Hospitality kicks in first

An anatomy of an Iranian encounter


Hospitality kicks in first
by Midwesty

I saw him at the other end of the household items aisle at the local Wal-Mart store. He was a middle-age Iranian professional along his young wife. I got to know this gentleman through meeting him in some local Iranian gatherings. I’ve never had the chance to talk to him personally but we were bumping into each other every now and then.

From all the heavenly images you get to see in Iranian functions such as their cars, houses, food, female companions and so on you hardly can picture them wondering around Wal-Mart store in their jeans. This can sometimes come as a shock.

As soon as I saw him, I tried quickly to turn my shopping cart around and escape the situation by pretending that I’ve seen nothing. But when I was just ready to yank my cart to the left I saw his wife looking right into my eyes with a big smile on her face.

I think my face turned white for a couple of seconds, my mouth got dried, and my feet got heavy. There was no hope waiting for me at the end of this aisle. So, I put myself together and I pushed my cart towards them. It reminded me of the slow motion sequences in the old western movies, where two foes facing each other to shoot the heck out one another. The blow of a dusty wind was carrying dried weed balls on the background.

As I was getting closer and closer, I watched my emotion changed, ranging from shyness to being a proud Iranian, to loving my hamvatan, to disappointment, to hate, to anger and finally to regret all in 1.5 seconds. Well, the regret lasted a little bit more.

I moved forward and I looked at both of them and said hi. They said hi in a lively tone of voice and in a very civilized manner. Everything turned out to be ok but down deep that wasn’t what I was expecting from him. I wanted him to stop his cart and stretch his arm and say Salam. Are you an Iranian? Give me hug. I love you man. You are an Iranian so I am proud of you. Tell me if you have any problem in your life. Let’s get together at my house and talk Parsi. I make you a “debsh, labreez, labdooz, and labsooz” Iranian tea. Hey man I love you unconditionally just because you are an Iranian. Obviously he didn’t do that and that was why I got disappointed, so the love became the hate ending in regret.

From observing Iranian gatherings and specially “Iranian teamwork” if there is such a thing, we all know that we all suffer from one major symptom, high expectations. Even though at work and in the neighborhood we are one generally respected and known to be hard working individuals but when it comes to dealing with other fellow hamvatan we seems to get things mixed up and mistreat each other often. Why?

I think it is mostly because Iranians are one the most hospitable people in the world.

You might ask how the heck hospitality relates to mistreatment. As Iranians in Iran, we are used to see unwanted guests in the middle of the night, friends who were dropping by all the time just to say hi, frequently visiting with our loved ones, having conversation with total strangers about nothing, laughing and crying together, and supporting each other in difficult or foolish situations. Now we are reframed in a society that is strict and uptight about all relationships as long as it is not sexual.

In the society that family doesn’t extend to cousins and you can call everybody uncle, Iranians are lonely and confused. So when one of us sees another Iranian fellow the Iranian nature of hospitality kicks in first so then can be suppressed by what we learned here as how to restrict our relationships. Therefore Iranians love each other down deep we but are confused on how they are going to be perceived as an original Iranian.

I don’t know what the cure for this illness is but I have tried one thing and it has worked. I tried to lower my expectations while attempted to get closer to other Iranians. It is surprising that how ordinary we are behind these PhD, Dr, PE, and so on titles. So when you see another Iranian in the store or the parking lots remember what Sohrab said: Sadeh Basheem che dar badjeye yek bank, che dar zeere derakht.


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RE: Kamangir

by Midwesty on

I think with all the negative attitudes and the show-offs that Iranians have they are still doing better than other minorities such as Hispanics and African-Americans. However we can still learn a lot form our other fellow hamvatans such as Iranians from Armenian and/or Jewish descent or Bahaeies. One thing common in all of them is they always start from kids. They teach their kids relentlessly how to behave and how to get along with each other.



by Kamangir on

I couldn't but agree with this observation. It's true. I live in North Vancouver, where there's a very large Iranian community and I can see this by myself. However, there's another attitude the vast majority of us as a community have and that's how we regard ourselves as community, which tends to be in negative terms, usually. Many Iranians are reluctant to really deal with other Iranians, trying to avoid hiring a fellow Iranian, avoiding an Iranian employer or tenant, etc... although there're always exceptions to the rule, but over the last 2 decades  have notice d we Iranians do not get along as a community abroad. We may have many gatherings parties and concerts, but many of us do not feel comfortable with these things simply because it seems more of a 'showing off' session and it's in this city where I truly see this. Another issue is how deeply classist socisety we are. It seems that the titles and Phds and Doctors and Mohandess it's all we want to be (both in Europe and North America) An English diplomat, many decades ago, after having served in Iran said: Iran as a nation is like a child trying to act like an adult and I guess this still is the case with us as a community.



Re: Wake up

by Midwesty on

I am very sorry to hear that. My heart goes out to the Iraninas specially families with small kids. However I am happy that you've spoken out. There are couple of things I want to ask but let me ask first if you personally know any family that is in need of help?


I just wanna add one thing :

by Wake up (not verified) on

I just wanna add one thing : there are a lot of ordinary, middle class iranians in Europe. Also people who live in projects and struggle on a daily basis. Many of them don't have Phs, Masters , ect... I have the feelings that many iranians in America see things with stereotypes too much. Now I don't have any other problem with your article (I don't know why I have to say this, maybe 'cause of all the anger wich is spread in the comments section).


Time and time again I've

by SZ (not verified) on

Time and time again I've wondered the same phenomena myself!
Good analysis!

Jeesh Daram

Excellent observation

by Jeesh Daram on

and this sentence my favorite:
"In the society that family doesn’t extend to cousins and you can call everybody uncle, Iranians are lonely and confused."..........
well done.



by Daryush on

I have felt the same way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope that the Iranians would begin to form a true community someday.


Dream on! That is an "urban

by Anonymous68 (not verified) on

Dream on! That is an "urban myth" and You are full fo crap!