If you’re around Iranians often, chances are you’ll be invited to their homes. Iranians love hosting, and it’s common to invite someone over as soon as you meet them. So, let’s learn some of the language and etiquette that goes along with being hosted.
how are you?
Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’
Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.
Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.
|chetor-ee||how are you?|
|khayli khoobam||I’m very well|
|khoob neestam||I’m not well|
|bad neestam||I’m not bad|
|chetor-een?||how are you? (formal)|
|hālé shomā chetor-é?||how are you? (formal)|
|hālet chetor-é?||how are you? (informal)|
|khoob-ee?||are you well? (informal)|
|chetor peesh meeré?||how’s it going?|
|ché khabar?||what’s the news? (what’s up?)|
Learn Persian with Chai and Conversation
Matt: Hello and welcome to lesson 55 of Chai and Conversation
Leyla: This unit of Chai and Conversation is focusing on cultural aspects of the language. In last week’s lesson, we went over expressions used in the Persian language, and this week, we’re going to get back to etiquette. So if you’re around Iranians often, chances are you’ll be invited to their homes. Iranians love hosting, and it’s common to invite someone over as soon as you meet them. So, let’s learn some of the language and etiquette that goes along with being hosted.
First of all, the vocab used for asking someone to come over is ‘befarmayeen manzel.’ Manzel is the word for personal residence ‘manzel’
Leyla: So befarmayeen manzel means ‘please come over to my house.’ befarmayeen manzel
Matt: befarmayeen manzel
Leyla: And obviously this is a really important word for etiquette in the Persian language, because it’s come up over and over again in this unit. We’ve used it in so many different examples. Matt, can you remember another instance the word befarmayeen has been used?
Matt: Yes, you can use it when entering a door. You say befarmayeen if another person is trying to enter at the same time so that they can enter first.
Leyla: Right, that’s a great example. Do you remember befarmayeen besheeneen?
Matt: Yes, it means please sit.
Leyla: Exaclty. So if someone comes over and you want to tell them to have a seat, you say ‘befarayeen besheeneen’
Matt: ‘Befarmayeen besheeneen’
Leyla: So again, the phrase for inviting someone to your house is ‘befarmayeen manzel’
Matt: Befarmayeen manzel
Leyla: Please come over to the residence. If you want to get a little more specific, and make sure they know exactly where you’re talking about, you could clarify by saying ‘manzeleh man’ This would mean my residence. Manzeleh man
Matt: Manzeleh man
Or, if you live with your family, you could say ‘our residence’, manzeleh ma
Matt: Manzeleh ma
Leyla: So we could say ‘befarmayeen manzeleh ma’
Matt: Befarmayeen manzeleh ma
Leyla: Please come over to our house.
Of course, when being asked to come over to someone’s house, there is some tarof involved. You can’t simply accept the offer, you have to politely decline. You could do this by saying ‘na, mozahem nabasham’. Mozahem is a great word- it means in the way. Mozahem
Leyla: So I don’t want to be in the way, or be any trouble to you. Mozahem nabasham
Matt: Mozahem nabasham
Leyla: And if you’re more than one person, mozahem nabasheem
Matt: mozahem nabasheem
Leyla: And of course the person who is trying to host you will reassure you that you’re no trouble at all, and that you should come over. Let’s learn a few ways of expressing this. One thing you could say is ‘een harfa cheeyeh?’
Matt: een harfa cheeyeh?
Leyla: Literally meaning, what are these words? een harfa cheeyeh?
Matt: Harfa cheeyeh?
Leyla: You can also say ‘you’re no trouble’- mozahem neestee
Matt: mozahem neestee
Leyla: Which applies to one person, or say mozahem neesteen for more than one person. Mozahem neesteen
Matt: mozahem neesteen
Leyla: And again insist on them coming over- lotfan befarmayeen
Matt: lotfan befarmayeen
Leyla: Please come. So let’s try a sample dialogue of how all this would go down. I’ll start by asking Matt to come over with Ladan and Kimiya.
Leyla: Matt, Lotfan emshab ba Ladan va Kimiya befarma manzeleh ma
Matt: Khayli mamnoon, mozahem nabasheen.
Leyla: Va, een harfa cheeyeh? Lotfan befarmayeen.
So that’s a very simple dialogue using exactly the phrases we just learned. I did add specifically that I would like for him to come over with Ladan and Kimiya. I did this by saying lotfab emshab ba Ladan va Kimiya befarma mazeleh mal. So tonight, please come over to our house with Ladan and Kimiya. Let’s practice this together. Lotfan emshab ba Ladan va Kimiya befarma manzeleh ma
Matt: Lotfan emshab ba Ladan va Kimiya befarma manzeleh ma
Leyla: So one of the most important things to know when you’re visiting an Iranian’s house is that you’re not supposed to show up empty handed. There is a word for empty handed- and that is ‘dasteh khaali’
Matt: dasteh khaali
Leyla: And that is literally empty handed. You are actually supposed to show up dasteh por
Matt: dasteh por
Leyla: meaning full handed. So this applies to you people dating Iranians that are visiting your girlfriend or boyfriend’s family for the first time as well. In order to make a good impression, make sure to show up with either flowers, or gol
Leyla: or pastries, sheereenee,
Leyla:, or both if you really want to impress them. Flowers and pastries for dessert are the most common things to take, but it’s also possible to take something for the house, like a nice dish or a vase. So again, the words for flowers is gol
Leyla: and pastries is sheereenee
Leyla: And sheereenee literally translates to sweets. So flowers or sweet, gol ya sheereenee, or gol va sheereenee.
I should add here that a common response to an Iranian being handed flowers is by telling the guest ‘khodet golee,’ meaning you yourself are a flower. This is a cute expression meaning you didn’t need to bring flowers, you yourself are a flower already! So khodet golee!
Matt: Khodet golee
Leyla: And that’s just a nice way of thank you for the flowers.
Let’s talk about greetings as well for a second. When you arrive at someone’s house, dasteh por of course, the host most often say ‘khosh amadeen’
Matt: khosh amadeen
Leyla: Meaning ‘welcome!’ It literally translates to ‘you’ve come happy or well’ or you’ve brought happiness. Very much like if you break welcome apart to well and come- khosh amadeen
Matt: khosh amadeen
Leyla: When the host greets you at the door, they’ll use the word befarmayeen again to ask you to come in. Befarmayeen too
Matt: Befarmayeen too
Leyla: Meaning please come in. Befarmayeen too!
Matt: befarmayeen too
Leyla: When you arrive at someone’s house, you greet each person that is there individually. In Western culture, you can often get away with doing one big hello for the whole group, but not so in Iranian culture. You must go up to each person and greet them and say hello individually, and this often includes a lot of kissing. In Iranian culture, a kiss on the cheek is a common form of greeting, like in many latin cultures. Now, who you kiss and who you don’t kiss and how many times you kiss people really depends on the people you’re interacting with, so you have to take cues. In my family, for instance, we greet each other by kissing twice- once on each cheek. And we kiss women and men. In more conservative Iranian households, men and women do not kiss each other to greet one another- among very conservative Iranians, men and women will not even shake hands. Rather, they’ll just nod as a greeting. When two men or two women are greeting each other, however, they will always kiss each other on the cheek. This practice is known as roo boosy
Matt: roo boosy
Leyla: Boos, we’ve learned before, means kiss, and roo, while literally meaning on, means face in this context. So, roo boosy
Matt: roo boosy
Leyla: So the best advice I can give on this front is, do as others do. If an aunt draws you into a kiss, go with it. Some Iranians do one kiss, some do two, some even go for three or four. Just be flexible and see what happens. And if you can, see what the people greeting before you do. If you want to be safe with the opposite sex, just extend your hand and see how it goes. But the important thing to remember is that each person must be given individual attention and greeted individually.
Another thing to keep in mind when visiting an Iranians house is that many Iranians, especially those that live in Iran, take off shoes when entering a house. Because rugs and sitting on the floor are such important parts of Iranian culture, this is a practical way of keeping the floor clean.
We’ve already covered the vocabulary of being hosted in the previous lessons about tarof. We know that at this point of the evening, there will be plenty of tea drinking, and baskets of fruit offering. So let’s skip to the ending part- when it’s time to leave. First of all, Iranians never really just get up and abruptly leave. It’s a whole process, and can often take a lot of time- think hours, not just minutes. So there are many phrases to prepare the host and guest for the fact that eventually the guest will have to get up and go. One of these phrases is, khob, zahmat kam koneem
Matt: Khob zahmat kam koneem
Leyla: So we’ve covered the word zahmat earlier in this lesson- what did that mean Matt?
Matt: It means trouble
Leyla: Exactly, so zahmat kam koneem means ‘let’s lessen the trouble’. Zahmat kam koneem
Matt: Zahmat kam koneem
Leyla: Kam is the word for less. Kam
Leyla: So one last time, zahmat kam koneem
Matt: zahmat kam koneem
Leyla: Another great phrase when you know you’re getting ready to go is yavash yavash pa sheem. This is a wonderful phrase, and is one of those expressions that sounds so silly when translated to English. First, yavash means slowly. Yavash
and pa sheem means let’s get up. Pasheem
Leyla: So yavash yavash pasheem together means slowly slowly let’s get up. So again, this phrase is said at the beginning of the getting up process. Usually, the guest will say it once, an the host will say ‘na, feylan neshasteen!’ meaning ‘no, for now you’re sitting’ meaning- please stay! So feylan neshasteen
Matt: feylan neshasteen
Leyla: So the conversation continues after the guest either again says their intention to leave, ‘vaghan deegeh yavash yavash pasheem’. Vaghean means really. So really now let’s slowly start leaving. Vaghan deegeh yavash yavash pasheem
Matt: vaghan deegeh yavash yavash pasheem
Leyla: And at this point, the guest often does get up despite the insistence of the host telling them to stay seated. Iranians really don’t want the party to end! So at the point, the guests generally start inching towards the door. But like I said, leaving is a process, and you’ll often see Iranians huddled at the door, continuing the conversation despite the intention to leave. This is usually built into the time frame they thought be staying at the party. After standing in the door way for a while, the conversation usually moves outside. After all is said and done, and the guests manage to get to the their cars, Iranians will always stand outside and wave at the guest until they are out of sight. To say goodbye inside and not follow the guest out is seem as rude in Iranian culture, and they will almost always escort you to the door and watch you leave. Khob, Matt, yavash yavash bereem?
Matt: Umm, I guess that means we’re at the end of the lesson?
Leyla: That’s right! yavash yavash bereem, let’s slowly slowly go, except on the podcast we don’t really hae a doorway to linger at. So I supposed until next time, beh omeedeh dededar from Leyla
Matt: And khodahafez from Matt.