Although a whole lot of Canadians work in customer service (look up the stats- it’s a big chunk of employed Canadians), I am sure I will never be one of them.

-“Good morning, thank you for calling Robbers Company, I’m Kerry, and how may I help you today?”

Excuse me, why is she sounding like she wants to be my new best friend? And why do I need to know her first name? Should I respond with my own first name? Is she aware of the fact that I really don’t care what her first name is? And why is she so pleased I’ve got a problem with my mobile or electricity or whatever bill? Why is she thanking me, anyway?

Iranians are known for their elaborate courtesy -to the people they know. They make up  for the forced politeness they have to show to relatives and acquaintances by being dreadfully rude to strangers, if they think they can get away with it. The classic example are drivers. No matter how many times radio shows beg people to just show a tenth of the politeness with which they habitually treat their distant relatives, Tehran drivers, be they professors, dentists, lawyers or whatever, tend to jump out of their cars and scream streams of blood-curdling invective at each other at the slightest mishap.  

And so, customer service has very little meaning, in Iran. If a company employee greeted you the same way Canadian companies greet their clients, you would think they were stark, raving mad. A hostile stare, a pretence of being busy, a grunt  is the way most clients are treated. This “Hello, I am Mary” business is unheard-of, and quite bizarre, for a newcomer.

In fact, first names are quite precious, in Iran, not to be tossed around at the strangers who calls you. Close friends and relatives aside, the general rule is surnames, prefixed with Mr. or Ms. -especially between the sexes and especially if there is a significant age or position gap.

So the fact is, I don’t feel comfortable with this pseudo-friendly style of greeting which Canadian companies deal to their beloved clients. I feel that it is only a ploy to send me more bills and get me to spend more. I’m sure there must be a golden mean between this fake bright pratter and the hostile grunts of their Iranian counterparts.

Except I don’t think anyone has found it yet.



  1. Don’t be that pessimist newcomer; while it is true that this client service is part of capitalism ultimately targeting your packet, it is much much better that Iranian customer service (if you can even call it service at all!) where the person believe s/he is the owner of the company s/he is working and you are just a begger! come on, have you forgotten even doctor’s secreters treating you as a child in kintergarten rather than a client let alone a paitent?
    By the way, to be fair and honest, I had an unforgettable experience with employees at “Bank-e Sarmayeh” for their great respect toward me, as client. She stood up, greeted and respected and dealt with my matter. amazingly, when she had a phone call apparently from one of her supervisors/bosses, she requested for time to finish my work then she would revert to the boss! this is quite unusual and extraordinary, isn’t it?

  2. thenewcomer

    I guess you’re right- in general, you’d prefer to be treated with respect and courtesy instead of hostility and rudeness. Except sometimes the canadian style sounds so fake and overdone. Like yesterday we took the princes to the dentist and she was explaining so much about her teeth and what flavour fluoride she wants blah blah blah she made me dizzy. Just be quiet and do your job, right? At least the Iranian grunting isn’t fake- it comes from the depth of the heart 😉
    I am amazed by your bank experience btw, EVERY SINGLE TIME I went to the bank in my dear home country, I ended up quarreling with the bank clerk, in tears, with a headache…

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