What I didn’t know when moving to Morocco

I didn’t mean for it to happen. Nor did I think it would last this long.  But four years ago today I boarded a plane to Morocco to start my five-month adventure.  I had had an 18-day taste of the Kingdom and I was hungry for more.

Happy on vacation in Morocco Copyright Mandy Sinclair
Happy on vacation in Morocco Copyright Mandy Sinclair

For six months after my holiday in Morocco I had planned for it.  Thought it all through. Budgeted. Enrolled in a French class to brush up on my language skills before arriving. I even sold most of my belongings, including my bed!  And was sent off after a weekend in Vegas followed by a farewell party that no one remembers.

After all, I was about to turn 30 and needed to spice up my life.   I thought I’d stick around Morocco for five months, learn French, travel, slow down, rethink my life before returning to Canada to lead the social media time for the Ottawa Bluesfest (a volunteer position I loved), finish up my duties on the board of directors I was a member of, and then find another public sector job.

I arrived and I started to settle in.  I loved the madness of the city.  The ease of travelling around Morocco and Europe. The lifestyle. The fabulously fresh produce. The friendly local who helped along the way.  The colours, sights an sounds.  The warm winter sunshine.  Within no time at all I was working in PR, meeting new friends, travelling and learning French.

It wasn’t and isn’t always picture-perfect.  Oh no.  There were days I wondered what the heck I had done with my life.  Moments of absolute frustration, fear, loneliness and excitement, often all within minutes of each other.  And four years later, there still are!  But, as they say, all things worth having are worth fighting for.  And since I loved it, I knew I had to give it my best chance.

So when my five months ended and it was time to go back to Canada to fulfill prior commitments, I knew I would return to Marrakech.  I just didn’t think that four years later I would still be here owning a business and preparing to furnish a three-bedroom apartment in a way I would if I were back home in Canada.  But it’s time to plant some roots.

I receive regular emails from readers (which I love reading so keep ’em coming) asking me how I did it because they want to as well.  And the answer is quite simple: a lot of blood, sweat and tears and HOURS of hard work.

But there are a few things I wish I knew when I arrived:

– finding an apartment is unlike in Canada.  When a place is unfurnished, it doesn’t include a fridge, stove or even kitchen cupboards.  And buying those essentials will quickly add up! Oh and the samsars really knew how to waste my time showing me one unsuitable option after another. It’s worth it to pay an agent to find an apartment or villa (the fee is the equivalent to one-month’s rent) and even then expect to go on a hunt!

– working legally is very difficult as employers must build a case as to why a foreigner should be hired over a local and present it to the national employment office.  It’s certainly not impossible as I do have friends working legally in riads (working without papers just isn’t worth it).  Creating a company provides me with a solution to work legally.

– when you’re on holiday everything seems perfect.  Hot showers seem to be the norm in the riad you may be staying in.  That’s not always the case. Water is heated with a Butagaz and that runs out, and in my case, mid-shower (sometimes I’m just so bad at life)! And to solve the problem, you have to go to a shop and lug a heavy bottle home and have it installed (unless you live in an apartment with a concierge who will do it for you for a small tip).  You also probably didn’t go to the bank, pay your electrics or visit the telephone company……

– salaries and compensation packages may not be like what you’re used to at home if you plan to find work once you get here.  If you’re going to work for someone else, expect to work six days a week, a pay cheque once a month and (perhaps) a salary to match the local economy.

– it’s not a place for everyone. Just because I LOVE it, doesn’t mean the friends who come to visit necessarily do.  Nor do those who plan to do the same thing as me.

– Marrakech is expensive if you plan to be going out to Western-style restaurants, cafes and shops.  Expect to pay more than you would in Canada or even parts of Europe when heading out for dinner!

2 thoughts on “What I didn’t know when moving to Morocco

  1. love reading your mailings… my fiance is in Settat and Im waiting on him to get his visa… its been a while now… things don’t go fast in the consulate… 🙁 I feel like coming back again and staying, but I had serious issues with the Wheat flour.. found out its not good in me… and you know how much bread they eat… so I’m waiting on the visa to come, then I will return and go back to Marrakech and other places we have visited… I’ll try to look you up ….

  2. Awesome – enjoy your adventure! I first went to Morocco in 99, fell in love and many years later we don’t get back as often as we’d like, but have created a bit of a moroccan oasis in Australia to compensate. I’ll be so interested to follow your story. It is a fun and exciting place but also requires so much perseverance, esp to set up a business etc. My family’s from essaouira, I’m sure you must have been there – heaven!

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