"Hello Lady and Wife"

...a man in Kerman's bazaar shouted after us. He most probably meant to say "lady and mister" but in any case, he was very happy to make use of the few words that he had learned in english. After being in Iran for almost 4 month we can for sure say that there is no typical Iranian. Depending on where you are in Iran, the people, the food, the smells, the open mindness, the tarof, the hejab and the philosophy of life differs extremely. Two thing that most Iranians, however, have in common is the pride they take in their ancient culture and that they all love "Chareji" (Foreigner). As Chareji you are always welcome in Iran and anyone who knows as little as "Hello, how are you?" will ask those few words whenever there is a chance. If they know a bit more than that, Iranians will inevitably want to know what the people in your home country thinks about Iran.

"Everybody in Swiss believes that we all are terrorists, that we all run with our guns and there are bombs flying all the time, yes?", Amir - a young student from Esfahan, that joined us on the si-o-se-pol for a tea - asks us. He seems reliefed when we try to explain that many people back home see the Iranian regime as a problem, not the inhabitants. But still, even many of our friends considered us crazy when we told them about our plan to spend the winter in Iran. "Why in Iran? Why not take another route? Isn't it dangerous in Iran? Maybe Bush will attack Iran because of the nuclear bomb that they are building" were the questions we heard often.
After all this time here, we must say that once again the preconception about a country that one never even has visited can be amazingly wrong. We have not seen any terrorist schools and Iran has been one of the safest countries we have been in. And whether there is a bomb about to be built or not: even though the truth might be different, many Iranians are unsure whether their country is intending to build one or even whether their country is capable of building one.

After having cleared up the topic about Iran and terrorists Amir starts asking us how a relationship between man and woman before marriage looks like? Do we believe in marrying young?
Amir is close to a heart attack as we tell him that we are still legally unmarried. "But that can not be healthy!!!". We all laugh, his concern is too obvious. Spending time with ones girlfriend - not to mention private time - or even going to her house for a visit is almost unthinkable in Iran as long as marriage has not be concluded. Only few families in big cities like Tehran are loosing up somewhat when it comes to the whole boyfriend-girlfriend-story, however, "loosing up" is nowhere close to a "Western" attitude. As a consequence most relationships between young people are very innocent and even more platonic. For instance, Amir complains that his girlfriend, which by now has joined us, doesn't want to give him a kiss, "sometimes, maybe I can hold her hand"!

Iran has offered us a lot: deserts, salt lakes, the sea, woods, ancient ruines and towns, beautiful mosques. Despite all this beauty, meeting different people such as Amir and many, many others have been the highlight of Iran. Understanding them truly was not always- or usually not - easy, but it has given us insights into the many different cultures of this nation. And definitely: it has almost always been great fun!