Most Iranian hosts on the couchsurfing site seem to be single males in their 20s or 30s. I’ve already mentioned a few of them here. All the guys we stayed with had excellent English and all still lived with their parents, except for our host in Tehran.
In Kerman we were hosted by Amir, a lovely guy, who hosted us and a German couple in his small room. It was cosy! He owned a mobile phone shop, had an IT background, liked going to the mosque when he had time, was hosting in part to practice and improve his English (which was excellent) and had hosted LOTS of travellers from all over the world in the previous few months. It was a bit different from the other Iranian hosting experiences in that elsewhere we had a room for ourselves (thanks to the kindness of many hosts who chose to sleep in the living room so we could have their bedroom!) and we also had very little to do with his parents and sister whereas in most other cases we got to know the guys’ families as well. His mother did cook some delicious food for us but we didn’t eat with the family.
Typically, the mothers of our hosts were very keen to cook and the family keen to share meals and conversation with us. They were amazing cooks! Food was delicious and always well presented. I wanted to help and also offered to cook meals but this was in most cases not accepted.
Our hosts wanted to show us around special places and often introduced us to the extended family too. Amir in Kerman took us and the German couple on a great day trip to some cool places a bit further afield and then to the desert to watch the sun set and the night sky. It was a brilliant day. We shared all the costs in this case.
In other couch surf situations when we tried to pay for food or offer money for petrol it was refused, despite our insisting many times & being aware of taroof. Even helping with the dishes or clearing the ‘table’ (i.e. floor) proved unacceptable for many. ‘You are our guests!’ was always the response. It would be fine if we could reciprocate but the chance of them ever being our guests in New Zealand was virtually nil so we felt often like we were receiving so much and felt bad that we couldn’t give back. It was actually refreshing sharing costs and being able to buy and cook our own food in Kerman, about the only place we could do it though!
Most of the guys we spoke to about marriage or finding a wife suggested they needed to get themselves financially secure first- find a good job, work hard in it, save money, establish themselves so they look like a secure good prospect for a girl’s family. How they actually go about meeting a potential wife was a little harder to figure out. Dating is not allowed in Iran- being with potential spouses in groups is ok but not one on one. If a girl is found sitting on a park bench for example with a guy who is not her husband or family member she (and the guy) could be reprimanded by the morality police. It doesn’t stop people of course- but it does make it hard to meet or get to know anyone prior to marriage. How people actually hook up is still somewhat of a mystery to us… Perhaps Iranians have discovered the joys of online sites designed to help people meet/ date??