Social interactions in Iran are dictated by a form of etiquette known as taarof: an elaborate, indirect manner of speech and behaviour. Layers of symbolism, verbosity and insincerity are intended to smooth over conflict, ease interactions, and keep certain truths buried. It’s a form of social distancing, if you will, putting space between what is meant and what is said. As the social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh has put it, ‘in the West, 80 per cent of language is denotative. In Iran 80 per cent is connotative.’
Subscribe to The Iranian newsletter
Sign up for our daily newsletter to get the top news stories delivered to your inbox.