It's probably one of the biggest myths about Iranians, rooted in a complex and difficult history: some might think people in Iran don't like Americans, referring to the old propaganda slogan "Death to America" which can be seen on the murals of Tehran. The current political tensions between Iran and the United States are also unavoidable in the news.
As a consequence, many Americans tourists are worried to visit Iran. So, do Iranians really hate Americans? The answer is unequivocal: No! On the opposite, most Iranians admire the United States people and are more than happy to encounter them in their homeland. Here is why and also what Iranians really think of Americans.
Saying that Iranians are among the most welcoming people in the world had become prevalent. All travellers to Iran share the same experience of this genuinely warm and friendly greeting from Iranians, whatever their nationality. Having guests is deeply valued in the Persian culture, and thus, Iranians love to have guests in their country as well as their home.
Besides, Iranians clearly differentiate people from politics. For most Iranians, normal citizens shouldn't be held responsible for their government's actions. Thus, if people indeed disagree about the current policy of the US against Iran, including harsh sanctions, they blame the US government for it, not its people. Therefore, when slogans such as "Down with the USA" are shouted during protests, it is directly and strictly targeting the government and its anti-Iran policy, not the people.
As mentioned earlier, Iranians love foreigners in general and are so happy to introduce their country and culture to visitors. It is truly part of the Persian culture to treat its guest with high respect. And when it comes to Americans, it's even more!
First of all, before the Islamic Revolution, America and Iran have had strong cultural and political links. Despite the numerous political events between the two nations, Iranians have kept a specific admiration and friendship for the United States, and hold positive views of American people, their culture and values. “Perhaps the most striking thing about anti-Americanism in Iran today is how little of it actually exists” has written Afshin Molavi, an Iranian-American author, in "The Smithsonian Magazine".
Actually, many Iranians have members of their family living in the US, and thus are familiar with life over there. Indeed, about one million Iranians are currently inhabiting the US, on the 4 to 5 millions of the Iranians living abroad. There even is a city in Nevada, Carson City, called "Tehrangeles" because it hosts the largest Iranian diaspora in the world.
As an American travelling to Iran, you can expect loads of sympathy and friendship from Iranians, as soon as you disclose your origins. Many travel bloggers have shared their experience to express how safe it is and debunk some clichés. Look at the feedback of Drew Binsky's trip, an American blogger or Peter Santenello, an American vlogger who travelled to Iran with its Italian passport.
If the political tensions taking place right now between Iran and America make the headlines, the anti-US slogans painted on the walls of Tehran refer to older events. Over the past four decades, the two countries have accused each other of being, on one side, "the Great Satan", and on the other side, a member of the "Axis of Evil".
Throughout history and way before the Islamic revolution, the involvement of the United States have caused many troubles to Iran, with, for instance, the coup against democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. It has nourished these anti-US political views.
The climax of the conflict opposing Iran and USA took place at the birth of the Islamic Revolution, with the hostage crisis of 1979. Iranians activist students took 52 American diplomats hostage in their embassy for 444 days, creating one of the most severe diplomatic crisis in history. The walls of the former US Embassy now turned into a museum, bear the testimony of this troubled moment in iconic street-art frescos.
With a little bit of historical background, one can understand the origins of the anti-American slogans which are unfortunately often displayed on foreign media. They create a misconception in the mind of many Americans who think Iranians might hate them, while the reality is completely at the opposite. Iranians love their guests and American people probably even more than other foreigners. Coming to Iran as an American citizen requires a specific visa procedure (read our article: Iran Visa for US, UK, CA Citizens, How to Apply?) but it’s totally possible and also the best way to discover a beautiful country, far from preconceived ideas.