It’s about 11 years I have been living outside of Iran and since that time I have been in several European and Middle East countries.
I have learned a lot about differences and similarities between cultures. Those experiences are precious, sweet and valuable.
I have decided to share some of my funny memories in the frame of short stories, about my reaction to different cultures as an Iranian person.
But before telling my first memory, I think it is necessary to give a brief explanation about two points of my culture; standing up and use of a family name or title.
In Iran, since our childhood, we have learned that it is always polite to stand up when someone enters the room and when someone is leaving a room. Regardless if you are student in school/university or an employee in an office or a host at a party. Traditionally younger people get to their feet for the elders, regardless of gender.
We have to call the older generation by their formal title or their family name. It does not matter you are student in the university or an employee in an office. You should say for example: Mrs. X or Dr. Y. You are not never ever allowed to use their first name.
Ok, I hope It makes sense about my two memories in regard with the above mentioned points.
Once I got a short term scholarship from one of the universities in Paris, France. My supervisor was a well known famous Professor. He was a gentleman and a very nice person. As I mentioned above, everyday when I was seeing him, I was saying good morning Prof. X or when I had a question I asked him excuse me Professor.
So, one day my Professor asked me to come to his office for a chat. I panicked and wondered what had happened. When I met him, he told me that there was no need to call him Professor all the time and that I should call him Jean-Claude. You can imagine my reaction!!! It was something very difficult to call an elder person, a well known Professor, by his first name.
I agreed, but it was impossible for me because anytime I wanted to ask him a question, I opened my mouth to call his first name but I was shy and I waited he was further away and with a low voice called his first name, barely loud enough for me to hear it myself.
My other memory is about getting to my feet out of respect for my teachers. Anytime I was going to meet my Professor in her office. Other professors were coming to meet her, and as I used to do in Iran, I stood up for each single Professor as they entered the room.
However, none of the other teachers noticed me and it seemed I was invisible. I expected when I stood up, that newly arrived Professor would ask me to sit down. But it never happened
Gradually I learned that I should not stand up when a Professor entered the room or class. Believe me it was very difficult because however I forced my self to do not stand up but it seemed that something wanted to pull me and make me stand up.
And my last memory for today is about a phone call. In Iran, if I call you or you phone me, we first have a short chat. ‘How are you today? How is your family?’. This chat can go on for some time.
So I followed the same procedure in Western countries. If a class mate phoned me I tried to have the usual chit chat. But their reactions were strange because they were just not interested and wanted to get to the subject of the phone call as quickly as possible. When I talked about it with my foreign friends, they told they did not do that and when they phoned they just directly jump to the topic.