Taarof


There is a social principle in Iran called taarof, it is the concept that describes the practice of politeness through linguistic indirectness and insincerity.

In Iran, people deal with the concept of honesty in a different way than most Western cultures in which directness and bluntness are, to a large extent, accepted and even encouraged communicative principles.

In the context of taarof, Iranians are expected to give false praises and insincere promises. Not out of deviousness, but out of the sociocultural expectation to tell people what they want to hear out of politeness, to avoid conflict, or to offer hope when there is none.

Examples of common taarof situations include: people imploring others to go through a door first; hosts insisting that they do not want customers to pay for dinner; dinner partners refusing to let others share in the cost of a meal; hostesses serving food even though their guests claim they are full; and people being invited to dinner when the host does not really want their company.

“Symbolism and vagueness are inherent in our language. […] Taarof is a sign of respect, even if we don’t mean it.” – Nasser Hadian

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7 thoughts on “Taarof

  1. I can imagine both the up- and the downsides of taarof. Do you feel there should be a bit more of this in western communication?

  2. Middle-Easterners also stand closer to each other while conversing than we in the West find comfortable. It’s merely a cultural thing.

  3. Since culture is the lens in which we perceive the world, I wonder then, if the insincerity is a sincerity of its own?

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