Is Tarof True?

“Tarof” can really suck. So many of our parent’s interactions have double meanings and hidden truths – sometimes I just tune out because I don’t know if they really do want their friends to come over or because they’re just living up to a certain standard.

For those of you who don’t know:

Tarof: can be described as a specific form of Iranian etiquette or politeness, and comes with a very specific set of rules of how to interact with other people. Sometimes it can be extremely frustrating and seem disingenuous, but at other times, it provides a nice framework of how to interact with other people in an extremely polite and respectful way.


A lot of times, tarof is a gateway to making you do something that you don’t really want — and the consequences don’t even feel good momentarily.

I grew up watching my mom tarof excessively around friends and family. Now she says, “I alvays do too much for people” but she still doesn’t stop tarof’ing – whether its staying home all day to bake a cake for someone’s mehmooni that night or letting an overstayed guest remain in her home for weeks.

It really didn’t take long for me to realize how much my mom’s tarof problems have had an impact on me.

At least when you’re tarofing with Iranians, they tarof back. When you tarof with white people, you end up giving away your entire burrito because someone wanted a bite.

In college, it was letting people copy my homework and giving away books before I had finished reading them. I’ve re-bought books to avoid having to ask for them back…


There are two main types of “tarof:”

1. I can’t say no: Commonly done with friends and family. It’s always important to be there for people and be someone that others can count on. But there are boundaries. You don’t have to say yes to everything just because someone asks.

Persian mothers are especially guilty of this one.

2. Giving away ideas: Commonly done with friends, coworkers, random people, and family. I think this is mostly done through pity — we feel bad if someone is having a hard time, so we give away an idea or a plan that we were going to use because hey maybe we can just come up with something else.

This is the Iranian American version of tarof.

And the worst part about of these tarofs is that when it isn’t reciprocated, we get hurt and when we don’t do it, a lot of the times we feel guilty. And the fact is, that a lot of times our tarofs aren’t always sincere and I hate that — I really try to be more honest about my feelings. But whenever I say no to a non-Iranian friend, I find myself later over-analyzing it – like oh did it upset her, should I have just said yes, etc. And majority of the times, it’s just in my head.


The truth is…

There are beautiful and well-intentioned aspects to tarof’ing.

It’s part of the Iranian culture – it’s passed down from our grandparents to our parents to us. And while it can get annoying, I really think the true intention for tarof is to go out of your way to show someone you care. And that’s really beautiful – I love that our culture is full of so much love.

However, a). everything in moderation is probably best and b). not everyone understands tarof and we have to be more mindful of that or we just end up getting hurt.

Sooo yeah, I don’t think I’ll be tarof’ing with non-Iranians anymore. #sorry #noImnot

Do you think tarof is sincere? Should we tarof with everyone?






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  1. Reblogged this on kay4ni and commented:
    Although the truth is cringe-inducing – it is nonetheless true :-)

  2. I wish there was a guide to ta’rof. I find myself being overly polite to non-Iranis and not polite enough to Iranis because I just don’t know the rules.

  3. Thanks for posting this Farrah! I enjoy your blogs a lot!

  4. I am fascinated with tarof! Sometimes I love it because I know I will get dessert even if I say no, but sometimes it’s frustrating not being able to compliment anything because they will literally take the shirt off their back if you say you like it. Actually, my sister and I have a blog, and she has written a few posts on tarof. If you have chance, feel free to read through —

    Love your blog btw!

  5. I giggle, at Eid a Nigerian said how much he liked our sweets, husband said have another one or if you want you can have the whole box. He immediately took the whole box

  6. I personally think there’s nothing really beautiful about tarof. It’s archaic and divides people by hierarchies. It’s dysfunctional outside of the Iranian cultural bubble. Communication is very important- a lot of this inability on part of Iranians to grasp honest communication and validate themselves is the root of the difficulty Iranian families have in adjusting when they move to the West.

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