Tarof (ing)

Informant Description/ Context of performance: My friend tells me about a common practice/ behavior in Persian culture. 

Interviewee: Tarof is the way that like two people will interact in a social situation that involves some kind of… like gathering. For example, let’s say we’re all at dinner and it’s like a huge Persian family. When the check comes, it becomes like the struggle to pay. It becomes this whole thing.

Me: Oh, we have that in Indian culture too.

Interviewee: Yeah, but we have like a word for it. So like another example is if you’re a guest at somebody’s house and they offer you food, and you say “no thank you, I’m good,” they’ll come back again and say “no no no.. you need to have some of this.. I don’t know, pineapple.” Then you’ll say “no really, it’s okay.” This exchange is like tarof-ing; it’s like this back and forth where both people won’t give in. It’s like intense.

Me: Is it like a form of hospitality in your culture?

Interviewee: It’s like a hospitality thing, but it’s also understood that you will do this even if you’re not into like… do you know what I mean? It’s like an expected thing. You would be a fucking bad Persian if you didn’t like partake in that back-and-forth.

Me: Do you know where this cultural philosophy came from? Like where did you learn this from?

Interviewee: Literally every Persian family I’ve ever interacted with. Please look up videos on it, it’s so funny.

Conclusion (written by Interviewer): It’s interesting to see the same concept in a different culture. In Indian culture, it is customary to fight over paying for the bill, insisting on your guests eating something when they come to your house, putting your guests first, etc.. However, I have never known that exchange to have a formal word as it does in Persian culture. It is a behavior that I have seen practiced throughout many cultures; however, it does seem more intense in Persian culture as there is a very well-known established word for it. An interesting video my friend showed me to exemplify the extent of “tarof” is included in a link below. This link obviously exaggerates the practice and was created as more of a joke; however, she did assure me that it is based off of a very honest, sometimes ridiculous reality.