5 Things I Learned to Live Without (in the Kitchen!) While Living Abroad

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

When I moved to Morocco in 2017, the only other country I had ever visited prior was Syria, and even that was back in 2010. Having spent my entire life up along the East coast of America, where my family has lived since immigrating from Europe generations ago, adjusting to life in Morocco was like being thrown in a shark tank and having to quickly learn to swim.

While I definitely lost a couple of fingers and toes in the process, I acclimated to life there unusually quickly. Because we’ve always stuck to larger cities, I have fortunately had access to a lot of the things that I used regularly in the states, yet inevitably there were some things that were either too difficult to find, too expensive to afford, or simply unavailable. And while, initially, I was certain I just couldn’t live without them, I eventually came to realize that they weren’t so necessary after all.

1. Kitchen sink sprayer. I remember being met with utter confusion when trying to find a plumber to install a sprayer nozzle at my kitchen sink, as the only place they’re ever used is at the toilet. After several months of doing without, I finally purchased a spray nozzle that screwed on to the existing kitchen nozzle, but by that time I realized that there was very little it could do that my hand or sponge couldn’t.

2. Garbage disposal: Aside from always worrying about losing a hand in one of these (am I alone in this?), a garbage disposal really is quite an asset in the kitchen. And yes, there’s no denying it – not having one does make for a bit more work. Even after scraping off food bits into the trash bin, I'm inevitably stuck scooping out mooshy sludge from the mesh drain cover -- one thing that both kids absolutely refuse to do.

3. Dishwasher: Confession: dishes are my arch nemesis. Ok, and laundry. You not only have to clean them, but then you have to dry them and put them away. Whose idea was this anyways?! And though a dishwasher allows you to skip the first step, it always seemed I was stuck rinsing the dishes off before throwing them in the dishwasher, rewashing stubborn stuck-on foods after they were washed, or not emptying it once they were clean and watching the sink pile up with dishes. I never thought I’d get to this point, and it admittedly took me 2 years to get here (don’t tell anyone), but I’m finally in the habit of washing dishes as they’re used. The catch? I still hardly put them away.

4. American-sized refrigerator: Anyone else unaware that America is the only country where it’s standard to have a refrigerator the size of a loveseat? My (ex) in-laws in Syria had modern kitchens, so when I began initially house-hunting, I was always taken back by these unusually small fridges. I was certain that I could never adjust to the lack of food storage space, but guess what. It became so normal that once I moved into a home with an American-sized fridge, it was almost never more than halfway filled. Common practice in most places in the world is simply to purchase fresh food more often, versus stashing your fridge, freezer, and pantry up to the brim (hence why pantries, too, are virtually nonexistent in most countries as well).

5. Quality water filters: Bottled water was the norm in both Morocco and Syria for those not wanting to drink from the tap. I searched high and low for a quality water filter, but to no avail. While I did find Brita-type pitchers readily available, I was skeptical of their quality, and having been spoiled with a Big Berkey back in America, I didn’t want to risk drinking poorly-filtered water daily. I went through several types of bottled water brands before finally finding one with good-tasting water (someone tell me I’m not the only one that can taste the difference in bottled waters!). Eventually, I invested in an under-the-counter reverse osmosis system in our home in Morocco from a small shop that took me months to find, and in Syria, I purchased a 5-step stand-alone water filter you usually see in offices, both of which fit the bill just fine.

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