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Culture and cultural Shock in Iran


Expats moving to Iran can expect to experience certain elements of culture shock. Religion plays an important role in everyday life in Iran and expats will need to be sensitive to these cultural norms and make necessary adjustments to their lifestyle to accommodate this.


Those who take the time to learn about the local culture and engage in a meaningful way with Iranians will find their expat experience to be more rewarding.


Language barrier in Iran

Persian or Farsi is the official language of Iran. In business and diplomatic circles, most people speak English well, but it is wise for expats doing business in Iran to arrange an interpreter.


Expats who learn some basic phrases in the local language will find that their efforts will be appreciated and they are more likely to be welcomed into Iranian society.


Religion in Iran

Islam is practised by the vast majority of the Iranian population. This religion permeates all aspects of political, economic and legal life in Iran and this is something expats will have to adjust to in their daily lives.


Expats in Iran will soon become familiar with the sound of the Muslim call to prayer – Muslims are expected to pray three times a day: at dawn, noon, sunset and evening. Friday is a holy day for Muslims and everything comes to a standstill in Iran. Almost all businesses will be closed on a Friday. Many companies also close on Thursday which means the weekend in Iran falls on a Thursday and Friday.


During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Expats aren’t expected to fast, but they must not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public.


Family values in Iran

Family, is central to social structures in Iran. The concept of family is more private in Iran and Iranians take special care in protecting their female family members from outside influences.


Iranians take their family responsibilities very seriously. Most people nowadays only have one or two children, but extended families remain large and it’s common for elderly relatives to be taken care of by the wider family circle at home.


Nepotism is quite apparent in business circles in Iran. However, it is regarded as a good thing because employing people one knows and trusts is very important.


Privacy in Iran

Iranians tend to see themselves as having two distinct identities – zaher (public) and batin (private). When they are in public they conform to accepted modes of behaviour and will refrain from showing their true personality. However, among family and close friends, they will be more open and share personal information, offer advice, help each other find jobs and cut through bureaucracy.


Manners in Iran

Expats in Iran will soon get accustomed to the concept of taarof, which is a system of politeness that includes both verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. Iranians are reluctant to accept compliments as humility is a highly valued attribute.


In adherence to taarof, expats should at least show some reluctance to accept gifts or invitations until the insistence becomes greater.  


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