Iran is home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth with habitation dating back to the fourth millennium BCE. As the 18th most populated country in the world and the second-largest country in the Middle East, Iran is never far from the headlines. Most recently, the Iranian government has been under the spotlight due to the Iran Nuclear Deal as well as the strained negotiations between U.S. President Trump and President Hassan Rouhani. Writers like Middle East expert Amir Handjani have spoken extensively on US-Iranian tensions, so we will not be delving too deeply into that aspect of the discussion. Outside of these broader topics, exposure to the regular life of an Iranian citizen can be limited for Western audiences. Today, we are seeking to bring clarity for outsiders to better understand life in the country formerly known as Persia.
Living in Iran
Life in Iran cannot simply be put into a few easy-to-define boxes. Iran is much like any other largely populated country with urban centers sporting massive populations. While booming cities like Tehran (9.03 million) and Mashhad (3.37 million) sport high population density, there are areas of the country that are as rural as anywhere else. What connects the Iranian people isn’t so much their geographic location as it is their shared background of familial importance, faith, history, and culture. While these are all positive traits, other more negative traits exist, as well, such as a large income gap between the wealthy and the poor. Let’s take a closer look at modern Iran so that we can contextualize and understand these traits.
Modern Iranian citizens are not living the same lives as those that their parents and grandparents enjoyed. The reason for this is that modern citizens do not have many of the same financial and economical luxuries that the older generations were able to enjoy. For example, a teacher is a modestly prestigious job in Iran even though it is incredibly important. For the job of educating the youth in Iran, teachers make roughly USD$300 per month. Yes, Iranian teachers are earning less in a single month than the massively underpaid teachers in America will make in a week.
As middle-class Iranians struggle to make ends meet, there is a mega-rich portion of Iran that does not need to spare any expense. This wealth dynamic has split the country into two with an undercurrent of liberal versus conservative values only amplifying the divide. As this divide grows wider and stronger, expect Iran to continue pivoting toward modernization backed by their progressive youth.
Outside of the income gap, Iranian culture values the family bond above much else. More traditional families will have their children living at home until marriage. Living alone or remaining unmarried is typically frowned upon, though the younger generation has begun to change perception on youthful independence. Families are expected to dine and palaver together and you’ll often see multiple generations walking down the street in family groups.
Iran is a rich and fascinating country that is often misunderstood. While very real hurdles are in place for Iran in terms of traditional Westernization, changes appear to be on the horizon.
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