Moroccan business etiquette is quite complex due to the mix of Arabic, Muslim, Berber and French cultures. As most Moroccans are practicing Muslims, Islamic values have quite a large impact and influence on Moroccan business culture. Morocco is also a former French protectorate and many of its business practises are based on the French system. As in most other countries around the Mediterranean Sea, strong hierarchy and close personal relationships are the outstanding characteristics of the Moroccan business culture.
- Primary Contact: It is important to make a good impression when meeting Moroccan business contacts for the first time. This is because they tend to be quite reluctant in doing business with people they do not know. Make sure you begin by establishing a personal connection with your counterpart before getting down to the serious stuff.
- Punctuality: Moroccans tend to have a looser sense of time rather than most western countries. Nevertheless, arriving on time to meetings is important even though you may be kept waiting. A negotiation agenda is rarely timed in advance, and meetings can start and end much later than initially scheduled.
- Greetings: Shaking hands and exchanging welcoming words, without being incredibly formal, is considered to be the norm, however, this can vary based on gender. When meeting someone from the same sex, handshakes, usually on the loose side, are common. Women could also meet each other with kisses on the cheek, usually alternating three times. When meeting someone from the opposite sex, it is best to allow your counterpart to extend their hand.
- Gifting: Exchanging gifts is not very necessary in a first business meeting. However, things in Morocco tend to get quite personal and you may be invited to your counterpart’s home. In this situation it is quite appropriate to bring a gift such as fruit, pastries or flowers. Avoid gifting alcohol unless you know for sure that your host drinks alcohol.
- Dress-Code: Business attire tends to be quite formal and conservative for both sexes. Men should wear dark business suits, while it is recommended for women to dress conservatively. Both sexes are expected to be well groomed.
- Business Cards: There is no formal protocol surrounding the exchange of business cards. It is advisable to give business cards that are in French and/or Arabic on at least one side. It is also recommended to exchange business cards with your right hand, as your left hand can be considered unclean as in most Muslim countries.
- Business Meetings: Business meetings tend to be long and their time schedule is rather unpredictable. It is recommended to bring an interpreter, as most negotiations are conducted in French (also Arabic, less so in English). Most meetings start with small talk. Appropriate topics include: family, sports, weather. Avoid talking about sex, religion and the Moroccan royal family.
In conclusion, personal relationships play an important role in striking a deal with Moroccan business partners. Most prefer to get to know their foreign counterparts before they do business with them.
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