By Camille Smith
By Camille Smith
Rabat – No matter where in the world you decide to move, if it’s not your home country, you’re bound to go through some culture shock. Adjusting to these new norms can be both equally exciting and difficult. That’s how I and some of my other American peers found it when we came to Morocco almost 3 months ago to study. Here are 8 things I found the most surprising when I moved here.
The first time I stepped into a medina I was so overwhelmed and mystified at the same time. I couldn’t believe the variety of incredible things that were at my disposal throughout this big marketplace. I also couldn’t believe how everyone knew where to go! It took me weeks to feel comfortable navigating the crowded, winding, roads. Even now I still get lost.
Cats. Everywhere. The number of cats was actually one of the first things that struck on my first day in Morocco. The only time you see cats in the US is when it’s someone’s pet. Rarely do you see strays on the streets. Even then, a lot of Americans will take in strays and make them pets of their own.
This one we definitely run into more as tourists. When visiting a new city and not knowing your way around quite yet, it’s hard to avoid the multiple men that will come up to you and offer you to take you to your place of stay for free. While at first we assumed this was just kindness, most of us quickly learned that these people would try to corner us and demand money afterwards or get us lost and try to get us to buy things from their shops.
So much tea! Americans tend to drink lots of iced black tea. I personally prefer mine unsweetened. You can imagine my surprise when I tried Moroccan tea for the first time, which is loaded with sugar. I didn’t think I’d come to like it much, but now I can’t imagine my daily routine without it! In fact, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the switch back when I go home.
And with that, how much food you’re given as a guest. Sometimes, back in the States, I eat dinner around 5:30 or 6:00 PM. Here, sometimes my host mom doesn’t put dinner out until 10:30! You really have to insist you’re full, too. Even then, your host probably won’t stop putting food on your plate until you’ve said it about 5 times more. It’s all in good hospitality, though.
We tend to think of dessert as rich chocolate cake, pie, or ice cream. It’s strange here to be offered “dessert” and then handed a banana or an orange. Fruit alone is certainly not the American concept of dessert (even if it is healthier.)
Everything is Cheap in Comparison
Especially food and travel costs. You can get dinner here for the equivalent of 2 or 3 USD. Taxis are ridiculously cheap and abundant. As someone who lives in Chicago and is used to frequently taking Uber, what it would normally cost me to get to work at home ($15) costs me maybe 20 dirham ($2) here. The trains are a great option, too, which is something we don’t have at the same convenience or price at home. Traveling a distance like Rabat to Casablanca for only about $3 is unheard of!
From its beaches, to the desert, to everyday architecture, Morocco’s beauty is unparalleled to anything we have in the US. I’m truly going to miss the breathtaking mosques, views of Atlantic, sunshine, and palm trees. Though many things have surprised me during my stay here, and perhaps everything wasn’t as I imagined, the best part of Morocco so far has been its vibrant, unpredictable personality. You never know what hidden beauties or surprises you may run into. I’ve been so fortunate and happy to call Morocco my second home for this short time, and I look forward to coming back again someday.
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