A Tale of Two Cultures: Iranians and Westerners

Once upon a time, in a world where globalization was a dominant force, two friends met in the crossroads of life, in a University located in the vibrant city of Toronto. Reza was an Iranian international student, fresh off the plane and eager to explore life beyond Iran’s borders, while Jack was a local, born and raised in Toronto.

Reza and Jack were drawn to each other due to their mutual love of physics. They soon discovered, however, that their similar interests did not extend to their cultures and ways of life.

One of the first differences that Jack noticed about Reza was his concept of time. Jack was always punctual, following the Western philosophy of being ‘on the dot.’ Reza, however, often arrived a little late, subscribing to an Iranian approach called ‘Iranian Stretchable Time,’ which was more fluid and less focused on the exactness of time. This initially caused misunderstandings, but they learned to adjust to each other’s timekeeping norms.

Conversely, Reza was amazed by Jack’s direct way of speaking. In Iran, people often use a polite form of communication called ‘Taarof,’ where they might refuse something at first, even if they want it, as a form of courtesy. Jack’s straightforwardness initially felt somewhat abrupt, but Reza appreciated his friend’s honesty as he adjusted to the cultural shift.

Food was another contrasting point between them. Jack was used to fast food, sandwiches, and steaks, while Reza was fond of elaborate meals that consisted of several dishes such as Chelo Kebab, Ghormeh Sabzi, and Tahdig. They began to exchange meals, introducing each other to their respective culinary traditions.

Their differences extended to their perceptions of family and social life as well. Reza was close-knit with his extended family and regularly spent hours video-calling them, adhering to the Iranian focus on familial bonds. On the other hand, Jack, like many Westerners, maintained a more nuclear family structure, spending time with his immediate family while enjoying a more independent lifestyle.

However, these differences did not cause division, but rather added depth and diversity to their friendship. They learned the value of perspective, of seeing life through a different cultural lens. They found common ground in their shared love for physics, soccer, and surprisingly, a fondness for poetry, with Reza introducing Jack to the verses of Rumi and Hafez, while Jack shared the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.

The story of Jack and Reza underscores the importance of understanding and appreciating cultural differences. It demonstrates that while Iranians and Westerners may have contrasting ways of life, their shared human experiences, and mutual respect for each other’s cultures can bridge these differences, fostering a beautiful friendship.

Their story is a testament to the fact that while there might be many miles and cultural nuances that separate Iranians from others, beneath it all, we are all connected through our shared humanity. Cultural differences should not be seen as barriers but as enriching facets that add to the beautiful tapestry of global diversity.