Culture Shock Talk

Culture shock is defined as  “the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life.”

There has definitely been some amount of disorientation since moving to Morocco, although we would never characterize it as “shock.” To be honest, before coming here, I did some internet “research” on Moroccan culture—only to find many offensive descriptions by non-Moroccans. (I was particularly disgusted by some dude who described the sight of women in hijabs on smartphones as “odd.” Are you kidding me?!?! I’m still enraged about that comment.) I was far more shocked by that than I’ve been by any cultural differences I’ve come across in Morocco. People around the world have different relationships with time, hospitality, work, and education. The differences can be subtle and complex.

Cultural differences are to be expected. As an American person of color from an immigrant family, I suppose I’d know. However, even so, there are times when I feel very Distinctly American because of my surprise at Moroccan reactions. Here are some small, everyday examples:

In the States

Me: “Cute bracelet!”

Girl I Am Complimenting: “Aww thanks! I got it at Target!”

In Morocco

Me: “Cute bracelet!”

Girl I Am Complimenting: “Really? You like it? HERE, take it! Please!!! It’s yours now! PLEASE take it!!!! Keep it!!!!”

In the States

Me: Here are the extra articles you asked for.

Colleague: Thanks, dude! You’re the best. *leaves*

In Morocco

Me: Here are the extra articles you asked for.

Colleague: Thank you so much, my sister! God bless your parents! Please come over for lunch tomorrow!

In the States

Me: Hey, is there baking soda here?

Store worker: Yeah, aisle five.

In Morocco

Me: Hey, is there baking soda here?

Mul hanut: Yes, we have it… Here it is! So, would you like to come sit with me and have some tea?

 

In the States

Me: Does anyone have any questions?

Students: *silence*

In Morocco

Me: Does anyone have any questions?

Students: *all start jumping up and shouting at once* TEACHER TEACHER YES, I HAVE A QUESTION HEY TEACHER

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Life is so much more vibrant when you are jolted out of familiarity every now and then. There is comfort in the things we’ve come to expect, but there is powerful lucidity in the unexpected. It is vital to remind ourselves that “our way” is not the only way or the best way or sometimes even a good way. 

Indeed, a shock to the set mindset is a wonderful thing. It is clarity. It is luminosity.

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

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