Last weekend, I had the opportunity to stay overnight with a Moroccan family and experience traditional Moroccan hospitality. It was incredible. Below are some things I noticed–a “compare-contrast” to American hospitality.
1. Relationship matters more than time. Native Moroccans use the phrase “maybe” all the time–“maybe” I’ll pick you up at 8pm, “maybe” we’ll go to the beach tomorrow, “maybe” there will be a wedding party tomorrow night. My host mom said she would come at 8pm to pick me up–she showed up around 9:30 because someone in her family had gotten married and the party lasted longer than she thought it would. This is normal for Moroccans–relationship matters more than time of day and if your friend needs you at an absurd hour of the night, then you answer your phone and help him out.
2. Family means sharing everything. The family I stayed with had three kids–in a two bedroom apartment. Everyone shared the same closet, the same bathroom, the same gigantic plate of food at dinner, and the same tv. There was nothing that belonged to only one person–it was about one unit of people doing life together. While American families are still units of people, by my observation, we do things just a little bit differently. For example, in my family, everyone has their own closet. My sister and I never shared a bedroom, and at dinner, we all ate off of our own plates. American culture contrasts with Moroccan culture simply because Americans value individualism and honor associated with personal actions. Moroccan culture values family honor and collective deeds over individual honor.
3. Trust is important. On Saturday morning, my host mom charged me and the three other American girls to take two of her kids to the beach. We crossed a main highway and went swimming in the ocean with her kids–she had only met us the day before. She trusted us, as new members of her community, to take care of her kids, because she had other fish to fry. Literally–we had some amazing fish tagine for lunch when we got home from the beach.
4. Greetings are important. This goes for Moroccan culture in general–its important to greet everyone you meet. I don’t mean walking down the street–but I do mean that every person greets every person that enters their home. When the four of us arrived, each child greeted us with three kisses on the cheek and a warm smile. When they returned me to school the next day, we said goodbye the same way. Throughout the weekend, we would all greet the doorkeeper, family visitors, and old friends we ran into on the beach the same way. The way you greet someone shows the respect you have for them.
5. Some things are the same, no matter the culture. While Yousef and Nasser-al-Din may fight over who gets the last fig (just like Sophia and I fight over who gets the last oreo) they still need each other to play a proper game of tag. These two brothers showed no mercy to each other when all of us played UNO (Sophia can confirm that mercy in UNO is a weakness), but at the end of the evening, they still hugged goodnight. My host mom opened up her home, cooked a delicious meal, and went out of her way to understand our lives and studies. This reminded me of my own mom–a woman who often fed whoever I brought home from school with me, a woman who still cares a lot about how well Sophia and I do in college.
This weekend was humbling because it showed me how far I still have to come in learning Arabic and understanding Morocco. This weekend was a blessing because I needed some time away from my textbooks to relax on the beach. This weekend was a challenge because I didn’t always know how to accurately communicate my thoughts. This weekend was informative because I had the opportunity to experience Moroccan family, hospitality, and culture in a new way.