Friday, November 6, 2015

Age is Just a Number (or a year, if you live in Iran)

A few weeks ago, my class decided they each wanted to give a presentation (yes, their suggestion! To say they are a magnificent class is beyond an understatement!) But they also included me in this task and said that I had to give one of my own. We wrote a bunch of topics on slips of paper and drew for topics and presentation order. As luck would have it, I would present last with the topic of "Compare the US and Iran."

On my presentation day, I talked about some of the cultural differences that I had experienced since living here. (They would go on to tell me at the end that they thought I would speak about political differences, but that I had actually chosen a much more useful and practical approach.) Some of the obvious ones I spoke about were leaving home at 18 in the US vs living with family until you are married in Iran, the concept of taarof, and driving. I mentioned the importance of using titles in Iran vs its lack of importance in the US, and silly things like the peculiar way that Iranians count money (and they taught me how it's done!).

When it was all said and done, I remembered another silly thing that I haven't quite been able to wrap my head around: Iranians don't tell you their age, rather they tend to tell you in what year they were born. Like when they say:

"How old are you?"
"Man shast-o-hashti hastam." I'm a 68-er. (The year being 1368, which corresponds to 1989.) Why don't they just say they are 26 years old? 

And on the chance that the person does actually say their age, the other will automatically say the year:

"How old are you?"
"I'm 26."
"Oh so you're a 68-er!" (They may even continue: "So you are about the same age as my sister. She's a 67-er.")

It's no wonder Iranians are so damn good at math. Years of practice adding and subtracting ages and years.

The other day my colleague was talking about my Instagram photos. "You really love Iran, don't you?" "Yah of course I do!" I responded. "Yah, I have a cousin whose a 68-er. She lives in France. She loves it too." I'm not sure why I needed to know her age (excuse me, in what year she was born), but it was somehow relevant. But I guess either way you look at it, whether 26 or 1368, age is, after all, just a number. 


  1. I wish my culture was like the Iranian one in this respect. Everytime someone asks my age, I have to convert from the year of birth, because that is something I can remember reliably, and don't have to update every year on my birthday (which I don't consider an important event on my calendar).

    1. How interesting. I guess that's another way to look at it. I'm starting to get used to it myself and have even asked a few people what year they were born :P


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