Common cultural mistakes foreigners make in Morocco

For a foreigner, living in Morocco is exotic and exciting. Everything is new and you discover something every day – both about yourself, the culture and your new surroundings.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this culture is completely different from that of the West – that is part of the appeal of the country. But if you really desire to thrive as a foreigner living in Morocco, it is important to learn about the Moroccan culture and adjust appropriately to it.

You can easily avoid some common cultural mistakes foreigners make in Morocco. Here are a few tips that can improve your experience and relationships in Morocco, just by making a few small adjustments.

Mistake Number 1: Viewing the task as more important than the person

The relationship is more important than the task.

One of the most common cultural mistakes foreigners make in Morocco is view the task as more important than the relationship. Being from the states (the north), I often forget about this one myself – even after living in Morocco for over 18 months. Contrary to those of us from the West, here in Morocco, the person is always more important than the task.

Okay, so what does that mean?

Those of us from the West tend to be task oriented rather than relationship oriented. Many of us are used to going into meetings and getting right to the point. Saving niceties and chit chat for later. If we can’t find something in a store, we’re used to going up to an employee and the first thing out of our mouths is, “Can you help me find xyz?” or “Where can I find xyz?”. Here in Morocco, this behavior doesn’t go over very well with the locals.

Moroccans and the rest of the Arab world have a community mindset. In a communal context, the people and the relationship, come first – always. Approaching the man who works at the hanout in the same manner as the example listed above, is considered very rude. Although a Moroccan would never tell you directly you are being rude. Acting like this is a quick way for people to act cold towards you. They will be cold to you because that is the way they interpret how you are treating them.

Great, but how do I fix this?

Although this issue seems complex, there is actually an easy adjustment you can make. Simply extend a greeting to those you interact with. This means saying hello, asking how they are doing and how their family is doing. If you’ve noticed, many locals extend this greeting while talking at the same time, talking over one another. It is simply a way to value the relationship.

Even if you are running late and you see someone you know, you must stop and greet them properly. Doing so should only delay you a few minutes, but will go a long way when it comes to building lasting relationships in your new community.

Yes, this even applies to business in Morocco. No matter how busy you are or little time you have, you must say hello, ask how they are and ask about their family.

This common cultural mistake in Morocco can take some some to adjust to, so be gracious with yourself. You are changing the hierarchy of what is importance in your mind!

Mistake Number 2: Going empty handed to a Moroccan’s home

When visiting a Moroccan in their home, always bring something with you for the host.

This may seem pretty straight forward, but for those of us from the West, we’ve lost this concept. The Western culture has become very casual. What was once dressing in our finest to go to someone’s home has become jeans and a nice top. People used to bake pies and bring them to the hosts house or bring a gift for the host. Now days, guests show up with nothing or a beverage or choice to share.

This is perhaps the easiest cultural mistake in Morocco you can adjust to.

Let’s start from the beginning. Moroccans will always invite you to their home, whether they really mean it or not. Be careful not to accept the invitation too soon. If, after you’ve seen the same person in a social setting several times, and each time they invite you, go ahead and accept the invitation.

When accepting an invitation to someone’s home, of course after they have insisted many times, make sure you bring something with you to their home. Don’t get too worried, there’s no need to bake a pie. An easy and completely acceptable thing to bring is a cake or other pastries from a bakery.

Mistake number 3: Not attending funerals and weddings

Attending weddings and funerals will deepen your relationships within the community.

Funerals and weddings never come at a convenient time in any culture. In the West, this is another area where we’ve become very relaxed. In most cases, apologies can be made and are often accepted if you were unable to attend for a valid reason. However, if someone you know has experienced a death in their family, you or someone from your family, absolutely must attend. Again, no matter how busy you are. If you don’t attend, the reason doesn’t matter, your absence will be noted and nothing more.

Again, this comes back to the community mindset and the importance of relationships. As long as someone from your family is present, they represent your entire family. The same rule and expectations apply to wedding celebrations as well.

Attending a wedding or a funeral will only deepen your relationships within your new community.

Although this may be helpful to you, there are many other cultural mistakes foreigners are making while living in Morocco.

Interested in learning more? You may be interested in the following trainings taught by an Egyptian from Cairo who now lives in Morocco and is co-owner of American Motif. Contact us at contact@americanmotif.us for more information about our cultural trainings listed below.

Cultural/Religion Training: 10 Mistakes foreigners make in the Middle East

Throughout this two-hour training session, we will cover the top 10 mistakes foreigners make throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This will give you an opportunity to make appropriate corrections and/or start off on the right foot if you are new to this environment.

Cultural/Religion Workshop

In this 8-hour cultural and religion intensive workshop, we will cover the main principles of cultural understanding and the main principles of Islam in depth.

Both trainings are recommended for individuals, couples, families and teams.

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