Saying that traveling as a mixed culture couple is difficult is an understatement. From answering the same questions all the time (sometimes we mind, sometimes we don’t — we understand that people are curious) to having to choose travel destinations carefully due to our different Nationalities. Most of our friends still joke around and say we just like doing things the hard way!
Have our differences ever stopped us from traveling? Absolutely not. Do we feel frustrated because we can’t just hop on a plane and travel the world? Sometimes. Until our life is sorted out in paperwork terms, our travels don’t happen without some extra planning (and plenty of jugglings).
We reached out to the travel bloggers community in search of inspiration and tips, hoping that their stories (and our own) will help bust a myth or two and encourage mixed-culture couples to travel more. Trust us; you will both teach people about something and learn something from them. Mixed culture couples are still not the most common thing in the World, you will probably raise a brow or two, but in the majority of cases people will understand, hopefully, that you’re just a couple.
You may know Amanda Mouttak by her blog “alias” Maroc Mama. Amanda agreed to be interviewed by us, and we are sure you’ll be inspired by her words as much as they reassured us.
Amanda is American and her husband Youssef is Moroccan. And they met while traveling. The first thing we asked them is how does their different background affect them when they travel (well we don’t know any couple who has the same tastes and pet peeves): “I think for us I look at our traveling together in a way that is similar to our marriage. We came from very, very different backgrounds. He grew up in a big city with lots of siblings in North Africa. I grew up in a very rural community in the northern United States and have only one sister. I think he has a lot more patience when it comes to bureaucracy and delays, he’s used to things taking time and is able to sit back and wait things out, but he also knows when to push to make things happen. I don’t have that skill. I can read a map like nobody’s business and have a sense of the way things should be. I don’t have patience when problems come up and often get frustrated. I’m naturally curious and able to start up a conversation with anyone while he would rather keep to himself. This is a perfect balance to have but also something we had to learn to appreciate. There are some things I think we see the same way, for example, we both have a strong sense of helping others, and we want to live an authentic life no matter where we travel.”
We share the same thoughts on what the downsides of our travels are, and they too went through the same “imposed” boundaries of waiting for citizenship: “Before he had American citizenship, we were limited to where we could go without a visa. Even if we could apply for a visa, it was unlikely he would be granted it, so we spent a lot of time traveling in North America. Being intercultural also means people can’t often place us. They aren’t sure. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage.” I agree that Western cultures are a lot more selfish (or less available) when it comes to helping strangers. Truth be told that both in Dubai and in Bangkok, Dhanish could always spot someone who was Indian and spoke the same language to help us out (I think if I spotted a Portuguese they would too but never happened). “We were recently on a trip to Rome and were at Ciampino airport which may as well be in the middle of the world. We couldn’t figure out how to get to our hotel or call the shuttle they provided. Youssef found a Moroccan traveler (who also happened to live in Italy), and within minutes the whole thing was sorted out.”
Not that it surprises me, but still today people judge a book by its cover, much fueled by misconceptions “I travel in hijab as I am Muslim (he is too). This has put some serious hurdles up. Many people aren’t sure how to react or react negatively, especially in the United States. At first I don’t think he saw that but now he can see that people treat him differently too because of how I am dressed when we’re together. Many people are surprised to find out that I am in fact American and their behavior tends to change not too long afterward.”
The world still sees us differently, and we feel it too much under our skin (or at least I do) especially in airports when we have to explain that, despite the different Nationalities, we are traveling together. We’ve had mixed reactions from no reaction to an inquisitive “oh… Really?” to which we preferred to react with a smile. Rules are so different for each of us, and indeed the power of a country has a weight, and it’s right there on your passport.
Even if we didn’t travel to learn (which we do), the Universe has been stepping forward to make sure we stumble upon a lesson or two. On the one hand, we will have to put our dream trip on Route 66 on hold for a little longer, on the other hand, I had the opportunity to visit and live in India for four months last year. It was fun to learn about a whole new culture (and still all I know is the basics) and debunking a myth or two about the white people and my culture. As Amanda wisely puts it: “You’re going to face challenges because, in many places around the world, people still aren’t used to this idea. But you have two options; either roll with it and take it as a teaching opportunity or let it bother you. I’ve found the first option is much more fruitful and opens up a lot of communication and opportunities that weren’t there otherwise. “
We would like to thank Amanda Mouttaki for taking the time to answer our questions with such an inspirational and positive message. She is an American expat living in Marrakech, Morocco with her family. She writes the blog MarocMama, and runs the business Marrakech Food Tours with her husband. They have two children and enjoy traveling the world, eating, and learning new things! You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and follow along with their daily adventures on Instagram.