Friday, November 12, 2004


I have written before about the complicated system of manners that Iranians call tarof. When I first arrived I hated it. Then I grew accustomed to it. Then I learned more about it. And now…

Now I think it is one of the most dangerous factors affecting Iranian society. The thing is, Iranians agree with this assessment.

Exiled Iranians--who do not live in LA--have learned (for the most part) to love life without tarof. They have become direct and efficient. When they return to Iran (or when they visit LA), they experience major tarof shock. One friend described a trip to LA as "suffocating." Another friend visiting Iran after 19 years in Europe had this to say: "It’s just a way for people to do what *they* want to do. Tarof has nothing to do with my needs and desires as a guest. It's all about the host."

That's how I experienced tarof when I first arrived. As I learned to function within tarof, I learned to make it work for me as well. That's the point.

The point is that tarof is manipulative. It's a system of manipulation.

"It's so much better now," the same friend tells me. "At least people are talking about it now. Before, no one even spoke about tarof."

I know people who have not attended weddings because they did not want to tell surprise out-of-town guests that they had an appointment elsewhere. You can't expect to keep appointments here, but you can make them. And you do make them. A friend made a doctor's appointment 3 months in advance only to find that he was on vacation when she arrived at his office.

Tarof keeps people from being direct. It slows down the economy. It drives people crazy. Young Iranians are rebelling against it, and I wish them luck.

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