New and Alone? Our Top 5 Recommendations
We first arrived in Morocco with two little boys, ages three and five, in tow. Imagine the scene — piles of suitcases, hungry children, sleep-deprived parents.
Our boss and his family were out of the country on vacation. They had asked some friends to help us get settled, but they were forced to take their vacation at that time as well.
We had two days of overlap with someone who was leaving, and he taught us a few basic phrases in the local language — how to take a taxi to the store and then back home. Hooray! Dinner for tonight!
Thankfully, we also learned how to get to church. A family there took us under their wings and helped us get settled.
We generally felt very alone, very uncertain, and very burdened with all the impending decisions. Survival-like decisions — learn how to feed ourselves and find some place to live. Food and shelter. Our desires were basic, but hard to achieve in those early days.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation.
Here are our top 5 suggestions for those who are new and alone.
1. Ask locals for help.
Sadly, in North Africa, foreigners have a history of being seen as snobby, aloof, and selfish. And yet, North Africans, themselves, are known for their hospitality and willingness to help — and soooo many speak English! They want to introduce us to their beloved country, and asking for help is one of the best ways to form true friendships with our hosts.
2. Find a local language school.
Nothing will help you settle in and make this place your home like learning the language. Granted, North Africans are such amazing linguists, so you’ll have a choice to make when it comes to what language to study. I recommend choosing one at a time!
3. Find other foreigners.
You can look on Facebook for expat communities, go to American Women’s clubs (if your city has one), or “people watch” in the nicer supermarkets until you are brave enough to start a conversation. However, don’t latch on to just any familiar face. Keep looking until you find those with a favorable perspective of living in the area and who genuinely appreciate life in this place, because their attitudes will rub off on you.
4. Find out what is considered rude and avoid it.
Remember those “rude” foreigners back in your home country or the tourists that drove you crazy? You probably don’t want to be one of those here in your new home, but it can take some work to uncover what’s considered impolite. Your language teacher is a good reference for this, or foreigners who seem to really know and appreciate the culture. Spouses of nationals are especially helpful people to ask.
A completely new environment and its difficulties help us learn and grow. Don’t waste these challenging moments by just complaining about them. Use them to discover more about yourself. These difficult early days (or even the lovely ones) have a lot to show us about our values, our hopes and expectations, our dreams, our patterns and habits. Journaling or capturing that learning in some other manner is an invaluable gift of a very unique season.
As days pass, those seemingly overwhelming decisions will seem easier. Then, they may actually seem natural. And maybe one day, you’ll be the one to welcome the newbie under your wings.