Greetings and Essentials
Salâm / Dorood — Hello
Start with a smile and one of these words. Salâm is probably the most routine way to say “hello,” but since it’s an Arabic-rooted word, many Iranians opt to use the authentically Persian dorood. Choose whichever you like (or whichever is easier to remember).
Khasteh nabâshid (khas-teh na-baa-sheed)
There’s no English translation for this because it’s a cultural phrase rooted in Iranian taarof. It literally means “don’t be tired” and is used as a way to recognize and appreciate a person’s hard work. Use it as a greeting alone or right after “hello” as a super polite greeting. The standard answer is salâmat bâshid, “may you be healthy.”
Merci / Kheyli mamnoon / Sepâs — Thank you
Persian has several ways to say “thank you,” and they’re often used together in combination. Take your pick from one of these. Similar to “hello” above, if you want to use the authentic Persian word, go with sepâs.
Khâhesh mikonam — You’re welcome, or Please, I insist.
This phrase can be a simple answer to “thank you.” But when an Iranian says ghâbel nadâre, implying that you don’t need to pay, you can use khâhesh mikonam to insist. They’ll be astonished (and relieved) you recognized it as taarof and take your money.
Baleh / Na — Yes / No
Two of the most basic words, you’ll be surprised how far they can get you.
Befarmâid (be-far-mâ-eed) — Here you go.
Another taarof-related phrase, this one can be used in many contexts, but it’ll be most helpful to you when you want to hand someone money. Otherwise, you might hear it when someone offers you something or directs you—as if to say, “go ahead.”
Bebakhshid (be-bakh-sheed) — Excuse Me
Appropriate when you want to get someone’s attention or if you accidentally bump into someone.
Khodâ hâfez — Goodbye
When parting ways, a simple khodâ hâfez (run together to sound like khodâfez) will suffice. The response might be this same phrase or khodâ negahdâr, “may God protect you.”
Servees behdâshti kojâs? — Where is the bathroom?
Take advantage of bathrooms in any restaurants or attractions you visit and be prepared for the squat kind. If you don’t remember this phrase, use the universally understood “WC.”
At a restaurant
Man giâhkhoram (man gee-âh-khor-am) — I’m a vegetarian.
Vegetarianism is very slowly (but surely) growing in Iran, but still, Persian cuisine is highly meat-based. This phrase may come in handy in case anyone is in shock as to why you aren’t inhaling that plate of chelow kebab, the national dish.
Kheyli khosh mazas — It’s delicious.
Iranians are proud of their cuisine, and dinner for a normal-sized group can yield enough to feed a small army. Compliment the chef for the delicious food you’ve just devoured, and give them an enormous sense of self-satisfaction at having fed you well.
Daste shomâ dard nakone — Thank you (for the meal)
Yet another phrase for “thank you,” this one is taarof-based and literally means “may your hand not hurt.” Impress the locals and appear like one yourself when you thank someone for a meal.
Nooshe jân! — Bon appétit!
Though you’re more likely to hear this phrase, it’s a good one to know because it’s so common. It’s used by the cook both before a meal, like bon appétit, and after to express delight that you enjoyed the dish.
Seer shodam — I’m full
Iranians will constantly try to feed you and won’t be content unless you’ve left the country with a few extra kilos. Don’t be afraid to tell them you are full—they’ll just pack you a to-go box for later.
Ye delester lotfan — One non-alcoholic beer, please.
There’s no beer or wine served in restaurants, so you’ll have to settle for soft drinks or delester, non-alcoholic beer. Try it in original or fruity flavors.
Een chande? — How much is it?
Since prices aren’t often listed, you’ll need this if you plan to do any shopping.
Âkharesh chand meedeen? — How much will you give it to me?
There’s always a little wiggle room when it comes to the price, especially in the bazaars, and asking for a discount is commonplace. This question cuts to the chase—in the end, how much will you give it to me? At which point you can buy it or walk away.
Chetori? — How are you?
Iranians first ask how someone is doing, even if they just spoke two minutes ago. Get used to asking this question and answering it with khubam, which means I’m well.
Man ahle ___ hastam. — I’m from ___.
The inherently curious nature of Iranians peaks when they see a foreign tourist, wanting to know which part of the world they’re from. Learn how to say your country, and throw them off guard when you give a Persian answer to their English question. They’ll love you for it.
Khosh bakhtam — Nice to meet you
Felan — Bye, for now / Talk soon
This informal word is used between friends and sometimes followed by khodâ hâfez (goodbye).