As I said before (in french!), Taroff is sometimes considered as “the body of the Iranian culture” (I did not make it, Iranian saying). It consists in being hospitable, asking the other if he doesn’t need anything, and refusing money from someone who owes you some. When it is a Taroff, it means it is fake. For instance, the Taxi driver might refuse twice to charge you for the drive, but it is your duty to ask a third time, and at last he will accept. Other example, in the metro, when a seat becomes free, the person who first asks someone else if he wants to sit, is the one who actually wants, and will finally sit down. This Taroff exists for each single daily-life-thing. However when you are with your good friends, you stop Taroff. A good way to know who are your actual friends maybe? Eventhough after a month it might become exhausting to follow this rule of false kindness, it remains very funny to understand and play with it and make fun out of it in all kind of circumstances, which is acceptable since it is part of culture.
Hitch hiking is Iran is really something. After these 7 months practicing in Europe, Turkey and Caucasus, I can say Iran is the easiest and hardest country to hitch hike. Indeed, it is so easy to find someone to pick you up while waiting along the road, waving your hand or not. With regular traffic, I don’t remember I have been waiting more than 5 minutes. But it is also the hardest country to do so because, even though these people naturally picked you up, they don’t understand the concept and they can not imagine you will keep going this way. So they want to bring you to the next bus terminal or even, thinking you are doing this because you got all your money stolen, they give you some, to help you to reach the next city. This is what happened when a man, refusing me and my friend to hitch hike, stopped a bus for us and put us inside. In the bus we just explained, with simple words, we didn’t have money to pay for the lift. So they dropped us off 300 km further and gave us 200,000 Rials (8$) to reach the Isfahan. These Iranians are so nice !!
Permanent inaccuracy about numbers
First stop in Iran, Tabriz. After 2 days in the city we heard from 3 different people that there city counted 4 millions, 1 millions and 2 millions, even though the government does not provide, on purpose, any accurate number, this range seemed surreal for us. Then we realized it was the same everywhere, for every single topics related to figures, kilometers and hours of travel for instance. But the best example was in Isfahan, when I asked our host about the capacity of the new Friday mosque we were passing by, he answered « about 5 millions I think !»… More or less about 50 of the biggest football stadiums, in a city where – supposedly – about 4 millions people are living ! After our reaction he rectified « Or, no, maybe about 500 000 actually. » having the impression of saying, is it more realistic ?
When we understood the answer was systematically wrong, we started checking the figures we were interested in, and then ask the people about them, just for fun !
Lie… the best way to make things easier in Iran
Even though Iranians are super nice, welcoming and reliable people, in order to make things easier and avoid long explanations, they never hesitate to lie. About everything, and nothing and instead of saying they don’t know the answer to your question, they simply make something up. A man I met in Kurdistan (and gave us a 50 km lift, out of his way), who lived for 14 years in Europe, between France, Belgium, and Netherlands told me when he came back, 2 years ago, from his 14 years exile, people behavior choked him. Indeed, in Iran, it is possible to call a good friend, asking to meet for lunch or coffee to what this good friend answer that unfortunately he is out of the city at the moment, and cross him at the next corner. He confessed to me, that now, after a while in Iran, he started to lie as well, which made his life… easier !
Change with candies
The inflation here is over 20% a year, which depreciate their currency very quickly, the coins and some notes of 500 or 1000 Rials (respectively 1 and 2 cents of Euro) are very rare now and almost don’t exist anymore. So when you go to the small shop at the next corner to buy a bottle of water, a packet of pastas and a beer (no chance, I am dreaming !), and you give 50,000 Rials, the shop keeper might give you back some notes, as well as unlikely coins and because he doesn’t have the accurate change, instead of giving back more, or less money he owe you, he will very often give you a couple of gums or a small waffle to make the balance.
The second part of this article will come up in about a month, the time for me to exit Iran…