Taarof is a sign of politeness among Iranians. People say sentences to show their respect while they don’t really mean it. This Persian word with Arabic roots defines the country’s complex art of etiquette, in which the true meaning of what is said is not in the words, but somewhere beyond them. It’s a subtle dance of communication, where participants step back and forth over and over, never taking over the stage. Originally an Arabic word, taarof تعارف can be translated as ‘offering courtesies’ or ‘compliments’.

In the world of taarof, politeness holds the place of honour. In its name, people refuse when they want to accept, say what is not meant, express what is not felt, invite when it is not intended, replace bad news with false hope. By doing so, they try to say what they “wished it were” – without ever admitting that it isn’t. So when the waiter offers you be his/her guest when you ask for the check, he/she does not have a crush on you, he/she is just trying to be polite.

You will pay the taxi driver the money and he might refuse to accept it. In case you leave the taxi unpaid at this moment, you ‘ll see the driver is disappointed, leaving you in confusion.

Another common situation that you’ll notice Taarof is when you want to leave or enter somewhere. It might take Iranians minutes to wait and ask each other to be the first.

“One key concept in taarof is a function that I have described as ‘getting the lower hand’,” said William O Beeman, professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota and a Middle East specialist. “Individuals will seek to raise the other person’s status, and lower their own”.

Watch the following videos and answer the questions in response to this Discussion topic.


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Answer these questions in response to this blog post.

1. What is Taarof?


2. Do you Taarof in your own culture? If you do , bring an example.


3. What are some common occasions to use Taarof expressions :

a. Entering the door  وارد در شدن

b. Offering something  تعارف کردن چیزی

c. Shopping خرید کردن

D. Complementing تعریف کردن

E. Paying the bill پرداختن صورت حساب

F. All of the above  همه جوابهای بالا


4. What is a negative  response and an affirmative response to this Taarof expression? ” بفرمایید”


5.  How do you respond to this complement? “What a beautiful picture !”

” چه قاب عکس  قشنگی “

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