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Taarof (wikipedia.org)
135 points by Petiver on June 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

A friend of mine comes from Iran, and the first time he went to a school meeting (his son was in the first or second grade) they offered sandwiches. He was extremely hungry, but stressed out, so he forgot that he was in a different culture. When they offered him a sandwich he politely turned them down, expecting them to try two more times.

I sat next to him and watched the whole thing and found it hilarious. Had to convince him he wouldn't seem extremely impolite if he appeared to change his mind a ask for a sandwich anyway.

Before he learnt to speak English very well, we went to a lindy hop course together. There he saw this beautiful woman (he was a widower), went up to her and said to her what must have been a literal translation of a very nice thing to say in farsi:

"You move and look like a very strong horse".

I showed wingman skills I never thought I had, and they are now happily married.

Any effort to formulate ta'arof is futile. The three times rule mentioned in the article is an oversimplification. Ta'arof is a very subtle art and understanding the difference between genuine and fake ta'arof and when to stop is difficult at best. I am an Iranian and I still have trouble playing this game. I hope I will figure it out sometime before my 50s.

By the way, that phrase doesn't ring a bell. Is it possible that your friend is Azeri (Turkish), Kurd, or Arab? Because Farsi is not the only language spoken in Iran and definitely not the only language in which you are expected to ta'arof.

I asked him about it, and apparently he was just a bit socially awkward. He told me he thought she looked like an arabic full blood horse and how he was so fascinated by it. He just failed badly at expressing it as a compliment.

He is very much Iranian, and left because of political repercussions after the "Green Revolution" made it impossible for him to work internationally.

I am not questioning his nationality, I just asked about his ethnicity. I am an Iranian national from Azari (Turkic) ethnicity. We are not exactly a minority either. By some estimates more than 20 million Iranians are Azeri. [1]

Fun Political Fact: The current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and the currently incarcerated leader of the opposition (he was arrested after 2009 elections), Mir-Hossein Mousavi, are both Azeri. I just wanted to point out that Azeris are by and large Iranian. We share most culture and costums, but we have a different language and cuisine.

Fun Historical Fact: Azerbaijan and Iran have historically been the same country. Safavid [2] and Qajar [3] dynasties which collectively ruled Iran for ~400 years were Azeri. It was less than 200 years ago that Iran lost half of Azerbaijan to Russia in a war [4].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnicities_in_Iran

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safavid_dynasty

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qajar_dynasty

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Turkmenchay

Coincidentally the word Ta'arof in Arabic roughly translates to "Getting to know each other". And regarding that horse phrase, in Egypt we sometimes refer to a sexy woman as "Faras" which literally translates to horse and it's somewhat a reference to the curvaceous nature of a woman.

It sounds like the ambiguity of it all is a feature, which makes me think of this wonderful RSA Animate of Steve Pinker's discussion of how we use language:


I have a feeling a lot of the insights of this talk also hint at why something ta'arof can be useful to a human society.

Ambiguity is a large part of social interactions. A polite conversation is very much about no one losing face, where ambiguity or small hints helps a lot in keeping things subtle.

You can nudge subjects without actually saying anything to anyone's face.

> Any effort to formulate ta'arof is futile. The three times rule mentioned in the article is an oversimplification

I could relate to the chinese doing exactly the same thing when the restaurant bill has to be payed. Or if you have to knock glasses to cheer.

Similar to the three-times rule, a two-times rule did exist at one point in polite Western society. It exists in the scenario

  [Adam offers something]
  "No, no thank you," says Barry.
  "I insist."
At which point Barry is expected to accept (unless he really doesn't want it, at the risk of it becoming "a thing").

I cannot think of any Persian phrase that relates to that!

(And I'm Persian)

That is still hilarious!

"You move and look like a very strong horse".

I think he meant mare not horse here but I can't really be sure because here in Egypt we have these same "terms of endearment" for attractive women like (Farasa: mare, Gazal: Gazelle) although they're falling out of favor esp among younger generations and to my knowledge they are not really effective on women and I don't recall a situation where they worked except the one you cited here :)

Lucky he got them confused! In the UK at least, calling someone a horse doesn't really make sense, but calling someone a mare is fairly insulting.

That's pretty interesting. "Horse" is a generic insult for an ugly person, often a woman, in US slang, but "mare" has no significance.

And yet filly (a young female horse) is quite appropriate as a compliment or term of endearment for a fashionable lady in some parts of the world.

Does "mare" hold any sexual connotations?

Because in our case, it could mean that the female is attractive and has good physique esp. stature or it's implied that she has good sexual appetite/stamina and that's why it's best to avoid all these terms altogether and stick to plain and simple pickup lines :)

It's usually bad-tempered or band natured.

EG "a right mardy mare"

Probably NSFW for language http://www.townx.org/blog/elliot/insulting-british-colloquia...


No, no sexual connotations

I don't think "mare" is that insulting either, an insult-lite at best.

Used in relation usually to being stubborn.

"come on, do your homework, you're stubborn like mare / you stubborn little mare"

Yes, sexual connotations.

> A friend of mine comes from Iran, and the first time he went to a school meeting (his son was in the first or second grade) they offered sandwiches. He was extremely hungry, but stressed out, so he forgot that he was in a different culture. When they offered him a sandwich he politely turned them down, expecting them to try two more times.

I've heard the same story, only it was a Spaniard in Germany. She was left wanting for beer.

Everybody who dares to compare Taarof to any western behavior has not experienced the sheer intensity of it... It's unlike anything I know and takes a good time to get accustomed to (husband of real grown-up-in-Iran persian wife here...). In many cases, I find that at the end both parties do the opposite of what they wanted due to taarof, so I think this thing is rather difficult for Iranians, too, even if it is deeply ingrained to their minds. Anyhow, Taarof is what makes Iranians so lovely to Westeners in the first place (later you will find out that they, too, are just normal people).

>> Taarof is what makes Iranians so lovely to Westeners in the first place (later you will find out that they, too, are just normal people).

Interesting, could you elaborate on that pls? Just curiosity :)

Well, ask anyone how they think Iranians are (as long as they know some in person) and almost always they will tell you something along the lines of "Wow, they are so extremely nice, so polite and generous". But this is, to some extend, a facade . The more you get to really know Iranians, you understand that they too can be really mean to others, have their fights, say bad things. They just do it in other, more indirect and complicated to understand ways. And Iran is a country 100% operating on Taarof so you need a lot of context to read the meaning of words. For example, once in Shiraz I was offered some icecream by friends of the family and I was like "Yes, sure!". Until this day, they laugh about it, because such directly accepting things is uncommon there (and while otherwise aware of the customs, the possibility of getting some icecream broke my barriers...). They think it's funny when Westeners are direct like that because they, too, watch TV and know our way of life. But if I had been Iranian, my reaction would have been unacceptable unpolite. Along the lines of taarof, many misunderstandings occur that can lead to bad blood in the end without anybody really wanting it in the first place. There is no room for criticism, so things are not talked about and never sorted out.

"Wow, they are so extremely nice, so polite and generous" This is true. Spent 6 weeks driving from the Turkish border to Pakistani border a few years ago with the wife and then 2.5 yr old daughter

Countless times we were invited into peoples homes, fed, all but force to stay the night and left with foods / sweets. Aware of the taroof system we refused as didn't want to burden them but even going passed the customary 3 refusals they still insisted.

A few occasions we were offered money to help us on the way when they heard about our journey (around the world).

This happened in cities / villages from the upper classes to just normal people.

One particular instance comes to mind of camped on the outskirts of a small dirt road village near the Persian gulf. About 7.30 we were woken up by a banging on the van. On looking out the window, a small woman dressed head to toes in a chador (black cloak covering everything but the face) insisted we come to breakfast and shower. The wife was still sleeping so we politely declined. 30 minutes later she came back, more banging and insisted, confused why we hadn't come yet, we need to eat and have to shower. She all but grabbed the wife by the hand and dragged her to her house. She put on a mighty fine spread for breakfast. Took our daughter to show her to the neighbour, then took her to the shop to buy food for the lunch she would cook for us. She called her husband, got him to come back from work (he spoke a little English). Put the cable tv and got out a secret stash of homemade red wine and some whiskey. Am not really a big drinker and 8.30am is a bit early for wine and whiskey, but I think I only refused once.

Our experience was repeated by all other overlanders we met who had passed through Iran.

My wife and I spent three weeks in Iran, escaping Christmas 2008 (we're not religious and we don't have kids, so visiting countries where they don't do Christmas is a brilliant way to escape the madness). It was one of the most wonderful travel experiences we've had. Here's our story of getting Ta'arof wrong in a small country town in rural Gilan: http://threeweeksiniran.blogspot.ie/2009/03/ta-fail.html

Interestingly, this kind of invitation-taroof is most often meant like they say. If they insist (and always make sure they insist) on inviting you, it is genuinely meant this way. There is no trap, no second meaning to it. My iranian wife, for example, is always prepared to receive some guests and there is no bad talking afterwards.

I really enjoyed reading about your experience. On a side note, if those offerings happened at the Turkish side, you didn't need to worry about taroof. As someone who was born and raised in Turkey for 18 years and now living in the US, I can tell you that I had never heard of taroof. You could have accepted those offerings without worry. :)

Thanks, the word 'facade' is what came to mind reading your reply. Here in Europe I've met several Iranians, though all happenned to have lived in Western countries for many years. I am sure in those cases they are genuinely nice people, so no facades involved.

>> There is no room for criticism, so things are not talked about and never sorted out

This resonates with traditional Catholic families too, where "elephants in the room" are not really addressed/dealt with many times. E.g. a daughter/granddaugter having a kid out of marriage etc.

They ARE most probably genuinely nice people, especially in their European context. I could not have married an Iranian women if I was not sure if she and her family were genuinely nice (and they are in tons, I am incredibly proud on my Persian family here and in Iran). This nicety to you is most probably not made up, don't get my former comment wrong. And they are no fools, they know you are European and obey to other rules. But... you will not find out about the inner-Iranian conflicts that arise quite more often than I would have expected and they arise most often around the fine line of taarof. You never experience those calm conflicts as an outsider, you only see them from the inside (and I think I am in the position to say that I am on the inside). And those things are surprising me, especially the lack of conflict solving skills (example: in Europe/USA people tend to forgive you when you confess having made a mistake, in Iran they tend to condemn you so in the end you try to cover)

A real world example for a taroof related conflict: "I think on my last visit she hasn't tried to convince me hard enough to stay overnight so I think I am not wanted" - 1 1/2 years siblings not talking any more. Other sign of taarof-related conflict (real world experience): When family meets, brother has, for some unknown reason, now always "important work" to do and can never attend, when before everything was right.

Ok I think the Persian people need a Post-Taroof Reformist League. Those unspoken Taroof-ish concerns seem like obstacles that complicate their daily lives (sigh). I command you to plant the reformist seed in their society :D

But you know...not everything is bad. Taarof makes actual travel to Iran rather smooth and comfortable as people really try to help you the best they can (as long as you have at least a small sense of what is too much, which you get fast).

That doesn't help the Iranians' lives! Other than getting more money injection by increase of niceness-seeker tourism, hahah.

Joking, if it's like this and is not terribly linked to a religious dogma( which doesn't seem to be, more like a cultural thing), I'm sure there's a 'raison d'être'(I believe natural selection applies to not-directly-biology-linked entities such as societies). Maybe violent fights/discussions are more prevented thanks to Taroof? That's a wild guess ofc.

Yes, you are right: taarof is entirely non-religious and practiced by believers and atheists alike. I can't tell if it really prevents violent conflicts. Maybe... I also don't know if it makes life easier due to some standards of communication or if things get obfuscated and more difficult... In the end, the only sure thing is: it is like that.

I try to :) In the form of really often expressing my explicit wish for their wonderful icecream :D :D

People sometimes mistake Iranian hospitality with taarof. I guess that happens when they learn about taarof but don't understand it well enough to tell it apart from genuine hospitality.

Fake taarof is usually given with words well known to mean as taarof. There aren't many of those. If an offer is not given with those words, it's safe to say that it's genuine.

A typical Iranian would be disappointed, even heartbroken, if his/her offering gets construed as fake taarof.

As an Iranian, when you have guest, whether you've been expecting them or you've just met them on the street, your job now is to make sure that they have a good time. That means tasty food, entertainment, a place to stay, safety, and good company. If you can't provide these, you simply don't offer. And many people don't. Most don't have the financial means nowadays. Some don't think that you would enjoy their company. Oddly, some people aren't confident about their cooking skills.

But, as a tourist in Iran, if you do get an offer to stay at someone's house or have dinner with them, it's generally safe to say that you can accept the offer. And know that you wouldn't be a burden to them.

I can't speak for everyone, but most people that I know absolutely enjoy taking care of a guest. And they'll have a good time if their guest is having a good time.

I'm Iranian. Taarof is the worst thing ever. Simple social interactions become these meaningless and tangled situations. It's really hard to get things done. Your average shopping in the market takes at least 50% more than it should. Just going through a door as a group might take a few minutes.

I see it as an inefficiency. I'm sure there are a lot of Iranians who disagree with me.

Has its pros and cons. I like that when I am a guest, the host has a sense of duty to ensure I have a good time, feel welcome, am well fed. I always feel awkward when I show up at a non-Iranian's gathering and everyone, including the host, just remains seated, don't get up to greet me, don't offer food other than "there's food in the kitchen, help yourself."

The odd thing is the article references "who pays the bill" as the only similar thing in western society, but most of the examples given (except working without wages) sound like the polite society I grew up in. Perhaps not to the same extent. I'll offer something to a friend, they'll refuse, I'll insist. They'll refuse again if the really don't want what I'm offering, or they'll accept if their refusal was just politeness.

Similarly, even in my little and very western country of the Netherlands, there are definitely places where this is part of the regular custom.

Same thing in France, and I think in most parts of Europe.

I guess its a matter of degree. The dance has three rounds in some countries.

Wow, this sounds exactly like offering anyone anything in Minnesota.

You're missing the point here Abruzzi. These customs are mainly put in place or evolved to govern the interactions between strangers not between friends and family although they apply nevertheless.

So, when it's customary around the world to be nice with your friends and show them that you care about them, in other cultures esp. high-context ones this friendly behavior extends to strangers as well.

For someone like me who is borderline Asperger, this is a rather hard game to take part in. I would sometime take it literally and accept their refusal, not realising that this has caused offense. Other similar taarof exchanges were not respected by me, causing further problems.

As you can imagine, this has causes unintended serious problems/misunderstandings in our social circles.

For exactly that reason (I am poor at mind-reading plus I do value honesty over civility) I like the Bay Area style: you can ask for anything, but you should never expect positive answer for a given.

In particular, when I offer a couch, or payment, or a snack, then I mean it (sometimes I made this explicit). And if someone said "no" but wanted to say "yes", well, it's their problem, not mine.

I hope the article is informative - just count out their refusals three times.

That's an oversimplification of a very complex custom. There are no mathematical rules. You need to understand the subtle undertone and leave a margin of error to be sure. By the way, when someone says "Bi Ta'arof migam ..." (meaning "I say this without ta'arof"), it's still ta'arof.

OP, I feel your pain. There is no easy way around this.

No, there is no easy way around this. My kids are diagnosed with Asperger. my heart aches when I see them missing social prompts and fail to form the social bonds that are so important at their formative years.

When Google glass was first announced, I had hope that it would help with the interpretation of underlying meaning of social interactions. I came to the conclusion that the idea is there, but the technology is not.

"It is possible to ask someone not to t'aarof ("t'aarof nakonid"), but that raises new difficulties, since the request itself might be a devious type of t'aarof."

I love the concept of "devious t'aarof"!

It's like meta t'aarof?

I can tell you Taarof is one of the worst traditions us Iranians have, it's like playing reverse poker.

Taarof is mostly based on context, with a stranger it's never genuine but with within friends and family you will want to pull your hair out. You will begin to pay for stuff just to skip the awkward Taarof, but will have no choice to engage in it when the other person has to give in to the Taarof.

There is a (perhaps less intense?) version of this operating in the Slavic nations. I notice it in Poland. Especially the rule of 3. A host offers you food and drink 3 times, and you are suppose to refuse it a few times, and only if they keep offering should you think that they are serious.

Likewise, if you have Poles over for dinner, you might ask "Would you like more wine?" My American friends will say "yes" if they want more wine, but the Poles will say "No". Then you have to insist, "Please have more wine!" and they say "No" again, and this goes for a few rounds before they accept the wine.

The Irish equivalent, courtesy of the fabulous Mrs Doyle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVH3IBr_Ipk

Hooman Majd's book, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, is pretty interesting, especially as it relates to ta'arof at the international level.

He argues that many of the seemingly bizarre comments and gestures made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in diplomatic settings, can be understood when ta'arof is taken into account.

There was also a fascinating article about ta'arof and diplomatic negotiations in the New York Times:


“'In the West, 80 percent of language is denotative. In Iran 80 percent is connotative.'

Translation: In the West, 'yes' generally means yes. In Iran, 'yes' can mean yes, but it often means maybe or no. In Iran, Dr. Tajbakhsh said, listeners are expected to understand that words don’t necessarily mean exactly what they mean.

'This creates a rich, poetic linguistic culture,' he said. 'It creates a multidimensional culture where people are adept at picking up on nuances. On the other hand, it makes for bad political discourse. In political discourse people don’t know what to trust.'"

I'm an Iranian too. It's good that a Wikipedia entry is made to explain it (I have explained it to my western friends multiple times in the past, now I can refer them to this entry) I should also stress that Taarof in tiny doses is not bad, but when you have to face it every day in different scenarios, it becomes a recurring hassle. We're used to it!

Coming from a part of India, that's really close to Persian culture, I can see now where some of our customs come from. This combined with Indian customs of etiquette and you have a society where the guest is considered God.

I'm from Pakistan and I agree with you on it: now I know where some of our customs come from.

Hmm, that's really interesting. Does anyone know of any computer interfaces where the computer demonstrates taarof (for example, "Have a $15 account credit on us!" "No thanks" "No, I insist" "No thanks", etc.)? I don't mean in the naggy fashion (a program suggesting something multiple times as an attempt to hook the user) but out of an expectation that the user will follow taarof and decline the first three times.

There is in fact.

Port knocking to open a port (and a service behind it) which is presumably closed at start.

oversimplification: CLIENT> POKE POKE SERVER> TCP RST, nothing to SEE HERE CLIENT> POKE POKE POKE <SPACE> POKE POKE POKE (i insist in proper way) SERVER> TCP ACK (I oblige)

More: https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-conf...

Might come across as quite unbelievable for modern day western folks but that's basically exactly what also happens in China and in general East Asian countries. Totally archaic in the modern world and can become extreme hinderances for frank discussions, collaboration and productivity. Fortunately young people are gradually getting rid of those s especially among themselves but it's sometimes quite bad that many people of previous generations are still emphasizing those as civilized etiquettes, while in fact it only breeds hypocrisy and miscommunication. This is also an example of misunderstandings and conflicts between generations: some mundane members of older generations simply don't really understand the more modern ideals of young people, and from incomprehension stemmed suspicions and fear, which is unfortunate and laughable. Some of them are also realizing the issue for sure but the number is still small. The sooner it's gone in our culture the better. I guess it takes time though just as it probably did in other places in the world. Culture changes are always a kind of behind the socio-economic changes.

In my farsi class we also once had a brief introduction into the concept of Taarof. Never heard of it before and thought it is really interesting but I understand that it sometimes can get a bit too much :-)

Here is a video that also explains it and shows some examples of Taroof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5oX2n1-diA

This American Life segment on Taarof:


I can see how some of our North Americans customs may see alien to Iranians. However the engineer in me cringes at the inefficiency of such exchanges ... Oh well, when in Rome do as the Romans I guess.

I'm from Iran and was travelling there with a Spanish friend of mine. We took a taxi to the airport for nearly 30km. The guy was really warm specially by seeing a tourist and when we arrived there he was Taarofing and not accepting the money and even saying it in a broken english that he doesn't want it. My friend was convinced he won't get the money. Eventually he accepted it and hugged us. I'm pretty sure if we hadn't payed him he would have kicked our asses!

This is very similar to Indian culture as well. People get upset if you don't follow Taarof and suddenly won't talk to you without giving any apparent reason. I have seen my Mom analyze social interactions post-mortem to derive additional meanings on what was superficially discussed. If you ask me, this is too much drama, I am (may be all of us) better off without it..:).

In Norway my grandma tells the same thing about life 50 years ago far into the countryside -- she tells this funny story about somebody who was extremely hungry after a long hike, but didn't eat as they were only implored to eat twice, not three times. Granted she thought they were silly, I guess the custom may have become more relaxed around then.

This reminds me so much of George Alec Effinger's Budayeen cycle of cyberpunk novels, though it's supposed to involve Arabic culture not Persian.

No doubt crass since it's a real thing, Taraaf sounds like an excellent and fun mechanism for social interactions in fiction... now I'm going to look for a book which demonstrates it...

Just curious , what's that suppose to mean in HN?

I found it interesting, and I think it has something to do with yesterday's The Atlantic article about Indians not saying "thank you" as much as the Americans or the English.

Now, about the article, and especially about this:

> T'aarof also governs the rules of hospitality: a host is obliged to offer anything a guest might want, and a guest is equally obliged to refuse it. This ritual may repeat itself several times (3 times)

the same "3-times" rule was also valid (and in some places it still is) in rural Romania until not that long ago. More exactly, if you had been invited to their table "only" once or twice by somebody else you had to say "no", only the third time were you allowed to say "yes" (if you really wanted to). It also created lots of awkward social situations after Communism fell and foreigners (mostly Westerners) first came to Romania. Lots of them would accept table invitations which were not really meant to be accepted on the first go.

There's an old joke I heard as a child in India: a kid who is going to attend a birthday party of a friend is instructed by his mother to refuse three times before accepting any food offered to him. When he is finally offered cake (after a long wait), all he can do is yell "NO NO NO" before grabbing the plate.

> Indians not saying "thank you" as much as the Americans or the English

Yes, cultural differences are sometimes strange.

Here in Germany most people are rather short-spoken. So if a German is nice to me, he probably likes me, otherwise he would not make the effort.

When I talk to English people, it feels like they are talking like Germans who like me, even if they just are like this to everyone. This feels very strange if I just met them or if they tell me unpleasant things. I often feel a bit deceived.

I think that there is some trade-off between "amigo" and "close friend" barriers.

For some countries (Germany, Poland, ...) the initial contact is icy, but after breaking the ice, it's easy to get straightforward to confessions, biggest dreams etc.

For other (e.g. Spain, USA, ...) the initial contact is warm, but it is somehow harder to became close friends (or at least - it's hard to tell).

At least for a Pole, it may work different way for different people. I am curious if it is possible to get some objective data on it (any ideas?).

And, as a rare counterexamples, for me it was usually warm/easy for Italians and cold/hard for the French.

Politeness is yet another layer, but not the same as warmth.

I've read the same about Russians. They're straightforward, no protocol, no unnecessary smile. Everything expressed is (or should be) genuine. Hence the 'russians are cold' feeling when they meet other cultures. Asian people smiles a lot, they have this mindset where smiling at someone make them happy and help relationships.

I face it A LOT with US people. I'm a Pole, and this additional layer of "politness" presented by US is quite difficult and strange. Especially that I observed that such short lived enthusiasm shown on meetings is not followed by long term behaviour (and does not represent real feeling of US person, but is hard to get at start).

IT's nice at start, and while it last, yet it's quite a difference I observe. I wonder if they find us cold and impolite during such encounters.

p.s. I for one don't agree that US 'thank you' equals the very word presented in many europeans language dictionaries. My theory is that it underwent substantial inflation and lose a lot of value underway. It's given everywhere and for things it should not (as they're normal). Yet another cultural difference nice to be aware :)

Having moved from New Zealand to England a couple of years ago, I've found that the English are less direct and more polite than people in NZ. I initially found it more difficult judging whether someone liked me because of the additional layer of politeness. I found it somewhat disingenuous, but I've become accustomed to it.

Similarly, I spent a few hundred hours in a social context with some people from North America recently and initially found it quite hard to judge whether they were being sincere or not. It's interesting that we perceive other (even relatively similar, as UK/NZ/USA are) cultures to be difficult to understand but can become quite used to them. I wonder if I might find New Zealanders to be quite direct now.

The 3-times rule is still the roughly case in Ireland when you're offered something, and what the "ah go on go on go on" in the TV Show Father Ted was satirising.

What's interesting is when customs collide. For example my German relatives wonder why we keep asking them if they want something when they've already said no, whereas I'm waiting for them to offer another two times before I can say yes.

What do you do if the second or third time never come?

In some cultures, you make an admiring comment about the thing:

"That cake is very beautiful! It looks delicious!"

and the process can start over again.

Although I understand your question, it was a very interesting article about an idiomatic social device, human relationships and how you reach open / honest communications level.

To help HN audience acquiring knowledge in human communication or polishing up their people skills.

We all know that techies in general are not the best oral communicators out there. So, this piece and many others like the one submitted yesterday about the different perspectives for words of courtesy between India and the USA and how they affect or color whether in positive or negative light communication between people of different cultures and backgrounds.

So, I'd say please post more of these topics here for the benefit of everyone.

Did anyone else read: "[...] is a Persian form of civility emphasizing both deference and social rank, similar to the Chinese art of etiquette, lmao"

I didn't believe my eyes as I saw the wikipedia link to Taarof listed here :D Even though as I am half persian it made me smile ;)

Same feeling here

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