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 ruboosi, kiss 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.
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.
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.
|Amin Hayayi in Shame Aroosi|
4. Placing your hand over your heart (and slightly bowing your head down/looking down) expresses sincerity.
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|
|Khande Dar Baran|
9. I previously wrote about the meaning of ru cheshmam. This can also be accompanied by four fingers covering one eye.
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.
11. Hitting your own face means oh no!
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.
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?