you’re probably having the dirty thought of having them killed for you). It’s a dirty game but at least you won’t have to deal with the cars hitting on breaks right at your feet. 😉
#6 Blowing your nose in public.
I remember those winter days spent in libraries and classrooms back when I was living abroad really well… when everyone was sick and blew their nose like all their body organs were about to shoot out. Yuck! I could feel myself coming to that stage when you’re just about to throw up!! I had to block my ears sometimes and I’m not even joking.
This is probably one of the most horrible things you can do in public here. You will get a lot of disgusted looks thinking where the hell does he come from?????
#7 Enter a house with your shoes on.
We Iranians are cleaning freaks when it comes to our houses and those handmade Persian carpets on the floor are just like our own kids. Don’t you dare put your shoes on them!
Same goes for all mosques and public places covered with carpets.
Tip: There will be very few families who are ok with you entering their house with your shoes on. Make sure you take it off at all times unless the host tells you otherwise.
#8 Telling women what they can’t do.
Yes, we Iranian women are fully aware of the rights we have and don’t have in this country! But don’t underestimate us. We are the most assertive Middle Eastern women and a lot more independent than you think. We have achieved a lot under the circumstances and have no intentions of backing off. Don’t come and give us speeches. We know them all. Negativity has never been a solution and does nothing but to invade hope. If there’s no encouragement or solution in your words keep it for friends back home. We’ve had enough.
#9 Don’t come and say you were expecting burqas!
We’ll just think you’re an ignorant westener who watches TV way too much.
#10 Eat rice with a fork.
When we were kids our mothers would a get a heart attack everytime we put a fork into our mouths with the fear of hurting ourselves. We were not given anything but spoons for years since it was taught to be the safest option. We’ll just be thinking you’re not being very practical when you can easily get a full spoon of rice in your mouth instead of half of it falling off the fork.
#11 You bring your least fashionable clothes to wear here!
When I was traveling with my Spanish friends they found it weird that they were so easily recognized as foreigners in Iran when they don’t even look that different and the women were obviously wearing the hijab. I instantly commented that it was for the way they dressed.
Just because women are suppose to be covered doesn’t mean we don’t follow fashion and trends. When you’re in super slouchy trousers and borrowed an xxxx large top from your grandma what do you expect? And we’ll instantly know you’re German if you’ve got your scarf tied on your ears rather than under your neck.
Tip: We know you don’t dress like this back home and it’s probably because you’ve been very misinformed but watch a tutorial for God’s sake!
Or check out my post on how to dress up for Iran and not look like you totally had no idea on what you’re getting yourself into.
#12 Leave a local kissing the air.
That awkward moment when you greet an Iranian with two kisses and leave her looking like a loser when she comes forward to give the third kiss but there’s no cheek waiting!
Tip: Many times we will just compromise with shaking your hand since we know you’re a foreigner. If the kissing scene happens, remember, it’s always 3! We’ll forgive but we’ll never forget!
#13 You slurp your soup.
If you’re from one of those East Asian countries who like to slurp the end of your soup from the bowl, keep those for back home. We’ll be rolling those fierce Persian eyes at you.
#14 Speaking too loud.
Dear Spaniards, we love you and your football but do keep it down a bit. Por favor!
#15 Actually accept a Tarof.
So there’s this extremely complicated thing called Tarof in Iran which I cannot express my disfavour for it any more. It basicaly means when people are offering you something but actually they don’t really mean it.
So lets get into context:
Imagine you’re at a Persian house invited for a huge feast. The host keeps insisting for you to eat more and even tries to grab your plate and fill it with more food. No, he doesn’t think you’re a dinasour. He’s just being polite and if you accept to eat everything he’ll just go over to his wife after the party and comment about how sad he feels for the poor thing. “He must have been starving or something!”
Now another one:
You’re in a taxi. when it comes for you to pay the driver keeps insisting that you be his guest. You think wow! these Iranians… and leave the car not paying. The car starts honking non stop making sure everyone knows you’re a stingy oportunist.
The worse thing is that the famous Persian hospitality and generosity will make it difficult to know when the offer is a Tarof and when it’s real.
Tip: It doesn’t work all the time but rumours say that if you refuse a Tarof for 3 times and the person is still insisting then it’s the real thing!! We’re weird like that.
So you’ve taken off your shoes and entered a persian house. Then you want to go to the bathroom and once you open the door you’ll see a pair of sleepers waiting for you. You’ll think oh! These guys are smart! They think of everything. So you wear them and do your business while thinking how efficient these Iranians must be. Then you get out the toilet and forget to take them off!!! The woman of the house sees you wearing them and her eyes are widened with horror! She takes a deep breath and kindly tells you what you’ve done. She probably just wants to throw you out of the window, but then she remembers, she’s an Iranian. And we Iranians take hospitality to a whole new level and think our guests are angels sent from the sky!!!!
Your turn now. Has any of these happened to you? If you’re an Iranian, which one of these has been bugging you the most? Is there anything else you would add to the list?
We’d love to know. 😉