Culture · study abroad

How I Accidentally Offended A Fruit Vendor


Tiny fruit. Mighty taste.

This afternoon I discovered that Catholic influenced Zacatecan manners and Islamic influenced Moroccan manners do not get along. How did I learn this? Because I apparently offended a fruit vendor yesterday and I didn’t realize it until today.

So how exactly did this offense happen?

Yesterday some classmates decided to go eat lunch at Ifrane’s market district. As I was coming out of class I was invited to tag along.

It was nearly 1:30pm and I was super hungry because I had overslept that morning and missed breakfast. As a result, I agreed because I had just enough money for a good lunch.

So we went to a local restaurant. And afterwards….we went fruit shopping.

As my classmates started buying apples I stood at the edge because I only had about 20 dirham left after lunch. So about $2. And I didn’t feel like looking at stuff I couldn’t  afford so I patiently waited for them to finish.

Little did I know I was committing an offense.

This morning I decided to go back to the market district. I took out money from an ATM machine and went out looking for fruit because the previous day had left me with a large fruit craving. I remembered overhearing the owner of the stall saying he spoke English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. So I decided to head to his stall. Plus, all my classmates kept saying his fruit was the best.

I went and this conversation happened:

Vendor: Ah, you’re back!

Vendor: *pauses* I thought you didn’t like fruit?

Me: *looking beyond surprised* Umm…I love fruit?

I remember thinking, “Does he think I don’t like fruit because I’m a fat American?”

Vendor: But when you came here yesterday you looked so sad. And you never spoke! Or looked at my fruit!

Me: But, sir. Yesterday I had no money! I didn’t want to waste your time or make my classmates feel like they had to pay for me.

At this point the fruit vendor looks beyond flabbergasted. His expression read, “What kind of  sad thinking is that?!”

Vendor: But you were also very quiet. You were not energetic like your friends.

And with that I was able to figure out that I had somehow upset him the day before.

Me: Sir, my friends are American and French. I am American by birth but I grew up learning traditional Mexican mannerisms. People in the area where my dad is from (Zacatecas, Mexico) are naturally quiet. Being loud and open in public is frowned upon. We only do that with family. And I didn’t talk because my dad raised me not to participate in conversations or activities if I was not directly invited. If I did…it would be rude. I’m sorry if I somehow  upset you yesterday. I’m still trying to adapt and this is a bit different than what I’m used to.

Suddenly the puzzle pieces fell into place and he realizes that we just had a cultural misunderstanding.

Vendor: No. No. That’s not how we do things in Morocco! If you do not have money you can still come and talk. If you see something and want to participate do so! We do not work that way in Morocco. At first I though you were ill or very homesick for America.

In other words he thought I was either feeling unwell or that I disliked Morocco. For the first time I started wandering how many Moroccans I had peeved off these past couple of days by being an Ice Queen. What made it worse was that the women where my dad is from are seen as Ice Queens in Mexico. I don’t even want to think about Morocco.

We talked about Spain, the different lifestyles between France and Morocco, and which fruits are the best. We worked things out and I think I made a local friend. He even gave me two complementary fruits that tasted fantastic.

Ah, cultural misunderstandings. I have a feeling this will not be the last time it will happen. But, I feel you learn the most through them. Even if they usually are embarrassing.




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