An Iranian is someone who practices the art of “Taarof”. Hazardous for beginners, automatic reflex for the accustomed, one thing is for sure: taarof is a quite difficult concept to explain!
“Taarof” ? What are we talking about?
Taarof is a very subtle form of communication, that can be described like some sort of extreme politeness, where you try to show how humble you are. Iranians use this form of verbal game every day, with their friends, family and strangers.
Let me go on with an example here
You are having lunch with your grandmother. She offers you some more food because you know, that’s what grandmothers do ! Now comes the taarof : Whenever she offers you some more food, you should always politely refuse her offer to begin with ! Otherwise, it might seem rude. And this applies to your family (to a lesser extent) but mostly when you are invited by people outside of your family.
So back to our example, you say no the first time, and according to the grand laws of taarof, your grandmother will ask you a 2nd time by insisting a little bit more. You can now accept the refill or extend the taarof to a 3rd round or more!
Okaaayyyy… Have I lost you here? Another example, maybe?
You are in a cab, you arrive at your final destination. You ask your driver how much you owe him. Well, the driver, as a perfect Iranian who knows the art of taarof, will answer you something like “Oh nothing, it’s on me” ! Yes, trust me he will say that! But be careful, it is just taarof, not a real offer.
Don’t you dare leave the car or the driver might get really angry! You should now ask him a 2nd time, something like “that’s nice of you thanks, but please how much do I owe you”. The driver now might answer your question…or not! So there you go for round 3, at the end of which, you finally get to pay the driver and leave the car!
Play time !
So now you know a bit about the taarof, lucky you. Know that in any case, taarof always is a mutual contact. You can either be the person making the taarof to someone else, or be the person receiving it and therefore answering it with …well some more taarof of course !
Iranians will take the taarof game to different levels, some will love to play all day, some will quit at round 2. If you happen to have any Iranian friend, don’t be afraid to show him your skills, he will love it! Which one of you will break first ? 🙂