Morocco is a fascinating and beautiful country. Although the country was under French colonial rule for many years it certainly has its own unique culture and customs. The mix of Arabic, Muslim, Berber and French cultures have also given the country a rather unique business etiquette. It is important that you follow these rules in order to conduct a successful business deal in Morocco.
Islam and the family unit play an important part in life in Morocco. Moroccan culture in general is also quite reserved. Due to these factors Morocco is quite a reserved and conservative country to do business in. However, it is by no means as reserved as many other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia. Business structures in Morocco are still extremely hierarchical and status is important. As such decision making can take a long time. The power to make decision lies with only one or two people at the top and their subordinates have no real power.
Moroccan people also prefer to get to know people before they do business with them. This way they know that they can trust them. This is another factor that can lengthen negotiations as there is always small talk at the beginning of meetings before actually getting down to business. Jumping straight into business is considered rude.
You should greet both men and women at a business meeting that you do not know with a handshake, when both leaving and exiting. Always use your right hand, as the left hand is considered to be unclean. Kissing on cheeks is reserved for close friends and family friends. It is considered polite to talk about family members and ask if they are well.
Although Morocco is a reserved and conservative Muslim country it is also quite progressive in many ways. In a business setting men should wear dark business suits. Women should wear dark pant suits or long skirts and dresses which cover most of the arms and legs. Outside sandals and baggy trousers are acceptable for both sexes. Shorts and tight t-shirts are only acceptable for the beach or when playing sports.
Punctuality is most definitely not important to Moroccans. Meetings are usually conducted on what is referred to as “Moroccan time”, which can be anything from 30 minutes to the next day after the agreed time of a meeting. This is just a part of the business culture that you have to be prepared for.
French is the main language of business communication, although Arabic may also be used. However, unless you are fluent in either French or Arabic it is best to hire a translator. You should not assume that your counterparts speak English. It is also just polite to carry out the negotiations in their native language.
You should not be surprised if you are invited to a prospective business partner’s home for a meal. If you are it is a good idea to bring a gift. Gifts such as pastries, sweets or flowers are all good options. Alcohol is a terrible idea and will be seen as an insult. A gift for the children will also be well received.
The correct dining etiquette is extremely important in Morocco as it is very different from western dining etiquette. First of all it is important to dress smartly and check that your spouse is actually invited to the dinner as well. Men and women are not always invited to dinner together. When you enter the house you should take off your shoes and shake everyone’s hand. Food is usually served at knee high level and from a single bowel. You should only eat with your right hand, however your left hand can be used to take bread and pass bowls to another. It is important that you only eat from the section of the bowel in front of you. Water is also often served from a communal glass. A wash basin is brought around for you to wash your hands at the beginning and end of the meal.
While Morocco certainly has some rules that would be strange to a western visitor they are easy to get used to. As long as you are respectful, reserved, and follow the correct dining etiquette, then you should have a successful business venture in Morocco.