Board Professional | Social Entrepreneur | Founder Red City PR | Organizer TEDxMarrakesh | Riad Owner | Advisor. Follow the adventures in Morocco on the blog www.riadarabe.blogspot.com
Where are you from, Per, and what are you doing nowadays?
I am a 43 years old Swede from Stockholm with a vagabond heart and a passion for Africa. I have spent 20 years working with building strong brands, driving sales and turning around businesses. My track record include Managing Director, Global Marketing Director and communication Manager. When I finished the change programme in my latest job, we felt that the time was right for a new adventure in our lives. So we left our well-paid jobs, rented out the house in Stockholm, took our dog and moved to Marrakech in Morocco.
These days we spend our time studying Arabic and French. We are very involved in a local charity initiative supporting Moroccan girls, where we are also on the board. We are involved in the Marrakech Biennale which will take place spring 2016 next time. I am the chairman of a fashion chain and a design agency, as well as a board member of two other companies. So I spend time on these assignments and travel back to Scandinavia once a month for our meetings.
Basically, we created a life where we can be in charge of our own time and focus on things that gives us energy. Time is the ultimate luxury for us and here we are fortunate to be able to spend it on things that matter to us and can make a difference in our local community.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Morocco?
Our love affair with Morocco started about 8 years ago when we spent a week in Marrakech and fell under the spell of this magical city. Three years ago we bought a riad (traditional courtyard house in the Medina) and made it our second home. Since then, we have been coming here as much as possible. Since we have this beautiful little riad here and the cost of living is relatively low, Marrakech was the natural choice when we decided to take a break from "the rat race" and move abroad.
What has attracted you to Marrakech?
For centuries Marrakech, has attracted the most curious, creative and talented people on the planet. We wanted to join the fans. For us, the main reasons settling down here in the ancient Medina were the exotic Arabic culture combined with the French sense of style - the best of two worlds! Fantastic climate all year round. It's a vibrant city that truly is like stepping 1000 years back in time. Low cost of living, employing staff, renovating, etc., as well as great craftsmanship available. Warm and friendly people with a fantastic sense of humor. The "jet-set scene" of the Arabic world in combination with the strong French influences ensuring great restaurants, bars and clubs while at the same time maintaining the ancient mystique of 1001 nights.
What were the procedures to follow for a Swedish national to move there?
If you are a student, employed, retired or own a property you can apply for a residential card. It is quite a process, but not impossible. Anyone can stay up to three months on a tourist visa. So as long as you leave the country once every third month, no other procedure is needed.
What are the local labor market's features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
In Marrakech, most jobs are in the tourist sector. If you speak English and French and have experience from tourism and marketing, you will find jobs. In Casablanca, you are more likely to be hired in the finance sector. Most of the people we know create their own businesses and are multitasking several different jobs and projects.
What are the types of accommodation which are available?
We bought our own house, but there are many other alternatives. You can rent or buy villas, apartments or riads and chose between living in the old Medina, the posh Palmeraie area or the new town Gueliz.
How do you find the Moroccan lifestyle? How about the expats living there?
The lifestyle here is very relaxed and social. There is always a new restaurant opening, a new art exhibition or a great party to go to. Since you can afford to employ staff to take care of every practical aspect of your life, you can focus your time and energy on things that matter and that give you energy. To be honest, it is a very privileged and nice lifestyle. We have met a lot of great people, mainly expats, who have been very friendly and inviting us into their lives and homes. Marrakech attracts creative and adventurous people. So it is really a very eclectic and dynamic community.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
We have adapted very easily to our new life but, of course, we don't live the life of a normal Moroccan. We feel at home and at ease with the culture, people and the ways of the country.
What does your every day life look like in Marrakech?
There is no "every day" or routine here. Every single day is really very different! We normally work out with our PT every morning and after that the day can take very different directions. Working, studying, helping out in local charity activities, taking a relaxed lunch on a roof terrace or lounging in a country club, all depending on what the current mood is like. In the evening, if we are lucky, we hang out with our friends at their amazing place, Peacock Pavilions, and have cocktails, dinner, watch a movie in their outdoor cinema and take a midnight swim together.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
How friendly and easy going everyone is and the fact that it actually can be cold in Marrakech (in January/February). I was also surprised at how great the local Moroccan wines are. There is a very good wine industry here.
Any particular experience you would like to share with us?
The only negative thing about Marrakech, in my opinion, is the taxi drivers. They are really rude and always try to scam you. I have had several fights with them and the main reason for learning Arabic is to be able to yell back at them in their own language.
Your favorite local dishes?
I like the fact that the North African and French kitchens blend together here. We also have some great Italian and Asian restaurants. I love the fusion of these global kitchens but if I should chose just one diah it would have to be the tangine (fish, lamb or chicken slowly cooked in a clay pot).
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Morocco? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
It is low. You can live very cheap if you want to but also very expensive if you want to. Renting a central two-bedroom apartment in a nice area would cost approximately 400-600 euros per month. A dinner at a local restaurant is 3 to 6 euros while a fancy dinner in a nice restaurant with a good wine is around 30 to 50 Euros. If you live like a Moroccan, you can get by with 300 euros a month. An expat would need probably 3,000 euros a month. Most of us have housekeepers, gardeners, drivers and handy men employed, which makes life easy and also create job opportunities in the local community.
How do you spend your leisure time?
We go the gym and work out with our PT almost every day and we try to travel and experience as much as possible of Morocco. If you are into golf (I am not), you can play all year round and you find basically the same activities here as you do in Stockholm.
What are the differences between life in Morocco and in Sweden?
The fact that we have time and don't have to do a nine to five (or nine to nine) job. We live in the present here and are truly very relaxed. We try to do what is good for us and our new community.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Not very much except our closest friends and family, but they come down to visit us. It is just a 5 hours flight from Sweden.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?
Enjoy the ride!
What are your plans for the future?
We are going to stay on for a while and continue to learn Arabic, develop the supporting local girls project and see what happens. God willing.