Tarof – A social principle in Iran

Tarof is a key concept and one of the important traditions in Iranian culture. Tarof can be described as a specific form of Iranian etiquette or politeness to show respect for others. Persian culture is characterized by Taarof (the art of excessive politeness and humility). The art of Taarof has its roots in the Persian tradition of treating your guests better than your own family and the insatiable desire to be the best hosts. Taarof is best described as a play of words between the offerer and the recipient until one of them agrees. It is an Iranian cultural phenomenon in which you refuse something that is offered to you more out of politeness and not wanting to come across as greedy rather than accepting something even though you want it. As the offerer you might be offering to give something that might be too expensive to give away just like that or for free. For instance if you are invited to a Persian home for a meal, the food is delicious and you have eaten enough yet wouldn’t mind eating some more, Taarof demands that you say no even if your host offers you a second helping. The factors at play here are, your host wanting to be gracious and ensuring you eat more than your fill and you wanting to eat some more without appearing to be a glutton. In such a case you may refuse once but accept when the offer is made a third time so that you don’t appear greedy.

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