Iranian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • Acknowledge the achievements of Iran and the country’s cultural heritage. If you show an understanding of Iran’s culture and history, they will likely be impressed.
  • Take care not to give the impression that you assume the West to be superior. Iranians are likely to respond negatively if they feel that you have an elitist understanding of the Middle East.
  • Respect an Iranian’s intelligence if they show evidence of a higher education. It is likely that an Iranian in Australia is very educated and technically trained. Many hold one or multiple university degrees.
  • Make sure your actions and your words correspond. Iranians may notice if you are hypocritical or contradict yourself.
  • Remain humble about your success and achievements. In Iran, people generally tone down their own success and self-deprecate out of .
  • Respect an Iranian’s privacy. Avoid asking questions that could compromise their discretion.
  • You can expect an urban and educated Iranian to know quite a lot about your cultural background and Australia. They are generally very well informed about the world.


Don’ts

  • Do not confuse Persians with Arabs. This is a quick way to annoy Iranians and indicates that you are poorly informed about the Middle East.
  • Avoid assuming that all Iranians are Muslims because they come from a Islamic Middle Eastern country – many are not.
  • Do not criticise an Iranian for the actions of their government. Doing so is insensitive considering that many Iranians in Australia have faced persecution by the authoritarian regime.
  • Similarly, do not blame the Iranian government’s restrictions and exclusions on Islam. The situation is more complex than that and most Iranians recognise the current Islamic political culture to be different from their own interpretations of the religion.
  • Avoid mentioning divisive topics between the West and Iran (such as women’s rights, civil liberties and Iran’s nuclear power program). If you must do so, make sure it is in a sensitive way that doesn’t disparage your Iranian counterpart.
  • Avoid talking down to an Iranian for having poor English skills or assuming that they can’t understand deep concepts. It is a good idea to talk slower if English is their second language, but they may find it patronising if they notice you over-simplifying conversation for them.
  • Avoid telling dirty jokes or jokes that are at the expense of someone else. This is considered to be unintelligent humour.
  • Depending on the situation, do not take an Iranian too seriously if they talk down about themselves or make a grand gesture to put you before them. This is usually done out of taarof () and is a tokenistic gesture. See Etiquette for further information on this.

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