After two years in Morocco, I think I finally have the communication style figure out. I don’t always understand it and for a long time it frustrated me, but it kinda makes sense now.
Moroccans tend to communicate both directly and indirectly depending on the situation and the person (Americans tend to be fairly direct in most cases). When I first arrived in site and was walking with the previous volunteer, people would ask her my name and where I was from. We were both frustrated by this since I was standing right there and they could have asked me. But this is part of the indirect communication and sense of hierarchy. She was the senior volunteer/foreigner so had higher authority. I get it now.
Other forms of indirect communication include having your gendarme call other volunteers to find out where you are (I’m usually in my house); the gendarme calling multiple members in your community when they need you to come to the station for carte de sejour stuff (residency card); when you are at a wedding and sitting awkwardly showing too much leg (or my tattoo?) and someone tells the person sitting next to you; being at same wedding and a guy has an interest in a girl so therefore tells someone in the family of the couple getting married and that person approaches you to see if you are also interested. This form of indirect communication is very common due to the separation of public/private spaces and lack of dating culture by American standards. When a guy likes a girl he finds a mutual acquaintance and expresses his interest which is then relayed through the mutual acquaintance or a family member to the girl.
When it comes to social media, males are very direct and will contact you through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp without even knowing who you are. They look for keywords/locations and randomly type in phone numbers (I had a guy once tell me that he got my number from a book of pages). Both sexes will immediately ask for your Facebook and WhatsApp upon meeting you (whereas in America even family members aren’t connected).
Direct communication includes things like very personal questions that Americans tend to avoid. How much is your rent? How much did you pay for those shoes? Are you married? Why not? Are you lonely? To be honest, many American families harp on those not married and without kids. But the difference is, in Morocco this is often one of the first questions people ask you when you meet.
I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out exactly what constitutes a direct vs indirect question. But friends and family shouldn’t be surprised if I now directly ask them what their salary is and indirectly inquire whether they want to grab a coffee.
**please note that this is a very generalized view of both Moroccan and American communication styles and based on my own personal experiences