Monday, April 2, 2012

It's hard to be rude in Morocco!!

I've now been in Morocco for over 2 years.  I can barely believe it.  Over these last two years there have obviously been a lot of awkward situations.  I’ve learned more than I could even possibly express in this blog but one of my favorite things about living and working in a new country/culture has been all the unique situations I’ve been put it.  In this blog I want to write about the different situations that in America would be incredibly rude, but here in Morocco- not so much.  However, after 2 years I often find myself doing these things without even thinking twice.  Enjoy the crazy stories that have been my last two years!
  • Burping loudly (in public or after a meal).  This is actually a compliment to the person who just prepared the meal.  And people do it- often.  A simple ‘l-hmdullah’ (thanks to god) after a good long, loud burp is all that’s needed. 
  • Asking someone how much they paid for something (and then telling them they paid too much).  Volunteers experience this A LOT in the beginning.  People want to know how much I paid for my fridge, bed, pants, anything.  It’s such an awkward question because you know you’re probably going to get yelled at for paying too much. I usually lie and say the item was a gift, my organization (Peace Corps) paid for it or I forgot how much I paid.  That seems to work- most of the time.
  • Inviting a person to a meeting, your home, friend’s home and then leaving them alone in a room for hours.  This happens ALL THE TIME.  In the beginning I hated it but now I carry a book around with me all the time and usually take this time to nap.
  • Telling a person they don’t know anything.  “Or tsnt waloo”  I wrote a whole blog about this one a while back.  It’s usually in regards to language.  Now I just agree, because let’s be honest- Tashlheet is hard.  And I don’t know anything.  This usually makes them feel pretty awkward and they take it back.
  • Showing up minutes, hours or days late for a meeting (if they even show up at all).  Again, drove me crazy when I first got here, but now I don’t even leave my house until the time we’re supposed to meet and it takes me about 20 minutes to walk to souk.  It’s been a nice leisurely two years, but I’m ready to get back to my schedule and getting work done when it’s supposed to be done.
  • Breastfeeding in a taxi, van or just in public.  In a country where I can’t show my knees or wear tank tops this one was pretty weird to get used to.  Honestly, it’s still weird different. 
  • Asking someone how much money they make, how much they pay for rent, pretty much anything about money is a-ok.
  • Greeting someone and then immediately asking if they are married.  If not married (me), asking why.  Then mentioning that you have a family member, friend or offering yourself for marriage.  This happens AT LEAST a few times a day.  Sometimes I like to bargain for my hand in marriage (how many camels, will you cook for me, will you clean the house…)  Depending on the person this could be fun or really creepy- gotta feel it out first.
  • It’s also not uncommon for people to ask me to help them get a visa, passport, etc to bring them back to America with me.  This is when I tell them they can come back to America with me as long as they fit in the crate with Lily.
  • Eating with your hands.  Your right one, specifically.  This one I’m totally used to and actually don’t mind.  Meals are always community style so you eat only the triangle space of food directly in front of you.  First everyone eats the juices and vegetables, then the meat last.  The meat is usually divided by the female head of the house and your section of meat is placed on a piece of bread in front of you.  And it’s ok to loudly chew or suck on the bones.  Yum.
  • Also with regards to eating its expected to put the pits of olives, bones you don’t eat or skin of fruits on the table.  Not on a plate on the table, directly on the table. For someone else to clean up.
  • Not covering your mouth when you cough.  This one still gets to me and I’m usually the first to yell at someone to cover their mouths.  This often turns into a mini health lesson about germs and how I don’t want to get sick.  They all think I’m crazy for constantly talking about germs (before we eat, when they cough or sneeze….. I’ve got pretty good at turning almost any situation into a mini health lesson)
  • Yelling at someone (in public) for not eating or sleeping at their home.  I eat at people’s homes quite often, but sometimes I just want to eat at my house.  It’s actually rude to say ‘no’ when someone invites you over for tea or a meal but its ok to say “inchallah” (god willing) or “adoor ayadni” (another time).  These are just polite nos.  But sometimes people want me to eat at their homes which are kilometers away.  And unless I really like you or I’m in the area that’s not gonna happen.  So people yell at me: in public and loudly.  Also, after I eat meals (usually dinner) at friends’ homes, they always want me to spend the night.  ALWAYS.  Even when they are my neighbors.  They just can’t understand why I would possibly want to go to my own house, wear my own pjs and sleep in my own bed.  Weird, right? 
  • Knocking on someone’s door and then asking them to give you water.  Even if you live right next door.  THIS ONE STILL DRIVES ME CRAZY.  The kids do it all the time, passing women do it all the time.  It’s fine if you’re coming back from the fields and still have a long walk ahead of you.  I have no problem with that.  However, when I can SEE your house and I KNOW you have water- absolutely not.  If I know you live in the village I’ll tell you to go home and get water at your own house (which is probably rude, but oh well.  I have to have some boundaries, right?)

As these 2 years have come to a close I’ve started to notice a lot of the small things that make Morocco and America so different.  I hope you enjoyed this silly list- it was fun writing it and thinking about all the craziness that I’ve encountered over the last two years.

1 comment:

  1. I love it! I just read it to Mark and he laughed too. Can I invite you to dinner at our house when you come to FC - and you don't have to spend the night - unless you drink too much. The breast feeding one is weird I agree.