Not long after arriving in Morocco, I noticed a marked difference between traveling here and traveling in Europe–both in the local culture and in the community of travelers. In Europe, much like what I am accustomed to in the States, everyone pays for everything they get. In the case of a combined bill, people will practically split pennies in their determination to divide the payment fairly.
In Morocco, I noticed a culture of sharing first in the travelers. In the first hostel is stayed in, when someone would cook food, her or she would cook enough for everyone. Each time, we were all super appreciative, and we all took our turns cooking–not because we felt obligated, but rather because we had a real desire to share our own cultures and skills, and to see people happy and full. In this way we formed a community.
This is the type of attitude I continually found as I traveled in Morocco. There are, of course, exceptions, but for the most part, people are more laid-back and willing to share, whether it be their food, their time, or their adventures.
I found a different type of sharing in Moroccan culture. I have never met a people more hospitable. I can’t count the times I’ve been invited to share tea, or even tagine (a typical Moroccan dish), without any expectation of payment. Even random little interactions threw me off-guard. One time I was on a bus, and the guy behind me reached forward with a bag of peanuts and said, “Take. Eat.” I politely took two or three, saying, “Shukran,” thank you. “No, all!” he insisted, so I took the bag. It occurred to me that I had an excess of apples in my backpack because I had just bought a kilo before getting on the bus, so I passed one back to him.
I kind of expected he would use the interaction to hit on me, since that’s apparently a thing, but he never did. I guess he just had extra peanuts. I was quite grateful, because it was a little more substantial than the fruit I had, and I was quite hungry.
The common interaction in my culture where Person 1 politely offers to share food, Person 2 politely refuses, and Person 1 is either secretly relieved or insists, at which point it is socially acceptable that Person 2 accept the offer, seems superfluous here. In Morocco, people offer to share because they genuinely want to and are willing to, not because they feel like they have to. Of course, in tourist areas, like in any other country, one should be a bit suspicious of motives since seemingly helpful people often expect tips, but c’est la vie.
The culture of sharing is something I want to consciously carry over into my life at home. I understand why the culture of payment and repayment is necessary, but when I have a little bit extra, I’d rather use it for sharing than for gain.