Living with homestay families has been an experience unlike any other. The experience enables us to immerse ourselves within the Moroccan culture beyond what travelling as a tourist and staying at a hotel would. Due to the language barriers (our parents do not speak English), we are forced to learn and practice darija, and through this language we are also able to learn a lot about the mannerisms of Moroccan individuals.
Specifically, I have noticed that literal translations can still have very different meanings depending on the language. For example, in English it would be considered rude to point at a piece of bread across the table and say “I want that”. On the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable in darija to say “Ana bgit heda” which translates literally to “I want that”. This is just one example of how things that are considered normal in one culture can be considered abnormal in another.
Similarly to Canada, there has also been a lot of variety in the way that people greet one another. While sharing our experiences with one another, I have found that greetings come in all forms – hugs, hand shakes, kisses on cheeks, etc. However, in our family the women greet each other by holding each others shoulders and kissing both cheeks. Men greet each other and other women with a hand shake. In Canada there is not as strong of a gendered distinction in greeting practices in comparison to Morocco.
Something I particularly enjoy about living with a homestay family is the connection that we have developed with them. Our host mother loves when we call her Maman du Maroc, and our host father stays up after dinner to help us learn and practice our darija. Through broken darija and some French, we have learned a lot about each others’ families, work, culture and interests. Even though there are so many things that divide us (age, language, nationality, etc.), we all get along great and have created many lasting memories. I’m not looking forward to the day we have to say goodbye to them.