June 2012, Breian S. Brockington
It’s been two years and I still haven’t seen all there is to see in this country. Every day presents itself as a new adventure. And I take it all in stride; at least I think I do. Daily task become an epic tale of magic, foreign languages, bribery, the occasional polite gesture and of course tragedy. My time here really could be portrayed as the next big sci-fi trilogy. Living in Morocco has been a curse and a blessing all in itself. I have learned the value of simplistic living and embraced the joys of First World Problems. Yes, you just read that right. I now value some of the trivial issues we have in the states and other first world countries. Although I find the term third world to be a little offensive and demeaning, I assure you it is definitely “Another World”. Now I know that television will have you believe that Morocco is this exotic getaway in the North of Africa, complete with camel rides, Moroccan tea, and belly dancers. However, living here as a "local foreigner" has given me access to the trenches and luxuries Morocco has to offer. But how do the lows and hi’s compare to first world living? In order to answer this question for those thinking of making that big move to Morocco or else where I’ve compiled four categories that will paint a verbal picture of 3rd World vs 1st World Living.
Number 1: Food
Plain and simple, there are fewer preservatives, pesticides, and it’s inexpensive to shop for groceries in a 3rd World Country. Being that I am American I can only speak for my country. I must say that buying healthy foods in America have become very expensive. A $4.50 bag of pesticide pumped apples at home would cost about $1.50 here. They are smaller, healthier and if not eaten within a week they’re considered bad. The prepackaged bread that we usually pay $2.15 for is less than 0.50 and is baked fresh every day. Yes there are major grocers here and I do frequent them but only for things I’m unable to find at the open markets. The bottom line: The food is healthier. Now, if you prefer to enjoy your food outside the home that expense will run you roughly the same amount as it would in the states or Europe. However, your portions will be significantly less than what the States usually provide.
Number 2: Diversity
Just about everywhere I go in America or Europe I can see someone who looks just like me. But in Morocco people have a hard time believing I’m American. My skin color convinces the masses even when we speak that I must be from some other African country. Although I have no problem with being referred to as African, I hate the subtle undertones of racism that accompany those comments. I guess it's not that far off from the States and Europe.
Morocco may not have a vast color palette but its diversity shows in the many languages spoken in this North African country. In the north it is quite common to walk down the street and here conversations spoken in Spanish. With Spain being only a ferry ride away it’s no wonder Spaniards tried and succeeded for many years in ruling this part of Morocco. Darija; a dialect of classic Arabic is the preferred by locals. Arabic is the official language but is rarely spoken outside of business circles. French can be heard throughout the entirety of Morocco, it's their economic language. So living here would be awesome if learning a new language is on your bucket list.
Number 3: Daily Convenience
If you don’t miss anything in the states you will definitely miss the ability to get around easily. At home taxi’s, buses, trains and subways are abundant and at your service when needed. I can’t say the same for Morocco. Have you ever been wedged between 4 other people in the back of a 1982 Mercedes? How about sitting side by side in the front passenger seat? You will in Morocco unless you pay for the whole seat. Yes, when procuring a taxi you initially pay for half a seat. Trust me it is in your best interest to pay for the entire seat. Unless crowded spaces are your thing, I say public transportation in an under developed country is a no go. Fair warning, Morocco can get pretty hot in the summer...Think about it. Other amenities such as online banking are pretty nonexistent. Mailing letters, notarizing official documents, paying speeding tickets and simply buying jewelry and clothing are all things I enjoy in a developed country.
Number 4: Traditions and Culture
When arriving in Morocco you see images of the Berber people (indigenous people of Morocco), some who still live a very traditional lifestyle. You hear the sounds of Gnawa music, and consume traditional meals like couscous are every Friday, as it was done years ago. A trip to Marrakesh or Fez will allow you to see old souks, (traditional markets) that still operate through bargaining. A glimpse of snake charmers and old story tellers are common sights as well. All of these elements give you the sense that although Morocco is striving to compete with other Arab countries, they still hold tightly to their customs. Of course we have our own traditions in America like Fourth of July BBQ’s, Easter egg hunts and New Year’s Eve fireworks, among others. However, there are so many subcultures in America the line between culture and tradition is usually blurred. What an underdeveloped country may lack in economics and convenience it definitely makes up in culture and tradition.