Saturday, April 2, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Youssef & Amanda

Amanda writes an amazing blog about expat life in Morocco!

There are four people in our family me, Amanda (American), my husband Youssef (Moroccan/US citizen), M (12) and K (9). Youssef and I met in Marrakech 12 years ago and we lived in the US for nearly 9 years and then moved back to Marrakech where we currently live. I am a freelance writer and blogger. Together we own and operate a food tour business in Marrakech. 

Three words that describe you... 
Spontaneous, Global, Foodie.

Favorite childhood memory... 
My family would always take a vacation over our spring break, often to Florida. I have lots of memories spending time in our van driving from Wisconsin to Florida and then our week or two in the sun before returning to the chilly north!

Where/how do you feel most inspired? 
Outdoors. I love being anywhere that has mountains or water and plenty of solitude. While I love cities I also crave the quiet. 

Where/how did you meet your spouse? 
 We met when I was on vacation in Marrakech. It was quite serendipitous and a bit like a fairy tale.

How long have you been together? 
We met in 2004, this year we will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse? 
I really admire his dedication to his family and others. He's the kind of person that never complains about his duties and always finds a way to look at it positively instead of complaining when things irritate him. 

Favorite memory together as a couple... 
The first trip we took together was to Essaouira, Morocco. We were just kids (19 and 20) but it all felt so adult. Neither of us could cook and I remember trying to figure out how to make scrambled eggs for breakfast in our rented apartment and walking the beach at dark. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship? 
The basics. We met when I was in Morocco but to be honest a lot of what I knew was not true - more stereotypes and generalizations. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
We really were quite crazy. We met the first time for 3 days, I came a few weeks later for a week-long visit and we got engaged. My family thought I lost my mind. I went back and stayed for 2 months just to make sure. Overall they didn't understand why we wanted to do it so quickly nor did they really understand why he couldn't just come visit (visa rules). But once they met him, it was not an issue. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life? 
It's completely changed everything. I've learned a new language, moved to a new country, and gotten a very different view of what life can look like. It's also helped me to understand what my own culture is and what is important to me in that lens. 

Who proposed and how? 
We had talked about it but he ended up proposing the second time I visited Morocco, about 4 hours after I landed. It was not a fairy tale proposal by any means. He gave me a ring and asked if I would marry him. I said yes!

Describe your wedding... 
We had 3 "weddings". Our first legal marriage was a US civil marriage that happened about 75 days after he arrived in the US (on a fiance visa so we only had 90 days to do it). We were married by a judge in a ceremony we made our own - part American traditions part Moroccan/Islamic traditions. Our second wedding was at the mosque - it was the basic contract signing that happens in an Islamic marriage. Our third was a party we had in Morocco with my husband's family about 1 year after our actual marriage. 

What does being married mean to you? 
 It's a commitment we've made to each other. For me, it's a strong bond and something we both took very seriously even though we were young when we married. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
To be honest, we've made so many of our dreams a reality at this point. We have two lovely children, we have a successful business and a happy life. I think ultimately we look forward to doing more things that make us happy, giving back in any way we can and growing old together. 

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Learn to be humble. You won't always be right and it takes a stronger person to admit they were wrong and apologize. 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship? 
 Independence. There are very few things that I wait for my husband to do for me. If something needs to be done, I do it. Whether that's drilling a hole in the wall or sorting out a business issue. We're a team and that means I do what needs to be done - as well as what I want to do. 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse? 
We love traveling so that is a big part of our life. We work together and live together so sometimes the best thing to keep our relationship alive is to spend some time apart! 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I did learn how to cook Moroccan food like a native. I also became a Muslim before we married on my own accord. 

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
They have always celebrated our holidays with us and respect our religious differences. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
The double standard for boys and girls. While it's getting better in general it still makes me crazy. 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
Honestly, I can't think of any. I'm sure when we were first together there were many but it was too long ago to remember. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
There are so many small nuances to cultures and expectations. Things that I expect as second nature for him and vice versa just aren't. I wish I could think of a specific example to illustrate this but they are the types of things you never talk about before getting married and just pop up here and there. Also miscommunications with language issues. Huge challenge. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is having someone who thinks different and has different ways of doing things - it adds variety. The worst is dealing with the ignorance of other people. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That somehow the other person has pressured you to change anything or when people just project the stereotypes that they've heard without bothering to understand that each person is different. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women / Arab men?
I have two blog posts about this one!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Do they exist? Of course, and in the beginning there were plenty of detractors. I've never had a direct confrontation I just let the reality play out instead. The best way to counter that is to show them they're wrong. Actions are always louder than words!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Be you. Always be you. In the beginning I tried to be "more Moroccan" or do what I thought was expected. Forget about that. You have to be true to yourself or you will be miserable. Remember your partner chose you for who you are, not some other ideal.


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1 comment

  1. Be you. Always be you. In the beginning I tried to be "more Moroccan" or do what I thought was expected. Forget about that. You have to be true to yourself or you will be miserable. Remember your partner chose you for who you are, not some other ideal.

    Words to live by!
    What a beautiful couple.


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