Iran’s culture is deeply intertwined with its long and rich history, especially from the Persian Empire. Art, literature, architecture, and music have deep roots which are still visible today. In fact, Persian artifacts can be seen in many leading museums around the world, such as the British Museum and the Louvre. Iran’s society has also been strongly influenced by its neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.
Iranians are close to extended family members, and they have great respect for the elderly and are very hospitable to foreigners. Iran is the only country of all Muslim countries that is officially a Shi’ite state and they have many beautiful customs and traditions. Islam is practiced by the majority of Iranians and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. During the holy month of Ramadan, all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Expatriates are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public.
Iran has a heterogeneous population speaking a variety of Indo-Iranian, Semitic, and Turkic languages. The largest language group consists of the speakers of Indo-Iranian languages, who in 1986 comprised about 70 percent of the population. The speakers of Indo-Iranian languages are not, however, a homogeneous group. They include speakers of Farsi, the official language of the country, and its various dialects.
Besides the official language of Iran, Persian, there are 4 other languages that are spoken throughout the country:
To dine in Iran is to indulge your taste buds in a rich variety of exotic tastes with lots of regional variations in stews, kebabs, rice dishes, and desserts. You can spend months in the country and still be introduced to new flavours. Typical dishes of stews, grilled meats, fish and vegetables are accompanied by Polo, Persian rice. Fresh herbs and fruits such as apricots, prunes, and raisins are frequently used.
While a lot of Persian cuisines are meat based, vegetarians do not need to worry about going hungry. There are lots of exciting vegetarian dishes and big cities such as Tehran host a number of well-regarded vegetarian eateries.
Don’t forget to try some of the traditional drinks as well. Doogh is a savoury yogurt-based drink available in fizzy and non-fizzy varieties and Sharbat is a sweet, refreshing drink made from fruits, herbs or flower petals.
Etiquette and Customs in Iran
- When greeting people, the universal Islamic salaam should be used. The phrase for leave-taking is khoda hafez – “May God protect you”.
- A more formal way of greeting is ‘Salaam, man [your name] hastam. Az didan-e shoma khoshbakhtam!’ This translates to ‘Hello, I am [your name]. Nice to meet you!
- At a social gathering, greet the oldest people first, as age is highly respected.
- In a formal scenario, address people by their title and their last name.
- 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.