For me, of all the millions of questions and thoughts running through my mind as the countdown reduces to my trip, I wonder how the countries culture will affect me and what I need to pack…
When it comes to western culture, it’s a simple question of what the seasons will hold and packing accordingly. But when it comes to areas where religion and strong tradition play a huge part on the country and it’s way of living, you walk into a whole other mound of questions;
Does my clothing need to cover me entirely?
Is it acceptable to wear a bikini?
Is there anything a girl simply cannot do in this country?
Am I allowed to wander around on my own?
Can I even hold my boyfriend’s hand – let alone kiss him?!
Being a worrier at heart, the questions got worse and I end up questioning why I’m even going!
Finding Out More
For a girl in a country where it is dominated by the male population, and women are rarely seen wearing anything that shows much flesh – let alone anything above the knee – it was quite the challenge when it came to packing for my visit to Morocco.
Initially the excitement of being somewhere hot, sunny and full of culture outweighed all the questions that soon bubbled up as I discovered I’d be entering a Muslim country. Thankfully I had a fellow girl in the group!
The worry of how things would be for a mere week of Moroccan living hadn’t crossed my mind till Cat emailed me saying she had googled to see what was allowed. God bless the Internet!
She discovered that in the area we’d be in, sitting on the beach in our bikinis would be perfectly allowed, however elsewhere might be a little different! In the public area’s we’d probably have to cover up more than we normally would elsewhere – mainly out of respect for others, which was perfectly understandable.
It wasn’t until I had landed in the country that the culture shock truly hit home! As we all drove through the city of Agadir with Tamaraght right through on the other end, we all caught a glimpse of Moroccan life.
Initially as I saw everyone living their normal day to day lives, I realised more than before that I really couldn’t just strut around wearing my bikini top and shorts soaking up the rays as much as my Scottish skin would like – I’d have to be really careful not to show too much. All women that I clapped eyes on were fully covered in traditional dress.
However, as the cars took us further out of town, the mood somewhat changed as we saw women wearing tight fighting clothing, jeans, even vest tops! The more I looked on, the more I realised these women were of the younger generation and even though these girls were still fully covered with respect to their religion, they had that essence of style to them. It made me feel that little more comfortable.
The worries I’d had – that we’d need to be covered at all times even in the sweltering heat – had suddenly gone, simply experiencing the area made me feel at ease with the country and it’s people.
Visiting the local Souk turned out as big as an experience as you could ask for. The essence of markets excites me.
I love the sounds, the smells and the whole atmosphere from the buzz around you. But in Morocco part of me felt just that little bit scared! I’m not sure if it was simply the fact this place was packed to the brim with locals from all over, or how I was pounced on as soon as I stopped to view some of the local jewellery!
The question of whether I could hold my other half’s hand didn’t even cross my mind as all of us walked through the busy fruit/veg/spices/rugs/jewellery/tagine madness!
If holding his hand wasn’t allowed, I didn’t want to know, I didn’t want to let go in fear of getting lost in the mass of faces!
This was another matter that I was unsure of. What I would consider as minor displays of affection might be misconstrued as something forbidden. The last thing I wanted was to offend people in their own country.
Thankfully the area in Morocco I was in was not as ‘extreme’ as I had imagined. I had thought the worse when I was at home thinking what to pack. But it turned out to be alot more relaxed than expected.
If you’re heading anywhere with such an array of cultures and religions – the main focus is to be prepared. I always think it’s better to be over organised, than to arrive with not a scrap of knowledge of what your getting into!
The term culture shock is there for a reason!
It will happen if you have no idea what day to day living is like in foreign countries – it’s not all to do with the pretty images in your travel brochures! Being prepared will put your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy yourself
Grab your Lonely Planet guide, or simply Google the countries you’re heading for. We all know the internet is bursting with information, just take the time to find it.
Knowing what is acceptable on the beach/in public/religious buildings and learning some basic local language will work in your favor – asides from it being helpful for you it also mean the locals will be more open to you.
For me Morocco has acted as a stepping stone to the change in culture I’ll experience when heading to South East Asia on my RTW trip next year. It’s done far from put me off – it’s simply added to my passion for travel!