Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gestures and Body Language in Iran

*Updated* I'm really excited about today's post because it's something that I've been working on for a while now. Learning a language also means learning non-verbal communication. So, for the past few months, I've been sifting through all kinds of Iranian movies and TV series trying to find visuals to go with some of these common gestures/body language. But first, some general Dos and Don'ts. 


The Dos:

1. Stand up when someone enters the room (especially if they are older). It's a sign of respect. 

2. When meeting someone of the same gender, it's common to shake hands and do ruboosikiss each other once on each cheek (although these days most people go in for a third kiss- I never know if it's 2 or 3- just go with it). Remember that you aren't actually kissing the person- more like kissing the air next to their cheek and making a kissing noise. Men and women don't do this in public unless they are related or there is a significant age difference. At home, anything goes. 


The Don'ts:

1. Don't give the thumbs up. It's the equivalent of the middle finger in the U.S. Many Iranians (especially in bigger cities) know what this means in the U.S. and will probably give you the benefit of the doubt if you do it by accident (especially if you are a foreigner). My cousin used to give the thumbs up to her friends in class before an exam, but she would write movafagh bāshi, good luck, to avoid confusion. But just stay on the safe side and don't do it. 

2. Don't show your back to someone. Or if your must, apologize by saying bebakhshid poshtam be shomāst


Common Gestures:

1. Raising your eyebrows- this means no. You'll find Iranians do this often instead of actually saying no. It's frequently accompanied by a "nooch" sound made by sort of sucking your tongue. I never knew this wasn't a universally understood gesture until I spent a few too many weeks in Iran and came back doing this to my American friends, none of whom could understand why I wouldn't answer a simple yes or no question. 


IQLoPM on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Mohammad Reza Golzar in Atash Bas




2. Biting your lower lip with your upper teeth. This expresses disbelief/shame that someone did something. It's often accompanied by hitting one hand with the other and keeping it there, or bringing your fist to your mouth. 


9RoP51 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shahgoosh
Shahgoosh

3. Pointing with your hand to a seat (or to anything else) while you say befarmāid. Just a polite way to indicate please/after you.


Amin Hayayi in Shame Aroosi

4. Placing your hand over your heart (and slightly bowing your head down/looking down) expresses sincerity


Shahgoosh

5. Putting your hand under your chin. This means you are fed up with something (your hand can be higher if you are really fed up!). People will usually say tā injām residam, I've had it up to here while making this gesture.


Mahnaz Afshar in Atash Bas

6. Putting your index finger on the nose means be quiet. This is just like in the U.S., but instead of saying "shhh", you say "sssss".


The character Lida Mokhtar, the firecracker on Shahgoosh

7. Biting your index finger or the web between your thumb and index finger. This is sort of an anti-jinx, like, God forbid or zabunam lāl.


Elnaz Shakerdoost in To Va Man
06X2FK on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shahgoosh
arAtWq on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Avaye Baran


8. Extending one hand and holding your other hand perpendicular to it. When you make this gesture, you usually say zabun dāre enghadr!, s/he's got a tongue this long meaning the person mouths off a lot


Khande Dar Baran

9. I previously wrote about the meaning of ru cheshmam. This can also be accompanied by four fingers covering one eye.


Avaye Baran
VRBKT_ on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shahgoosh


10. Counting things off. Every culture has a different way of counting on their fingers. Some start with the index finger, some with the thumb, some with the palm open, some closed. In Iran, it's done in two ways: by touching the finger to thumb, starting with the pinky, or by folding each finger down with your other hand, starting with the pinky, shown respectively in the clips from Shahgoosh.

giKkZM on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shahgoosh
_712ow on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shahgoosh

11. Hitting your own face means oh no! 


Avaye Baran


12. Finally, a couple of common gestures used to really emphasize your point. In the first one, the tips of all your fingers and thumb should touch.

TtcIjl on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shahgoosh
8rTinW on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Shame Aroosi

The stereotype is that Italians gesture a lot when they speak. I think if you watch any Iranian movies or shows (or have Iranian friends), you'll see that it's also a culture of talking with hands!

So, do you share any of these gestures in your culture too?

Pontia

13 comments:

  1. I think that as a canadian living near the capital city, we've come to adopt a whole bunch of gestures from around the world. But some that i personnaly use, and shared by everyone i know, thumbs up means good, good luck or i understand, index and thumbs touching and other fingers up means ok, good or go for it, middle finger same as usa. Thumbs and index on chin means we think, index pointing at the head and poking it means that this person is nuts, making a whirl around the ear with the index or the whole hand in a back and forth twist motion also means that this person were talking about is nuts, a wink is to say hi or the end of and inside joke, facepalm is a sing that we just cant believe how stupid that person's speech or act could be, same for a lifted eyebrow while the other is frowned... Can also be used of we are skeptical... And im not sure if this is really italian or just a stereotype, but we also use the same index-thumb touching and fingers up while kissing the tip of the touching ones to singnify that this meal is delicious or (that this woman is beautiful)... Thinking about it makes me realise how many gestures we use and these are probably not the only ones you'll se coming here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true, there is a lot of overlapping. And there really are so many. I'm sure I've missed some here, so I'm still always on the look out for more. Thanks for reading and sharing all these gestures!

      Delete
  2. What about nách ناچ ?

    ReplyDelete
  3. as an Arab Algerian girl I think we share the same gestures and body language, greeting from Algeria :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. سلام پانته آ جان.
    خسته نباشید.
    خیلی ممنون به خاطر مطالب جذاب، دقیق و خوب شما.
    این نوشته ها نشان از نکته سنجی و ریز بینی و علاقه شما به فرهنگ ایرانیان داشت.
    به امید موفقیت های روز افزون برای شما.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ممنونم از لطف زیاد شما :))

      Delete
  5. I really love reading and following your post as I find them extremely informative and interesting. This post is equally informative as well as interesting . Thank you for information you been putting on making your site such an interesting.Men Corner

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really glad to hear that it's informative. Thank you so much for reading and following, Sanam. :)

      Delete
  6. Hi, I've recently discovered this blog and am really appreciating it. I'm going through all the posts and finding them very helpful.

    I was wondering though if there was a gesture in Iran to represent 'good' or 'okay' in the same way the thumbs up means in the West?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dani, so glad to have you and to know the blog is helpful :)
      Actually, there isn't any special equivalent. Perhaps the "ok" sign we use in English would work. The thumbs up has pretty much taken on the same meaning as in the US nowadays, especially in big cities like Tehran- of course context plays an important role: giving the thumbs up to a friend is one thing, but giving it to another driver while driving is quite another!
      Thanks so much for reading!

      Delete
  7. I am doing a project over the gestures, culture, language, customs, religion, and political influences in the country. This page really helped it was full of good information.And it kind of made me laugh because some of the things i do here like the thumbs up and say good job buddy if i went over their they might just get a little up set.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it :) Good luck on your project!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...