Making Friends in Morocco

Making Friends in Morocco

In Expat by Amanda Mouttaki9 Comments

Making friends has never been easy for me. As a young child the friends I had in preschool were largely the same people that complete high school with me. That’s how it is when you live in a small town. When I left the comforts of my hometown, I started to struggle. I was very self conscious and while outspoken in general, when it came to making any serious friendships I struggled. I can say now I really felt that no one would want to seriously be friends with “the fat girl“. I always sat or stood in a way that attempted to physically minimize the space I was taking up. It’s only after losing 100 pounds and catching myself subconsciously engaging in the same behavior that I could even  acknowledge what I had been doing for years – and things began to make sense. 

Making Friends in MoroccoAs an adult with children, I wanted to have friends. I made a few very dear friends but I can remember saying to my husband when we moved to the Midwest from Washington DC, “I really wish I had someone I could call, just to talk.” Then one day he came to get me from work and said, “guess what?? I met a friend for you!” And he proceeded to tell me all about the mom on our sons playground. She and I did become friends. Then we moved again.Moving to a new country is completely overwhelming in tens of ways. I have been so so fortunate that I’ve met several other expats in Marrakech. I have a have a weekly standing lunch date I with some. Another is my mani/pedi buddy, while another lives further away but is my go to girl when I need to pick up the phone and just talk. She gets me, I get her. I can’t put into words how important this has been. Really, when I think what my life would be like without having them there, I seriously doubt how happy I would be here. Recently, my kids were invited to the birthday party of our neighbor. She’s a young mom, probably close to me in age. When I was  coming home one evening she was outside and our kids were playing together.  I went through the customary greeting and then it hit me.  We would never be friends. 

We couldn’t.

 

Because our ability to have a conversation ended as soon as my darija dried up. A million emotions came over me as it became so obvious that I lacked any Moroccan friends who didn’t speak English. All of my feelings of self consciousness bubbled up.

How could I ever imagine them wanting to be my friends?

Won’t they just laugh at my child level Arabic?

No, they couldn’t possibly just want to be my friend.

Ouch.

 

As much as it hurt it also gave me more resolve to become functionally fluent. I want Moroccan friends, so I am going to work even harder to speak well. 

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Any tips for moving past it?

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Amanda MouttakiMaking Friends in Morocco

Comments

  1. The Guy

    Moving towns and more so moving countries is a big challenge for anyone or friendship. It sounds as though you have been adapting to the expat lifestyle. It is amazing that in this situation you befriend people of similar backgrounds/roots even though at home you may not make that connection. At home you have less in common, yet as an expat you have a common cultural history and roots, that is what brings you together. I relate to my time as an expat for 17 months living in the Middle East.

    Sorry to hear that your neighbour is not a future friend. I would like to think of it as she is a potential friend but only of a very basic, limited interaction kind. Language is a barrier yet communication through gesture, expression and consideration will establish a basic form of relationship. As your Arabic improves there may be more opportunities to build on this connection.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      You’re right I hope I can. I am certainly willing to try but need to find a partner/friend who is willing to try! That’s proving more difficult I think.

  2. Vicky

    I’ve actually found that lack of language skills is a great way to make friends and potentially have deeper connections with people than you do when words get in the way. I tend to think we see one another’s humanness more when communication is stripped back to basics. I’ve been learning Darija for 3 years now – when my Moroccan partner and I first met, we didn’t have a shared language at all! Since then, I’ve also befriended a Moroccan woman near to where I live in England and one of the reasons we became friends was precisely because of the desire to learn the language (it works both ways for us, but because my Darija is better than her English, I find we tend to speak more Arabic, ergo my Arabic improves at a better rate than her English). So, really just to say that it’s good to make friends precisely BECAUSE of the language barrier – the best way to get to grips with a language is to work through the fear of sounding stupid and actually talk to the people you think you’d like to get to know better. Conventional language learning techniques state we need textbooks, dictionaries, etc, to learn from before we can communicate; most Berbers you meet in Morocco are proof that this is ridiculous, and new languages are naturally acquired through befriending people and striking up conversations, however limited these conversations may be to begin with. I’ve found a lot of humour occurs due to stumbling over the language, but as long as we can take ourselves less seriously and learn to laugh at our mistakes, this is what makes it fun (and anything fun and social gets committed to memory much more easily than reading phrasebooks and trying to figure out grammatical structures). And fun makes friends! The friends bit CAN come before speaking well, not the other way round :-) As long as we have an outlet for our deeper thoughts and feelings (as you have with this blog and possibly the other expat friends you mention), the deep and meaningful conversations will naturally occur with your non-English speaking Moroccan friends as your language skills develop – and because you’ll already have gained their friendship, the trust inherent in sharing more of ourselves has already been established.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Thanks for sharing! I don’t completely disagree though, do in a way. I know language isn’t the only barrier and have been told many times it’s just hard to make friends here when you’re an outsider. People are warm, welcoming, inviting, hospitable – to a degree. Yes, it’s possible to have basic conversations, and I do. But in writing this I meant more the type of friend you call up and chat with when you have a disagreement with your spouse, or you’re missing home. I don’t have the language skills to have anything more than a basic conversation – certainly nothing in depth! I had many good Moroccan friends in the US, but that was because they spoke English. Part of the challenge too is finding people willing to befriend you in spite of the language trouble – and THAT is the part that is difficult. I can be as willing to try but without someone who too is willing to try – won’t happen. :/

  3. kareema josiane

    Dear, i soooo feel you…it’s been 3 yrs since i’ve moved to KSA and i have not yet made any friends…most of them have already their own group of friends and the rest speak mostly in arabic with little to no english…..and i don’t want to be friend with expat either … So i end up with nothing….yes i have my kids but i need grown up talk….i love the arabic culture and i am use to it now with my in laws …. We just have to force ourself to learn more arabic !

  4. L.L.

    Salam alikom Amanda
    i don’t have any friends nor have i ever. I was always “the annoying girl w/ aspergers”. In fact
    i was bullied throughout my school career. In elem. I was always the last one picked only b/c they
    had to! In high school the kids would groan whenever i was late. (No wonder i have ptsd). It’s easier to make friend’s w/ foreigners. Americans just don’t seem to like me! I totally know how u feel!

  5. jen

    Yes, I agree.. love the realness of your posts! I’ve moved around…. but not out of the US and with no language barrier (I can’t imagine but think it is such an awesome thing you have doing & doing!)… and have found that friendships take time and patience. I think moving does give you a better perspective than others you grew up with who haven’t ever left, which is a good thing. I’m looking forward to meeting you during our trip as well. ((hugs)). jen

  6. Diane

    Hello, your post reminded me of my friend troubles here in France. Even though I do speak the language, I’m not in a big city and I find that if you haven’t grown up with people and if you don’t have kids in grade school, finding people to be friends with is nearly impossible. I’ve touched on the lonely expat problem on my blog a few times and I was saddened to see just how many comments I got. I figured others were in the same boat but not THAT many. I joined meet up groups and met some people who I didn’t click with and then even got a stalker type from it, so I’ve kind of given up and just have my dog and my husband. And the obligatory hello/goodbye/smalltalk with cashiers. I’d love to have a few people in town with whom I can seriously chat and do things with but people just aren’t open to it. So hang in there and I hope for you at least that when your Arabic improves, that it’ll open doors.

  7. Nancy Brady

    Hi Amanda…I so love your honest and real posts…I feel that I have made a friend in Morocco because of your sharings. I can’t imagine moving to another country, although when we moved from the east coast to Albuqurque, it felt like it. We both left all of our lifelong friends and our families to move here. It took a while to adjust…about a year and a half and we have made friends now that will be lifelong…but they all speak English. I imagine you will learn the language, being immersed in it, over time. Be patient, it will happen. You are in an amazing country and if I wasn’t married, I would move there in a heartbeat. See you soon when I am there…can’t wait to meet you. Nancy

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