“People will see”  –mardom mibinand.

“People will know”- mardom mifahmand.

“What will People say?” – mardom chi migan?

“I have a reputation to keep in front of People!” – man jolo mardom aberou daram!

This obsession with the undefined, shadowy, lurking mass of People who are standing around in corners, waiting to pass judgement on every single aspect of your life is a major feature of life in Iran. The phrases above are perhaps some of the most repeated phrases in Iranian society- phrases which echo not only in the ears of children, but also those of adults.  There are People –mardom– everywhere, talking and opining, destrying your reputation, your value, your esteem.  Perhaps you are a young girl meeting your boyfriend on the street, perhaps you are an adult man refusing to visit your in-laws, perhaps you are an elderly  woman who failed to give appropriate and fair gifts to her grandchildren. In all these cases, People are watching you and judging you. You know that.

A simple translation of the phrases show how they ridiculous they sound in English. In fact, there seem to be no People in Canada- nobody cares much what you’re up to and who you see or what are your preferred lifestyle arrangements. So long as you’re doing what is expected of you (studying, working, whatever), then everything else is your own business.

I hear immigrants complain about the coldness of Canadians, the hollow niceness, the friendliness which does not translate into friendship, the indifference bordering on hostility and racism. Yes, sure, it would be nice to have a whole new circle of friends to “hang out” with within a couple of years of arriving. It’s not going to happen. In fact, it doesn’t even happen with native white Canadians who move away from home- look at sites like “meetup”- full of lonely white Canadians desperately looking for someone to with whom they can have dinner, or to go for a walk. That kind of circle you’re looking for only happens once, if you’re lucky- that particular complex of friends and family which gives you such a strong sense of support and nourishment- that only happens in the town you grew up. If you move away from that, you lose it. That’s it. That took a lifetime and generations to develop- it’s not going to be replaced anytime soon.

But look at the bright side. At least, you don’t have to deal with The People.


One comment

  1. We have the exact same phrases in Norwegian. “What will people think?” is really common.

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