Relocating to Iran (Tehran)
First, a short introduction.
This is my first post on this website.
I am currently living in London, and hating it. After 6 years in the UK my life has become a bore. This is not the same country I met 10 years ago, when I first came as a tourist. Brexit is only the tip of the iceberg - British culture and the whole political climate has been totally americanised (we even have our own Trump in Parliament). Everything is becoming more expensive and cultural diferences are getting more pronounced than before. I do love Britain, and I have many friends here, but I can't survive the daily hostility, the toxic media and the lack of opportunities. They said: "Tired of London, Tired of Life", but in fact is the lack of genuine life in this city that is making me want to move again.
After two experiences abroad, living for months in two Islamic countries (Morocco and Turkey), I found somewhat easier for me (as a Brazilian) to find my way among Muslims. And, despite some exaggerated reports, it is true that Islamic countries have more cordiality and less xenophobia (when it comes to Brazilians, at least). They also have many unexplored cultural riches - on subjects of my interest (archeology, music, religion) and many unheard local traditions to explore.
I have never been to Iran but 1) I love Persian language, food, literature, music 2) I spend hours online just checking videos of amazing Iranian architecture, landscape, history 3) I am genuinely curious about Iranian people (not the "rich kids of Tehran", but the villagers, the simple people and their traditions). Despite the political climate, I found statistics saying the country is much safer than Brazil, and just a bit less safer than UK. So, it doesn't look like a war zone, au contraire, it feels peaceful and pleasant.
After speaking with an Iraqi friend (who never been to Iran and have been living in the UK for the past 20 years), he was surprise by my decision to live there and told me a number of horror stories. He is clearly traumatised by his experience in Iraq, but some of the things he said really troubled me. According to him "there is no war in Iran YET", but "you could be killed by your neighbour" if they feel that you are 'insulting islamic values' - and nobody would do anything to protect you. He made a comparison with Soviet Union ("everybody will check you out"). Is this correct? Social life is THAT tricky?
Of course I am not moving to an Islamic country to insult Islamic values (my Iraqi friend is a communist atheist, which I am not), but his portrayal of Iranians as religious fanatics in a police state was deeply disturbing. He also mentioned some social rules that allow, for example, faking hospitality (in order to steal money from tourists) and generalised corruption among the people (paying bribes to get things done). The picture he gave me was dreadful, but something tells me my friend is not being honest - just projecting his self-hatred over my expat fantasy.
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I would like to hear stories of people who moved to Iran and had a social life with locals, not restricted to expat circles. A number of things I would like to know:
1) Cultural Sensitivities - are Iranians too proud of being Iranians? How easy it is to have Iranian friends outside Tehran? Can you feel if the friendship ir real, or just part of Islamic hospitality? How far can you go 'being yourself' and 'have an opinion' in a country that is so massively controlled by religion?
2) Visa - is it possible to extend the Visa beyond 3 months? How complicated is to make that? Let's say: if I start studying Farsi and wish to prolong my stay - could I switch visas?
3) Education. How hard it is to be accepted by universities, without much knowledge of the language? How long it takes to be fluent? (I was planing to finish my Bachelors there - so I think I should do it with Farsi). How easy to socialise with other students?
4) I can see most of expats live in Tehran. Is there anything I should know when considering a village life? I am particularly interested on the Zoroastrian community in Iran, and I would love to spend some time in places like Yazd. I wonder if it is possible to develop healthy relationships at smaller places, as a foreigner? Would they keep charging extra money from me? Or should I expect to be treated as a local? (Unfortunately, I was constantly being asked to pay more than locals when living in Morocco).
5) I have a career as a video-maker and I would like to know more about entering the country with video gear - cameras, computer, audio equipment. Is there anything I should know about regulations and permits? (I ask this question based on the tragic incident that happened to those two Australians recently).
AND: If you are Iranian, and a Zoroastrian, please contact me. My plan is to settle around Yazd and it would be great to contact followers of this religion.