If you are met at the front door or in the lobby, you will most likely be asked to walk ahead of your escort. Shaking hands with people of the same gender is acceptable. The best approach regarding handshakes is not to initiate one, especially with someone of the opposite sex, but to respond to a proffered hand.
A bow of the head and a smile will do instead of a handshake. When a new person enters the room, follow others’ lead in standing up to greet them. Similarly, others already in the room will stand up to greet you when you enter, as a sign of politeness and respect. Good manners require that you ask them to remain seated out of consideration for their comfort.
In all likelihood you will first meet and hold initial discussions with junior members of a firm or government organization before you meet senior members or officials. One of these junior members is most likely to be a person with a good knowledge of English and, if you haven’t brought your own interpreter along, s/he will probably do the interpreting. Your meeting with this person is a useful opportunity for you to establish a good working relationship and to find more about the company and its workings.
During “small talk” you may be asked personal questions about your trip, your family, where you studied and what educational qualifications you hold, as well as questions about your home country, ways of doing things, and what your city looks like. Such questions help cultivate a personal relationship that can then establish the basis for a successful business one. Iranians are generally interested in other people’s ways of life and they also enjoy explaining aspects of their own lives, habits, and beliefs to others. Showing photos of your hometown, university, and family also helps establish a personal relationship, as does the offer of small gifts or mementoes from abroad, such as keyrings, pens, or postcards.
Don’t be in a hurry to move on to the business at hand: this may give the impression that you are uninterested in the personal relationship and you may come across as one-dimensional and untrustworthy. The safe course is to wait until your counterpart initiates a change in conversation to business matters. When your Iranian counterparts state their own positions, they will most likely begin with a lengthy introduction about their company and the projects it has successfully undertaken in the past. Try not to show your impatience at what you may think is superfluous information. The rationale behind this “setting the scene” is to establish an acquaintanceship and to set the basis for negotiation.