Culture Shock in Iran
With so few foreign tourists in Iran and even fewer travelling by bicycle, you and your trusty steed will generate an immense amount of interest from local people. Of course, one of the joys of travel is meeting new friends but the amount of attention can be intense and feel smothering, especially when you just want five quiet minutes to eat your lunch or ponder over your map.
On the other hand, all these encounters inevitably lead to invitations to spend the night or share a meal with someone and these experiences may well form some of your finest memories about Iran when you look back on your trip in future years.
Try to keep your sense of humour as each day brings dozens of cries of the universal greeting “Hello Mister!” and probing about your nationality, profession and views on Iran. Sometimes you can feel like a broken record as you answer the same questions over and over, repeating yourself each time someone new joins the conversation.
Another patience tester is the Iranian who approaches you with a flood of questions in Farsi and continues to repeat them, speaking louder each time, even when you’ve made it clear you don’t have a clue what he’s asking.
When camping, if you want a quiet night then try to sneak away when you’re sure no one is looking. If you set up your tent near a village, it’s not so much safety you’ll need to worry about but hordes of curious locals who will come to say hello, practice their English and take pictures or videos with their mobile phones. People may even show up after dark, which can be unsettling and not what you want after a long day on the road.
Similarily, it’s not uncommon for motorists to follow close behind your bicycle as they observe the strange international visitor and then snap a photo of you as they pass a few minutes later.