Iran has quite a few local customs that may take some getting used to, so it’s important to learn about them before you go so you don’t accidentally offend or disrespect anyone.
Some of the most common ones that throw tourists off are:
- Women must wear hijabs (headscarves) at all times in public. They must also wear loose-fitting clothes that don’t show their figure.
- Giving a thumbs-up sign is considered rude, similar to giving the middle finger in Western society.
- Men can wear short-sleeved shirts, but long pants must be worn at all times.
- Men and women who aren’t related shouldn’t touch either. That means no shaking hands or hugging someone of the opposite sex.
- If you are travelling with your significant other, avoid any public displays of affection.
- Always bring a gift if you are invited to someone’s house. Candy, pastries or flowers are fine.
Now we want to give a special mention to ta’arof – This is a hospitality trait where it’s customary for someone to refuse payment for a service and is probably the most confusing thing for any tourist to get their head around.
Basically what happens is if you make a purchase (a souvenir, taxi ride, etc), the person may refuse your payment out of politeness. It is then up to you to insist despite their refusals that you want to pay. After two or three times they’ll then accept your money.
f they still keep refusing then perhaps you have just experienced some amazing Iranian hospitality! But chances are they’ll accept the payment once the process has been completed. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.
The locals are so lovely, that if you do something wrong someone will approach you and nicely let you know. For example, if you are a lady and your headscarf falls off without you knowing, a local will kindly let you know.
Don’t stress about getting your outfits beforehand as shopping in Iran is cheap. Just bring one headscarf and set of loose-fitting clothes, and buy more once you get there.
The culture is the best thing about visiting Iran, and after a few days, you’ll start to understand and fall in love with it.
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