- As the region of Iran was once called Persia, ‘Iranian’ is often assumed to be synonymous with ‘Persian’. The two can usually be used interchangeably. However, “Persian” specifically refers to the particular Persian or Farsi language within Iran. This distinction is important to make in order to recognise the many minorities in Iran (e.g. Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Balochs). Most of these minority groups are ethno-linguistic and have learnt Farsi (Persian) as their second language.
- Iranians can be quite conscious of their country’s negative international reputation. This is understandable as the Pew Research Centre found it to be one of the least popular countries in the world, with majorities in most countries holding unfavourable opinions of it. In the 2013 report, the Centre found that “global publics are virtually united in the view that the Iranian government does not respect the personal freedoms of its people”1. This indicates that the negative opinions are mostly directed at the government more than the Iranian citizens. Nevertheless, many Iranians seek to avoid this stigma and may prefer to be referred to as ‘Persian’.
- It is a common misconception that all Iranians strongly dislike the West. While there are people on the fringe of society who hold very strong negative views about America in particular, Iranians generally admire the West and its capabilities.
- Iranians living in Australia are generally aware of the negative opinions many Australians hold of refugees. With this in mind, some may not wish to identify themselves as a refugee out of pride and honour. Be sensitive to the fact that an Iranian may not tell you if they experienced incredibly hard circumstances or were forced out of their country.
- More conservative or older Iranian Muslim women wear a ‘ ’ to hide their hair and figure from the public eye. However, most women have discarded the custom and only wear a (usually a ).
- Many Shi'a Muslims pray three times every day. Each prayer session requires that they ritually wash their body beforehand. While not all Iranians pray every day, anticipate that these prayers could interrupt your time with an Iranian if they are observant.
- Friday is a holy day for Muslims. In Iran, most businesses close on this day and Thursday in respect of that. This means the ‘weekend’ falls on Thursday and Friday instead of Saturday and Sunday.
- Observant Bahá’í Iranians do not drink alcohol or take medication that is non-prescription.
- Iranians often admire work that has taken a significant amount of time or painstaking effort to complete. Woven finery, ornate jewellery or interior designs usually have an incredible story to their craftsmanship. It is a good idea to ask for an object’s history and join in praising it.
1 Reference section: Pew Research Centre. (2013).