The Best Kind of Culture Shock I’ve Had in Morocco

Emily Moore is a student at University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA Service-Learning in Meknes, Morocco.

Before I traveled to Morocco, many people told me things like “you will definitely experience culture shock, but don’t worry, you will get over it with time,” or “the culture shock will probably make you want to go back home, but don’t forget why you are there”. Not once did someone say to me “the culture shock is going to be such a growing and learning experience for you”, and not once did that thought even cross my mind. Little did I know that the culture shock was going to be one of the best reasons about coming to a ME/NA (Middle East/North Africa) country.

I have always been one of those people that has to be early to everything, and who must have every moment of every day planned out weeks in advance. I’m used to running from class to one job to tutoring to the second job to an extracurricular meeting to a social event. So you can imagine how shocking it was to come to Morocco and find out that everyone is late to everything, there are no set plans, and nobody runs from place to place. I couldn’t even find a planner of any kind in any bookstore because people don’t even plan out their day ahead of time, let alone their entire week or month. I was beyond stressed when I realized the way of life in Morocco is more “go with the flow” and not “get things done”.

However, this culture shock that I experienced wasn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, in my enlightened opinion, culture shock is how people grow and change for the better. I was forced to change my entire perspective on life and the meaning of success. What I mean is that, in the States, for me, life was about working constantly to make the best grades, do the best job at work, and accomplish as many activities and projects as possible each day. Success, for me, couldn’t be achieved without seamlessly running to every activity and meeting each goal. But here in Morocco, life is about enjoying every little moment. Life is slower paced to make time for the things that truly matter, like making a new friend, taking a walk to enjoy the sunset, or enjoying a chat over a long lunch every day. It used to bother me to go sit inside a cafe without homework or study materials, but now I go out for tea or coffee almost every day only to catch up with friends.

In this short time that I’ve been in Morocco, I have already changed so much for the better, and I owe it all to the culture shock that I experienced when I first arrived. I will probably never again relate to the American “get it done” mentality, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I just hope that everyone in the world can experience the same culture shock that makes them realize life is about so much more than getting things done.


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