When Iranians meet, the time we spend greeting and exchanging polite pleasantries can seem excessive – especially to someone from a European culture. Then when we are saying goodbye on the doorstep the whole process repeats itself and whole new conversations on brand new topics are enjoyed well into the night.
I write as one born in the “old country” and fluent in Farsi. Yet having spent my teenage years and beyond in the UK, I have culturally acclimatised. So, when discussing a subject, I often want to get more quickly to the heart of the matter. For most Iranians, however, it would seem disrespectful to offer a brief greeting and quickly proceed to the subject at hand.
Anyone watching the SAT-7 PARS channel, will notice that the greetings and introductions at the beginning of shows are somewhat longer than equivalent English language programmes. This is as expected for a programme designed for Persian viewers.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
I recently had the pleasure of visiting a SAT-7 PARS studio to watch the filming of an episode of Insiders, a series created to support women and provide a Christian perspective to problems that Persian-speaking women face.
At the start of the programme panel members shared greetings with one another and with the viewers. They shared childhood reminiscences of celebrations in Iran and explored the meaning of Norouz (literally ‘new day’). They recalled family members who gave the best presents and how every family spring-cleans their home in preparation for the New Year.
A panel member then introduced a question: “We clean our homes in preparation for Norouz. Does that mean that we also become clean on the inside?” This question allowed the programme to finally proceed to the heart of the matter – salvation and transformation.
THE NEED TO CONNECT
As well as a natural expression of being Iranian, the light-hearted conversation made it possible to connect with viewers. The presenters then compared the idea of spring-cleaning the home with our need for purification. We do not just need to clean the visible exterior, but the inner person, which is made possible by what Jesus has done.
Communicating in a culturally relevant way opened the door for deeper questions to be asked. This is an example of the richness of God’s grace. He can use aspects of a culture to reach people with the saving message of the Gospel, calling us to relationship and into His Kingdom.
Next time at a station, when remarking on the weather or the lateness of the bus or train to a fellow traveller, try not to cut the conversation short and, instead, be ready to see where it might lead!
Omeed Jouyandé is a Communications Officer for SAT-7. Omeed became a Christian from an atheist background in the 1980s. He was born in Iran and in his teens moved to the UK where he lives with his wife, two children, and three guinea pigs. He has worked in the voluntary sector in communications and development. His interests include writing, music, and cycling.