Blue Door Morocco

Morocco’s rich culture makes it an exciting, but sometimes bewildering place to visit. There are many cultural differences between Morocco and western countries. Some are obvious like religion and food, and some are more subtle like communication styles and views of money. 

Even being a little cultural savvy will make your trip more relaxing and enjoyable for you — and the Moroccans you encounter! Here are 10 cultural tips to help make the most out of your experience in Morocco.

Blue Door Cuisine Culture Morocco Tangier
Understanding Moroccan culture will make your trip more enjoyable for you and the Moroccans you encounter.

Tips for respecting Moroccan traditional values

As you prepare for your visit, keep in mind that Morocco may be more traditional than your home country.  Moroccans love visitors and don’t hold them to the same cultural standards as other Moroccans. However, following these tips will help you respect your hosts and not embarrass yourself.

1.  Check the Moroccan calendar before you schedule your trip.

When planning your trip, check the calendar of Moroccan national holidays to see if there are any holidays coming up. If your trip coincides with a holiday like Eid Kbir, almost everything will be closed. At the same time, there’s nothing like experiencing holidays with Moroccan friends and their families.

Blue Door Cuisine Calendar Holidays Weekends Morocco Tangier Culture
Some say that the best time to plan a trip to Morocco is during spring break where life is blossoming. Others speak of the magical Moroccan fall.

Weekends in Morocco might also look different than what you’re used to. Muslims worship on Fridays, so some stores and restaurants are closed on Friday mornings. Saturday is a school day for most schools, but not always a work day. Almost everyone has the day off on Sunday.

2.  Be conscientious about drinking & smoking.

It’s possible to drink and smoke in Morocco, but there’s a cultural stigma associated with these activities. Be careful about where and with whom you partake.

Even though smoking is regarded as a vice, many Moroccan men smoke. It’s less common for women to smoke in Morocco and it gives a bad impression.

According to Islam, alcohol is haram, or “forbidden”, but you can buy alcohol in the big cities except during Ramadan. Many cities like Tangier have clubs and bars but the party scene can be seedy. We don’t recommend that you party alone.

Blue Door Drinking Alcohol Morocco Tangier Casablanca Culture
According to Islam, alcohol is haram, or “forbidden”, but you can buy alcohol in the big cities, especially in Marrakesh and Tangier!

3.  Dress a bit more conservatively.

As mentioned above, Moroccans don’t expect foreigners to keep the same cultural standards they do.  However, dressing modestly shows you understand and respect Moroccan cultural values. Dress differs from place to place but here are a few general tips:

  • Women don’t have to cover their heads but may want to wear their hair up.
  • We recommend for women that you cover most of your arms and wear things that hide your hips.
  • Wearing shorts (for men as well as for women) is uncommon and will draw attention.

Get more tips about what to wear in Morocco.

Blue Door Clothing Modesty Culture Morocco Tangier Moroccan Women
It is recommended to wear outfits that show respect to the host culture and don’t draw unnecessary attention.

4.   Be more thoughtful in your interactions with the other gender.

In general, Moroccans do not casually associate with people of the opposite gender. Men and women rarely touch in public and tend to greet each other with a handshake or without making physical contact. Technically it’s illegal for couples to kiss in public in Morocco although the law is not strictly enforced, especially for tourists.

Because of this, western cultural norms — making direct eye contact with someone of the opposite gender, smiling, and casual touching — can communicate something different to Moroccans.

Blue Door Cuisine PDA Holding Hands Kissing Morocco Tangier
Anything beyond holding hands in public can be frowned upon in Moroccan society.

Tips for communicating with Moroccans

Moroccan communication is highly context-based. What someone means depends less on what they say than on the motivation behind the words. With that in mind, here are some tips for understanding and communicating with Moroccans:

5.   Being polite is more important than being “honest.”

Unlike cultures that emphasize truthfulness, Morocco’s culture values honoring the group and avoiding shame. To contradict someone is to disrespect them. You may notice that Moroccans avoid directly saying no; they may change the subject, or say inshallah.

Blue Door Politeness Respect Honor Shame Morocco Cuisine Tangier Thank you
Fun fact: The Arabic word Inshallah means “God willing” which can contextually mean yes, maybe, or no.

6.   Ignoring someone is a perfectly acceptable response.

In Morocco, it’s okay to ignore someone or let the conversation drop rather than declining their request. When friends don’t respond to your text asking to go out on Sunday, it may be a polite way of saying they’re busy.

When people you don’t know try to start up a conversation with you, we recommend you ignore them. If you need help, ask a shop owner, rather than someone who approaches you.

Blue Door Cuisine Tangier Morocco Avoidance saying no response ignore
Ignoring a request can be seen as a more polite response than saying no.

7.  Be okay with ambiguity

Moroccans also view time flexibly and tend to make plans last minute. Life is less scheduled, which to a western can be both frustrating and freeing.

The longer I live in Morocco, the more comfortable I become with not understanding everything that’s going on. Keeping an open mind can be difficult, but it allows you to enjoy the unexpected rather than getting frustrated.

Blue Door Time Cuisine Tangier Morocco late ambiguity
Moroccan punctuality relies on the event type. While they may go to work on time, social gatherings and events can start much later than scheduled.

8.  Be generous.

Generosity is one of the most important Moroccan cultural values. This looks like lavish hospitality and always putting more food on the table than people can eat. Thriftiness indicates hard-heartedness so don’t bargain too hard when you’re souvenir shopping.

If you want to give money to Moroccans, we suggest you do it through an association or a trusted friend rather than giving to someone on the street.

Blue Door Donation Money Giving Tangier Morocco Cuisine generous
Leaving tips may not be as common in Morocco as it is in Europe or USA, but Moroccans tend to be generous whenever it comes to hospitality.

9.  Accept hospitality.

If you have the chance to spend time with a Moroccan family in their home, definitely take advantage of the opportunity. As a guest, you honor someone by visiting them and you give them the opportunity to be generous. Keep in mind that Moroccans typically share the same dish and cup. If this is the setup at the home you’re visiting, it’s a good idea to only eat with your right hand.

Blue Door Love food Morocco tangier hands cuisine moroccan mint tea
Moroccan food usually requires eating with bread using your hands instead of silverware.

10.  Ask a friend for help!

Visiting a foreign country can feel like trying to play a game when no one’s taught you the rules.  Find ways to connect with locals during your stay and invest in cultural experiences with Moroccans. Navigating cultural differences is a lot more fun when you have a friend to share their own tips and advice.

Lue Door Cuisine Cooking Classes Cultural Experiences Tangier Morocco
Anna Wiersema is an American who has been living in Tangier for exactly 4 years. She works as a Tech Support Engineer and shares her love for Tangier in her blog, Undiscovered Country: Tangier and on Instagram @tanjadiali

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