On Inter-Cultural Dating

 
Not in a million years did I think that I would come study abroad and get into a relationship! Not having a boyfriend for my entire Princeton career, I had no expectations for coming to Morocco. But life has a funny way of handing you surprises, and this has definitely been one of them.
 
It’s been about two months now, so I think that now I’m able to write a little more objectively and logically about this new experience that I’m having. Although I will say, being a child of a multi-cultural marriage (for those of you who don’t know, my mother is from Brasil, and my father is American) has definitely prepared me better to be more culturally sensitive and to know what to expect when it comes to the language barrier and differing values--of course that has only gotten me so far.
 
I have a great appreciation for Moroccan people: they remind me so much of Brasilians when it comes to hospitality and genuineness (excluding the blood-sucking merchants, of course), and since I absolutely adore Brasilians, then it logically follows that I adore Moroccans, broadly speaking. So I guess that put me one step closer to being involved with a Moroccan. 
 
However, what really intrigued me about my boyfriend is the fact that he is so respectful of me and other women. On any given day, I could walk through the souq in Fez or in the streets of El Jadida and be stared at, called to, and generally harassed (see: On Being a Woman in North Africa, Part I). I had written off most Moroccan men as being in either one of two categories: they either want to get in your pants, or they want to sell you something. But, I luckily found one who doesn’t belong in either. This gives me hope that there in fact is a third category of genuinely good Moroccan men (and indeed, at least one of my friends has snagged a guy that also fits this description). So that is definitely a pro of dating this “third category” Moroccan: respect.
 
On the other hand, a con of dating a Moroccan is the language barrier. As I’ve said before, the people here speak Darija and French and/or Spanish. English is a bonus, and although it is common to find English speakers at AUI (it is, after all, an English-speaking university), it is somewhat rare to find Moroccans more than proficient at English outside the university. In the French school system, it is mandatory to take both English and French, so most kids from upper-class families do know some English. However, even so, their English is relatively weak: pretty much equivalent to the amount of Spanish one can say to have studied at an American high school. My boyfriend does speak English quite well--he would have been able to attend AUI without any problems. I seem to always forget that English is his third language and sometimes use some slang that doesn’t always make sense to him. That being said, he also sometimes says things in English that directly translates from Arabic or French, but doesn’t always sound right in my native language. There have been several instances of miscommunication, which although end up being funny, do pose some problems when having a serious discussion. 
 
Probably the most rewarding aspect to dating a Moroccan, however, is just how much I’m learning from him in regards to language and culture. Of course, I’ve learned how to say a few key words in Darija that relate to dating, and he always teaches me things that I want to know in general, such as how to say “excuse me” and “just kidding”. But not only am I learning his language, I am being immersed in his culture like never before: it’s one thing to travel the country with a group of your friends as tourists, but it’s something else entirely to walk around the city with a native and have him not only show you things you would have never noticed otherwise, but also protect you from the stares from other men. I’m getting to experience Morocco in a whole new way, and this is how I wanted to see it all along.
 
Overall, I quite enjoy dating my Moroccan. And when I’m with him, I barely even realize that we come from two completely different cultures (aside from, of course, the occasional emergence of the language barrier). I am, in short, very happy.

 

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