A prequel to reverse culture shock

By Graham Liddell | 4/20/12 1:34pm

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Courtesy Photo/ Graham Liddell
Graham Liddell prepares to come back to the U.S. after studying in Morocco.


I just left Morocco. No, not for good—I’m on my spring break. I took a train to Tangier and
crossed the Straights of Gibraltar by ferry into Spain, where I’m spending the week. I’ll be back
in the good ol’ Arab World on Saturday evening.

For me, this trip to Spain has been serving as a sort of prequel to the reverse culture-shock I’m sure I’ll experience when I head back to the States. After being in Morocco for almost three months now, this sneak-peak back into the Western world gives me perspective on my opinion on the West in general and the U.S. specifically. I’ve become more appreciative of certain things, and more critical of others.

THINGS FOR WHICH I HAVE A NEWFOUND APPRECIATION

1. American coffee-shops

This is, of course, is just a matter of taste. In Morocco (and Spain, as far as I can tell), when you ask for a coffee, they give you an espresso. You are expected to sit and drink it slowly and watch the people go by on the street, maybe with a companion or two. Now an espresso’s great and all, but when I go for coffee I want to be able to sit alone for hours with a book, drinking gulp after gulp and getting several refills, maybe even sticking around for the open-mic to start. And come on. Strong, black, drip coffee is just so much better.

2. Infrastructure
There is a serious lack of the above in Morocco. Construction projects get started, new political
leaders come to power, they decide that said construction project isn’t important, and stop funding it. It sits half finished. In Morocco, I’ve probably seen half as many buildings that are “in construction” as I have completed, functional buildings. Road construction in the U.S. is merely a small talk-worthy hassle; at least it gets done (at some point).

THINGS OF WHICH I HAVE BECOME ALL THE MORE CRITICAL

1. The failure of the U.S. to seriously invest in foreign language programs
So, in pretty much every other developed country in the world, it is uncommon for an educated
person not to speak at least two languages competently. In the U.S., it is far too uncommon to find a person who does. Culture is implicit in language, and the rest of the world is making an investment in other languages than its own. Therefore, they are more apt to understand cultures
other than their own. If the U.S. really wanted to stop producing individuals whose knowledge
of other cultures is limited to stereotypes, it would start pushing foreign languages in elementary
school.

2. Consumerism (and other related -isms)
The average American is exposed to 3,000 advertisements on a given day, and it’s working, to the degree that we feel that we need a new product when it comes out. In an attempt not to be preachy, I won’t go into this much more. I’ll just say that my time in Morocco, where materialism and consumerism don’t yet run fully rampant, has been relaxing, and I all but dread the ad-overload upon my return to the States.

I’m sure I’ll survive.

lakerlife@lanthorn.com

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