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.
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.
He is very much Iranian, and left because of political repercussions after the "Green Revolution" made it impossible for him to work internationally.
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  and Qajar  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 .
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.
You can nudge subjects without actually saying anything to anyone's face.
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.
[Adam offers something]
"No, no thank you," says Barry.
(And I'm Persian)
That is still hilarious!
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 :)
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 :)
EG "a right mardy mare"
Probably NSFW for language http://www.townx.org/blog/elliot/insulting-british-colloquia...
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"
I've heard the same story, only it was a Spaniard in Germany. She was left wanting for beer.
Interesting, could you elaborate on that pls? Just curiosity :)
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.
>> 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.
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.
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 see it as an inefficiency. I'm sure there are a lot of Iranians who disagree with me.
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.
As you can imagine, this has causes unintended serious problems/misunderstandings in our social circles.
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.
OP, I feel your pain. There is no easy way around this.
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.
I love the concept of "devious t'aarof"!
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.
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.
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.'"
Port knocking to open a port (and a service behind it) which is presumably closed at start.
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)
Here is a video that also explains it and shows some examples of Taroof:
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...
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
"That cake is very beautiful! It looks delicious!"
and the process can start over again.
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.