iranian customs

Etiquette and Customs in Iran

Meeting Etiquette

  • Introductions are generally restricted to members of the same sex since men and women socialize separately.
  • Greetings tend to be affectionate. Men kiss other men and women kiss other women at social events. If they meet on the street, a handshake is the more common greeting
  • The most common greeting is “salaam alaykum” or more simply “salaam” (peace).

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • Iranians give gifts at various social occasions such as returning from a trip or if someone achieves a major success in their personal or business life.
  • On birthdays, businesspeople bring sweets and cakes to the office and do not expect to receive gifts.
  • It is common to give monetary gifts to servants or others who have provided services during the year on No Ruz (The Iranian New Year). Money should be new bank notes or gold coins.
  • If you are invited to an Iranian’s house, bring flowers, or pastry to the hosts. When giving a gift, always apologize for its inadequacy.
  • Gifts should be elegantly wrapped – most shops will wrap them for you.
  • Gifts are not generally opened when received. In fact, they may be put on a table and not mentioned.

Dining Etiquette

  • If you are invited to an Iranian’s house:
  • Check to see if the host is wearing shoes. If not, remove yours at the door.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Try to arrive at the invited time. Punctuality is appreciated.
  • Show respect for the elders by greeting them first.
  • Check to see if your spouse is included in the invitation. Conservative Iranians do not entertain mixed-sex groups.
  • Expect to be shown into the guests’ room. It is usually lavishly furnished with European furniture.
  • Shake everyone’s hand individually.
  • Accept any offer of food or drink. Remember to do ‘taarof’.
  • Table manners: Iranians are rather formal. Although some meals in the home are served on the floor and without eating utensils, it does not indicate a lack of decorum. In more modern homes, meals are served on a dining table with place settings.
  • Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Eat only with the right hand.
  • Try a bit if everything that is served.
  • Meals are generally served family-style.
  • Most tables are set with a spoon and fork only.
  • There is often more food than you can eat. Part of Iranian hospitality is to shower guests with abundance.
  • Expect to be offered second and even third helpings. Initial refusals will be assumed to be polite gestures (taarof again!) and are not taken seriously.
  • Leave some food on your plate when you have finished eating.
  • Restaurants generally have two sections – “family” where women and families dine and “men only”. Tips of between 10 and 15% are appreciated in hotel restaurants.