1. TGIW – Wednesday is the new Friday. And Saturday is Monday.
2. Rials vs. tomans – So the official currency of Iran is rials, but everything goes by tomans. Which means your 10,000 rial bill is actually 1,000 tomans. Needless to say, my first few days of shopping were crazy confusing.
3. Naps – Most businesses and offices are open after 9 a.m. and close for Zohr (noon) prayers and then open again a little after 5-6 p.m. and then close again at 9 p.m. It’s like the whole city sleeps. It’s great if you work there but stinks if you’re a customer. Especially one from the West who is used to Wal-Mart and plans shopping around off peak times. One plus is I’m forced to take a nap.
4. Taxi life – I’ve spent my whole life in Texas where taxis are not common. So it took some time adjusting to this new concept of calling a cab and dealing with cab drivers. Although, I must say I do enjoy the cheap fares.
5. Language – Hardly anyone speaks English here, especially among taxi drivers and store owners. So if you don’t speak Farsi, you’re in for a great ‘fish out of water’ learning experience.
6. Eastern toilets – Nothing makes me miss home more than the public restrooms. And I practically jump for joy when I see an actual toilet, or toalet farangi. I’ve been here 3 plus years and I still cringe at the sight of a squatter. Or as my eldest likes to call them – ‘broken toilets.’ Now my kids are pros at the Eastern toilets. Unfortunately I still have a ways to go.
Also, here only old or disabled people use Western toilets so if you use one in public, everyone looks at you weird.
7. Chador life – In a conservative city like Qom, most women don the black chador. It takes a bit of getting used to, especially when you have kids, go up the stairs, or get into cars. In the beginning I’ve tripped plenty over it, gotten it caught in my stroller, or had it stuck in the taxi door. There are different styles, though, like the typical open chador which mostly Iranian women wear, the Arab styles which have sleeves, some have zippers, some with buttons, etc. I’ve actually not found it difficult at all. It makes going out and about quite easy.
8. No return policy – if you buy it, and don’t like it, you can’t return it. Sorry. But some store owners are good about letting you exchange faulty items.
9. Surprisingly safe feeling outside – There is just something different about life in Qom. You don’t feel like you have to be so wary. Iranians, in general, are quite kind and friendly. I find myself at ease if I’m ever alone.
10. Don’t drink the tap water – The regular water in Qom is pretty salty. You can’t just open the tap and drink some. So we have to get aab e shireen, or purified water. There are water dispensing stations all over Qom, and it’s relatively cheap to fill up a 10-liter container. When we first came, taking showers and regular face washing meant keeping our mouths shut.
Not to mention, I accidentally put regular tap water in my iron. Big no-no.