The common way to greet in Persian is Salām (Peace) or Salām aleikum (Peace be upon you). Throughout all the Persian speaking countries it is common to place a hand on top of the heart while nodding or bowing slightly when greeting as a sign of respect and sincerity.
When greeting, a handshake is usually the norm between men and also between women in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, while women may also hug each other when meeting, if they are close friends. Handshakes are done by using the right hand only, and men and women should only shake hands if the woman stretches out her hand first.
People of the same gender usually kiss each other two or three times on the cheek when they meet. Afghans will usually kiss someone’s forehead when greeting, which shows deep respect, but a man should not kiss women like this if they are not related.
Keep in mind that Afghans tend to ask each other about their health and family when greeting and it is polite to wait until the end of these pleasantries before moving on to a different topic.
In Iran it is common for people with the lowest status to greet first, so it is polite to greet first as a compliment to your counterpart.
Iranians are usually regarded as indirect communicators. They tend to speak in a figurative manner in order to avoid causing offense and to respect their counterparts. Iranians will often make use of stories or traditional sayings to get to their point. Saying ‘no’ directly is often seen as rude in Iranian culture so it should be avoided. Nonetheless, in Iranian etiquette (taarof, that means politeness and mutual respect) it is polite to say ‘no’ initially when offered something, such as food or help, and accepting only when the other person insists, which they will.
Afghans tend to be both direct and indirect communicators, depending on who they are talking with. When interacting with older people, Afghans tend to speak indirectly and respectfully, but will tend to talk directly with people of the same age. The type of language used also tends to vary depending on the age difference and status. Additionally, raised voices in public are considered extremely disrespectful.
Tajiks have an honest approach to communication and even though Tajiks can be quite reserved, they are very welcoming, as the people of Tajikistan are well-known for their hospitality. Tajiks are very friendly, generous, and kind to their acquaintances. Humor plays a big role in Tajikistan’s communication and it is appreciated among friends.
Personal Space and Touching
In Persian speaking countries, such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, people are conscious about their personal space and will generally keep a considerate distance of each other while talking. However, while seating in public spaces that distance may not be kept between people of the same gender.
In public, physical contact is kept at a minimum between those of different gender. Nonetheless, it is common to touch friends and family in a friendly way out of the public eye. Public displays of affection, like holding hands or kissing when greeting is common between people of the same gender.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Eye contact is expected among peers and is considered respectful and trustworthy in all Persian speaking countries. In accordance with Islamic principles, though, women and men should lower their gaze and not maintain eye contact with each other.
Some gestures have the same meaning in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Pointing, for instance, is considered rude in these three countries. Similarly, pointing your feet towards someone is equally rude, insulting even, as is displaying the soles of one’s feet. The thumbs-up gesture does not have the significance it has in the West, instead, it has the same meaning of a raised middle finger. In both Iran and Tajikistan, people should avoid blowing their nose in public. Additionally, in Iran, it is rude to turn ones back at someone.
Farsi Culture Reference Guide
Farsi Population in the United States
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Farsi is the name native speakers from Iran gave to Persian. It is otherwise known as Tajik and Dari in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, respectively. They are mutually intelligible, especially Farsi and Dari, and can all be considered regional variations of Persian, the name divergence is mainly politically motivated.
Farsi is spoken primarily in Iran. It is called Farsi due to the Arabization of the p, therefore pronouncing Parsi as Farsi. Farsi has several dialects that vary regionally. The language is written in the Perso-Arabic alphabet, and Modern Persian or Farsi has several Arabic loanwords, such as salām (greetings) or ḡaḏā (food). In spite of this, the grammar and structure of the language have not suffered major variations over the years.
Dari is spoken primarily in Afghanistan, and it is very similar to Farsi. Like Farsi, Dari also has several regional dialects. The biggest difference between the two variations of Persian is the name. Dari is also written in the Perso-Arabic alphabet. The difference between Farsi and Dari can be compared to the difference between European French and Canadian French, or British and American English. The accent and word usage can vary between the two, so there are some vocabulary and pronunciation differences. Additionally, Dari has adopted some loanwords from the English language, while Farsi spoken in Iran has not.
Tajik is primarily spoken in Tajikistan. Unlike the other dialectal variations of Persian, Tajiki is written in the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet. Due to the many years Tajikistan was a part of the Soviet Union and because the Russian language is also taught at school, Tajik adopted a large number of Russian loanwords. Tajik has retained some archaism of Persian that Farsi and Dari have not.
Farsi is the official language of Iran and Tajikistan where it is known as Tajik, it is also one of the official languages of Afghanistan, where it is known as Dari. Farsi is spoken by 45 million people, primarily in Iran, but also in Iraq, Oman, Qatar, and Tajikistan. Tajik is spoken by around 4,5 million people, mostly in Tajikistan, but also in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Dari is spoken by 7,5 million people mainly in Afghanistan, but also in some parts of Iran and Pakistan. The Persian language is spoken by an estimated total of 110 million people.
Countries Where Farsi is the Official Language
Most Persian speakers that migrated to the United States came mainly from Iran and Afghanistan. The firsts to arrive did so in the 20th century. The first wave of Iranian immigrants took place in the late 1970’s, while the first wave of Afghan immigrants arrived in the U.S. between 1980 and 1989. As of 2013, over 458,000 Americans claimed Iranian ancestry and over 95,000 Americans claimed Afghan ancestry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Numbers of Tajik Americans are not precise, but it is estimated that at least 2,000 people claim Tajik ancestry. According to the 2009-2013 American Community Survey over 391,000 people speak Persian in the United States.
Leading States with the highest numbers of Persian speakers:
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