It is a way of denying your will to please your counterpart, however the will is only denied because of the custom and not to please the counterpart. But there are situations where tarof persist upon a request to make the counterpart genuinely satisfied.
Tarof often causes misunderstandings between both parties and is a source for awkward situations in a social setting.
The closest one can come to tarof in the western culture is the question about who´s paying the restaurant bill? This is an awkward situation where everybody in the company is reaching for their wallets and it´s usually resolved by social status, the one with the highest income, biggest reason or most power pays. But, still everyone insists on paying.
Common words used in tarof:
- Ghabeli nadare = It´s not a big deal
- Ghadamet ro cheshm (you can walk on my eyes) = I am small in your presence.
- Ghorbanet beram (I will sacrify myself for you) = Thank you very much
- Cheshmet roshan (light in your eyes) = You´re worth it
- Khaesh mikonam (I do kindness) = You are humbling me
Footnote: the cashier wants the cash and the costumer just wants to pay but this is a cultural and social game.
Genuine tarof: A person will offer guests every comfort available by discomforting him/herself. Sometimes this leads to offering things above ones means. As an example the host will use the last founds to buy groceries to make an overly pleasant stay for the guest. This may have dire consequences for the host, but this is the generous side of tarof and its only purpose is to satisfy the guest.
Footnote: the host is satisfying the guests and feeling good about being a generous and humble person, independent of its consequences.
Awkward tarof: A host insists upon a request for the guest to sleep on the main bed while the host him/herself sleeps on the floor. Or a host piling food on a guest’s plate since the host is believing that the guest is tarofing, but the guest is actually full and satisfied.
Footnote: the guest feels awkward by putting the host in an uncomfortable situation. The guest might finish all the food to show respect to the host.