Have you ever traveled somewhere expecting to be hit by culture shock? Have you been surprised when you didn’t end up feeling shocked at all? I had that experience when I spent a semester in Morocco. It was a new culture for me; I had never been to North Africa and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, I had so many moments where I felt like I was home in Colombia… obviously, ignoring the language barrier. Culturally, Morocco and Colombia felt so similar in many ways. Here are eight similarities I found:
- Walking barefoot leads to sickness. It just does, okay? Yes, this does seem odd, but Colombians and Moroccans from the older generations have this notion that if you walk barefoot, you willget sick. If I was every walking around barefoot, a kind adult would rush over and bring me some shoes to wear.
- Excessive hellos are expected. Many of my group members teased Moroccans for how long their greetings are, but I felt like I couldn’t really join in. Of courseit takes several minutes to say hello. No, a simple “hello” will not In Colombia we ask about how the person is doing, how their family is doing, how their dog is doing, what they’ve been up to, etc. In Morocco, we find three or four ways to ask “How are you?” Labess? Labess. It was quite normal to greet one another profusely.
- Cheek kisses abound! Oh, the kisses! Kisses all around, ladies and gentlemen! In Colombia we kiss on the right cheek once. Here, we kiss everyone on both cheeks several times. There isn’t really a set number. Sometimes just twice, sometimes three times. Sometimes the kisses can go on for a long In Colombia women kiss men and women, while men only kiss the women. In Morocco, everyone kisses everyone. Such affection.
- Men pee in public. I must say I’ve seen men peeing on the sides of dirty building walls here too. It’s sad, but it’s true… this was quite common in Morocco, as it is in Colombia.
- Cat-calling is quite common. Now, I couldn’t decide if there was lesscat-calling in Morocco, if it was less offensive to me or I could just understand it less. The girls on my team who could understand French were extremely annoyed and angry by the constant cat-calling on the streets. I usually didn’t understand anything, so I would keep walking. But yes, being a Western-looking woman certainly draws as much attention there as it does in Colombia.
- A proverb for everything. Moroccans have little sayings and “proverbs” for every situation. I wish I could learn them all. They remind me of home and all the Colombian dichos and refranes. I wanted to be able to recite them and drop them at the perfect moment. I wanted to capture cultural values in a little sentence and be like, “Ah-ha! I get this cultural value!”
- Carbs at EVERY SINGLE meal. So in Morocco we ate bread at every meal. I would estimate that 90% of my meals there included bread… in some shape or form. My Colombian meals? Yes, bread is common. But if not bread, we’ll have rice or potatoes or plantains or yucca or any other starchy kind of food to serve as a filler.
- Food as a way of welcoming guest. I felt that I hadn’t been “formally” welcomed into a Moroccan home unless I’d been offered food of some sort… or mint tea 🙂 And as in Colombia, I could notrefuse it, without the host persistently asking me to eat more or take more or have more or please… just have a little more.
How about you? What similarities have you experienced between your home culture and other cultures you’ve traveled to?