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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Khemisset, Morocco

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Not really. just read all I could.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Planning on learning it fluently.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I'm familiar with it because I come from a subculture within the USA and when I went away to University I experienced it myself before.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Significant. It ebbed and flowed like the tides. Sometimes stronger than others.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Yes. The other was the flight or retreat stage. Hahahaha. Sometimes literally a feeling of running away, or wishing to withdraw.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Really, my new family and friends tried so hard to make me feel comfortable and accepted. but still there were some things that were difficult such as sometimes feeling smothered by so much attention. Having so many well meaning visitors can make you feel strange ambiguous feelings, and some anger then you think wow, you are being ungrateful, they just want you to feel accepted, but it can be overwhelming.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

I appreciate so much the way Moroccans have a strong social network of family and friends to help each other and support each other in a multitude of ways. I appreciate observing in my Amazigh family relationships that even when there are squabbles, they pull together again and help each other when its needed. I appreciate greatly the "TRUE GENEROSITY" of sharing themselves and materially with others. I also enjoy the way the men in our family help their wives, mothers, grandmas, etc., with the chores of daily life.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

One new challenge was adapting from American culture where women can easily go most anywhere unaccompanied without a thought about it. And, no one sees that as strange. But, in a smaller city such as Khemisset, women travel in family groups with other female relatives, or with male relatives, or with their children and its not common for a woman to walk the streets, or travel by oneself. In my family, most of the daily shopping for food, etc., is done by men. It actually takes a lot of the burden of running the household off the women.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Yes. I learned quickly that my habit of ambidexterity and using both hands to do things needed retraining to break that habit. Its not good to reach for food with your left hand.. Oh my gosh. Thats a huge social blunder. And, so much hugging between members of the same sex, holding hands etc., which really I never was a hugger back in the USA. I also needed to learn no shaking hands with men.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Just try to keep yourself busy and occupied and understand its normal to go through an adjustment period, Read about the emotions you may experience while you go through culture shock and know it will get better with time and that it happens to everyone. Also, don't expect your experience to be "textbook" or exactly the same chronologically as others have described. I think one stage that may not be mentioned often is just feeling "numb" or like you are in shock. Just try to go with the flow, have an open mind, and don't freak out over the negative aspects of your new culture. Try to put it in perspective and imagine yourself as a stranger seeing some of the not so great aspects of American culture for the first time, and maybe that will help you get through your own adaption process.

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Comments about this Report

Aug 24, 2011 22:43

I also went to Khemisset, Morcco where I got married to my ex-husband. We met online in 2002 and developed a relationship. In 2003 I went over there to meet my husband to be in person and also his family. We were married there.I spent 8 weeks there at that time and then went again in 2005 for 6 weeks. The cultural shock was definetly different from the US. I had a friend of mine who had been to Khemisset also and who gave me a heads up on several things that helped my visit there be an easier transition for me. Although my husband came to the US in 2007,and we divorced in 2008, I don't regret my time spent with him and his family. I am so thankful to have had the experience of Morocco and the people there.

May 7, 2012 13:54

This is a lovely posting. I am sure your personal determination to be positive at all times made a huge difference both for you and for the family you were joining. I think in some of the larger, more cosmopolitan places eg Marrakech, the custom & practice is not so rigidly applied, particularly if you are known to be 'foreign'. Something I have never experienced before coming to Morocco, is that women who are really pleased to see you, kiss the second cheek twice, such a simple but very warm gesture. What I find most difficult to come to terms with is not the hugging between same sex friends- as this seems to have become very fashionable among the young in the UK- but the complete lack of public affection evidenced between husband & wife. In fact it is rare to even see married couples walking together Maybe this might change when arranged marriages stop being the norm & more people get to choose their own partners. The negative side of these close families, however, is that for women who are divorced, life is very difficult. Hardly any will voluntarily offer up this information & instead just say they are : "not married" which is very puzzling at first for a Westerner!

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