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Top 10 Iranian Customs and Etiquette Rules You Need to Know

Are you a responsible traveler who would like to respect community values on your trips? We'll give you all the information you'll need about Iran etiquettes and customs.
Time to read :11 Mins

Iranians understand that visitors may not be fully versed in their local etiquette and customs. They’re typically aware of, and open to, Western culture, making efforts to accommodate and embrace it. Curious about the nuances of Iran’s etiquette and local culture? Or are you planning to explore Iran’s ‘must-see’ attractions from a unique perspective?

Picture yourself as a guest in a new friend’s home. Cultural differences might lead to some unfamiliar etiquette scenarios, something that nobody wants. In your culture, certain actions might be acceptable, but they could be unusual for your host. While Iranians are known for their warm and hospitable nature (they’re unlikely to take offense easily), wouldn’t you prefer to navigate these cultural nuances smoothly?

Iran’s warmth extends beyond hospitality; it’s a welcoming destination for all travelers. As a mindful traveler, gaining insight into the cultural norms of your destination is invaluable.

Navigating the subtleties of what is considered polite or impolite in Iran can be challenging for foreigners. That’s why at IranAmaze, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten etiquette tips to guide you through your Iranian journey.

 

Ready for your next adventure?

 

Why Iran Etiquette Is Important

Iran’s growing tourism sees millions exploring its rich culture annually. However, responsible travel is crucial to preserving Iran’s unique environments and traditions. As a mindful visitor, understanding and respecting local customs and etiquette is essential.

At IranAmaze, we emphasize the importance of responsible tourism. Our guide provides key insights into Iranian customs, helping you immerse respectfully in the local culture and ensuring your visit has a positive impact on this culturally rich destination.

1.  How to Dress in Iran

Iran’s dress code differs from other countries. So we listed several tips that might help you.

There is a dress code in Iran that you need to follow. However, these rules are flexible, especially for tourists. It’s enough to wear a long tunic/coat with long pants (or jeans)/skirt and also to cover your hair with a loose scarf. But it doesn’t mean covering up your head and hearing them entirely.

For men, shorts and tanks are usually not allowed (in the street, not in gyms or pools)

Read More: what do people wear in Iran?

2.  How to Greet in Iran

Greetings vary across cultures, and knowing a few Persian phrases can enhance your interactions with locals in Iran. “Salaam” (meaning “peace”) is used for “hello,” while “khoda hafez” (meaning “may God protect you”) is said when parting.

In Iran, men typically shake hands with other men, and women with women. If you’re interacting with the opposite gender, wait for them to extend their hand first, but don’t be surprised if they choose not to. Some people prefer not to shake hands with the opposite gender.

Iranian greetings are often warm and affectionate. At social gatherings, men may kiss other men, and women may kiss other women as a sign of camaraderie. However, a handshake suffices for casual street encounters.

3.  How to Dine in Iran

Iran has a large selection of restaurants of endless variety. From fast foods to Iranian foods, from Italian restaurants to local restaurants. Whether it’s a luxury international restaurant or a local restaurant, table manners in Iran are the same. The following points will make dining out in Iran an enjoyable memory.

 

Ready for your next adventure?

 

Dining Out

When dining in Iran, customers typically choose their seats at a restaurant, though staff may occasionally assist with seating arrangements. If you’re unable to find a seat, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Most eateries offer Western-style tables and chairs. However, traditional dining spots feature “Takht” (similar to a sofa) with cushions. Remember to remove your shoes when sitting on a Takht.

While many restaurants are non-smoking, some do permit it, and certain places also offer Hookah, a traditional tobacco-smoking instrument. It’s common to find designated smoking and non-smoking areas in cafés and some restaurants.

In fast-food or more casual restaurants, you typically order and pay at the cashier before seating. In other establishments, you’ll be seated and provided with a menu by a waiter or waitress. Menus in tourist-friendly restaurants often have English translations, but local spots may not. Feel free to seek assistance from your guide for menu selections.

Sharing dishes with your group is a common practice. Regarding payment, you usually receive your bill either when ordering or after finishing your meal. Payment is typically done at the cashier near the exit, and both cash and credit cards are accepted.

If you’re invited to dine out by a local, it’s customary for the host to cover the bill, with friends sometimes opting to split the cost in casual settings.

Tipping is not a widespread practice in Iran, but it’s appreciated and entirely at your discretion.

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The dishes are usually big enough to share.

Table manners in Iran

As we discussed, some restaurants in Iran have Takht and cushions, and some restaurants have Western-style chairs and tables. Iranian houses are the same too. Usually, they have a table and chairs; also, they sit on the floor for eating. Whether you are in a restaurant or at an Iranian house, Iranian dining etiquette is the same.

Eating

Iranians eat with a spoon and fork but usually not with a knife. If you need a knife, ask the waiter. In some restaurants, rice is served on a large plate called a “Dis”. Everybody dishes up the rice on their plate.

Try to eat gently and don’t speak with a full mouth. Blowing your nose at the table, slurping, burping and audible munching are bad manners in Iran. Don’t use a toothpick at the table, or at least cover up your mouth with your free hand. It is considered the right style to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.

Drinking

Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in Iran. Non-alcoholic drinks include alcohol-free beer, tea, juices, carbonated drinks, and Doogh. Doogh is a cold yogurt-based beverage that is mixed with salt and mint. It goes well with Kebabs.

4.  Persian Tarof, a Special Social System

Taarof or Ta’rof is a system of politeness that is expressed in verbal and non-verbal communication. Before getting into the cultural essence, let’s first learn how to pronounce it.

Say “ta” (as in the American pronunciation of taught) followed by “rof”.

Now, what is Taarof? It’s one of the most complicated Iran etiquettes. Also, it is one of those fundamental Iranian cultural facts you need to know when you are in Iran. You pretend something, but you mean another thing. Let’s learn it in context. For example, you are in a taxi and want to pay. Initially, the taxi driver declines to accept your money (just for politeness), then he will take your payment. He pretends to refuse the payment.

Taarof is a cultural practice in Iran that is used to show politeness and respect. It has been developed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years and is deeply ingrained in Iranian society. It can be difficult for foreigners to understand and navigate, but most Iranians are aware of this and do not expect outsiders to be familiar with it. Therefore, if you are visiting Iran, do not worry too much about taarof. Just be respectful and polite, and you will be fine!

5.  Religious Customs

Iran’s state religion is Islam, but Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism are also official religions. In recent decades, religiosity has declined, but it still holds importance for a significant portion of the population, particularly in smaller or religious cities.

For foreigners, two months in Iran can be challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with Muslim customs: the Muharram festival and Ramadan. During Muharram, Shia Muslims mourn the death of Imam Husayn. Mourning has become a cultural practice that varies by region. Witnessing mourning processions or capturing photos of these rituals can be a fascinating experience.

Ramadan, on the other hand, is a month of fasting for Muslims. During this time, many cities remain active throughout the night, and people’s nightlife changes. Almost all restaurants and cafes are open until morning. While fasting is not mandatory for non-Muslims, it is prohibited to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public. Many restaurants close before nightfall, but hotel restaurants remain open.

For tourists seeking to experience Iran’s traditions, Ramadan offers a unique opportunity to witness the amazing Iftar and customs.

At shrines and Mosques

There are many beautiful mosques in Iran. These mosques have been made for over 1000 years and are essential to Iranian historical architecture. Iranian Islamic art is shown in mosques so well. Here we will describe important steps and manners in visiting mosques and shrines.

Non-muslins can enter shrines and mosques. There is no particular dress code for entering historical mosques like the Imam mosque in Isfahan. But in shrines and active mosques, women must wear a “chador”. If you don’t have one of them, there is a chador at the entrance.

While entering the mosque or building of a shrine, behave respectfully. Don’t step on a carpet with your shoes if there is a carpet on the ground. Give your shoes to the staff at the entrance or take them with you in the provided plastic bags.

Photography is usually permitted. But it’s often forbidden inside the building of shrines. So follow the signs

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It’s a fun way to experience Hijab in Iran. (Image source: www.travelblog.org)

6.  Social Customs

For many years, Iranians have welcomed travelers as guests, making hospitality one of their most important values. Iran’s rich culture and long history have shaped its etiquette and customs. To increase your cultural awareness, here is a list of important Iranian traditions.

Inside Iranians’ House

One of the most important Iranian values is embodied in hospitality. It emphasizes inviting guests and welcoming them to your home. So trust me! You are very likely to be invited to an Iranian house. If somebody asks you to his/her home, there are a few formalities you need to know.

First of all, bring flowers or pastries (or a small gift) for your host. It’s a polite gesture. Try to be on time. Punctuality represents your respect for your host.

When you arrive, check to see if your host is warning shoes. If not, take off your shoes. There is a clear line between inside and outside. As we discussed, this rule applies not only to homes but also to shrines, mosques, and many other places. Iranians don’t wear shoes on carpets. Many of them wear indoor slippers at home.

Greet all people in the family, no matter whether you know them or not.

Usually, people serve meals on the floor. But nowadays many houses have a dining table and chairs.

Iranians like their guests. The honor and respect extended to a guest is reflected in their welcoming. So there is always more food than guests can eat. Usually, your host offers a second and third helping. The host will assume your initial refusal as Taarof!

Also, Iranians use separate slippers for the toilette. These slippers are only for the washroom. Don’t forget to remove your toilette slippers after usage inside the restroom.

Iranian Bathrooms and Toilets

In the past, Iranians used to bathe in traditional bathhouses, which were communal spaces for washing and massage. Even today, several active historical bathrooms in different cities offer a glimpse into this traditional way of bathing. Experiencing a bath in the traditional Iranian style can be an amazing and unique experience.

However, in modern times, a typical bathroom in Iranian houses usually has a shower and no bathtub. Additionally, the bathroom and toilet are typically separated.

There are two types of toilets in Iran: Iranian-style and Western-style.

Almost all hotels have a Western-style toilet but if you are in doubt, ask your hotel before booking. Newer homes might have both types. It’s the same for public washrooms. Older facilities might have only an Iranian-style toilet.

When using public toilets in Iran, it is common to use water instead of toilet paper. However, in Iranian homes, both water and toilet paper are used. As a result, it is unlikely that you will find toilet paper in public washrooms. It is recommended to always carry a small package of tissue with you to avoid any inconvenience.

Don’t forget to take off toilet slippers in the washroom.

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Going to the toilet is like a quick exercise of squatting in Iran.

7.  Are Iranians Very Curious?

Iranians are known for their curiosity towards foreigners and their interest in communicating with them. It is common for them to ask questions such as “How do you see Iran?” or “Where are you from?”. Therefore, it is important to not be surprised or offended if someone asks about your income or age, as these topics can be included in small talk and they simply want to get to know you better.

Certainly, interaction with locals is up to you. Many of these conversations and questions can lead to more productive communication with locals or even build a friendship with them.

Additional Tips

Iran is an ancient country with 1000s years of civilization. Explaining all of Iran’s etiquette in a few pages is impossible. We tried to cover all the crucial tips about Iran’s culture facts. Furthermore, the following includes additional points you might need to know about Iran.

8.   What to Call People

It’s decorum to address an Iranian by his/her name, followed by a title like “Agha” (Mr.) or “Khanom” (Ms.). Similarly, they never address elders by their first name without a title. Calling your Iranian friends by their name is not offensive.

9.   Spitting

Spitting is considered impolite and offensive, especially in historical and religious places. It is important to refrain from spitting on the ground.

10. Taking and Giving Objects

When giving or receiving an object, it is respectful to use both hands. This is especially important when interacting with older people. However, if the exchange is with a friend, feel free to use one hand.

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