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I laughed out loud about four times reading this - The Ultimate Paradox

May. 3rd, 2010

11:16 pm - I laughed out loud about four times reading this

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Tarof (Persian: تعارف ) is a genuine Persian form of civility emphasizing both self-deference and social rank. The term encompasses a range of social behaviours, from a man displaying etiquette by opening the door for another person, to a group of colleagues standing on ceremony in front of a door that can permit the entry of only one at time, earnestly imploring the most senior to break the deadlock.

The prevalence of tarof often gives rise to different styles of negotiation than one would see in a European or North American culture. For example, a worker negotiating a salary might begin with a eulogy of the employer, followed by a lengthy bargaining session consisting entirely of indirect, polite language -- both parties are expected to understand the implied topic of discussion. It is quite common for an Iranian worker (even one employed in an Iranian neighborhood within Europe) to work unpaid for a week or two before the issue of wages is finally broached. Likewise, a shopkeeper may initially refuse to quote a price for an item, suggesting that it is worthless. Tarof obliges the customer to insist on paying, possibly several times, before a shopkeeper finally quotes a price and real negotiation can begin.

Tarof also governs the rules of hospitality: a host is obliged to offer anything a guest might want, and a guest is equally obliged to refuse it. This ritual may repeat itself several times before the host and guest finally determine whether the host's offer and the guest's refusal are real or simply polite. It is possible to ask someone not to tarof (tarof näkonid), but that raises new difficulties, since the request itself might be a devious type of tarof. The best approach to handle Tarof is to be politely direct. Accept or reject as soon as you wish to, and be sure that Iranians will not be offended. Even though Tarof is purely about the art of civility, your engagement in Tarof might enter you into a vicious cycle of hypocrisy that may ruin your entire stay.

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Date:May 3rd, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
It's taboo to mention Tarof(which has a more complicated pronunciation than that -- more like "T'awroof"or "Taroof"). A lot of people don't even know what it is anymore and it's gradually becoming outdated. It's not really that prevalent in many circles these days in the first place(At least that's what I've been told by many different people from many different backgrounds). The cultural mentality is there, but it's sort of a chicken/egg correlation.

'Stop Tarofing around' is/was a common 'young people' thing to say. I like that.
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