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Making Friends in Morocco
By Caroline L., YES Abroad 2022-2023 Morocco
Making friends here has been a huge adventure in letting go of what others think of me and yet at the same time, forced me to thoroughly examine my own identity and how I am perceived by others through the confusing lens of cultural and linguistic differences. In the US, I had a group of close friends I saw every single day and whose relationships with me reached back years. Here, I’ve totally rethought what makes a relationship important and started seeing even fleeting interactions—like a onetime walk with a stranger-as meaningful.
Moroccans are probably the most hospitable people on this planet. The number of times I’ve conversed with strangers and been welcomed over for tea, or a meal probably doubles that in my entire life in the US. Every day I meet someone new. It’s been my motivation and means of learning the local language, everyone I meet teaches me how to say something in Darija that I wrap around me like a newly gifted sweater.
The way people treat Americans here has been good for that, but the downside is that to maintain these relationships or even enjoy all these interactions I have had to really unpack all the tiny elements of Moroccan friendships and the ways they differ to those in the US. Going back to what I said about letting go of what people think of me, I’ll say that being fearless in pursuing spur of the moment opportunities to get to know someone, even if the reason isn’t clear or useful, is key to growing.
That, and not being afraid of sounding like an idiot by trying to just say what you want to say in the local language instead of what's easy. Trust me, I spent the first three months here talking about the weather and what I’d eaten for breakfast. That’s fine for small talk but if you want these interactions to count, I’ve realized that it’s better to stumble through your “opinion on the differences between the BAC and the SAT" or have those teenage conversations on the meaning of life and religion even if every other word is mispronounced.
In this way I’ve become much more comfortable stumbling along in new relationships that would’ve embarrassed me a year ago and genuinely just feel more at ease being myself with strangers.
I have friends that live close to me and we go out and play basketball or walk around whenever we are free. There is so much you can learn about the culture just by spending time with locals doing what they do for fun.
A few days ago I was in a bad mood for some reason and decided to walk to the beach and try to change how I felt. Of course, if there is one thing I’ve learned over and over this year it’s that leaving your house usually brings something unexpected and good. You might think that’s unique to living abroad but in reality it’s true for wherever you call home... sometimes you just might have to look for the unexpected a little harder. Here it’s super easy. Every time I leave my front door something crazy and good happens. Which is a big reason I leave a lot. In fact, my neighbors established that leaving in 100 different outfits for various activities every day is just part of being American.
Anyways, I headed out the door to the beach and ran into a girl who invited me to go surfing with her. We ended up having the best time talking about the struggles of the baccalaureate exam that I was also studying for to her surprise, despite not having to take.
I went to her aunt's house for tea and cookies and we walked around. We hangout a lot still and text a lot in Darija... which might as well be a different language in itself.
The city used to feel so big and overwhelming but now I run into a friend wherever I go. Whether I'm taking the tram, walking, or piling into a grande taxi, being out and about bouncing between the cities of Sale and Rabat has been my favorite part of this year.