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Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
The mix of Arabic, Muslim, Berber and French cultures has given Morocco a complex business etiquette. As most Moroccans are practising Muslims, Islamic values have an influence on the business culture. Nonetheless, 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.

Decision-making in Moroccan companies is mostly top-down and employee participation is rather limited. Junior employees may be consulted; however, their input does not necessarily impact the decision. Consequently, bosses usually have the sole responsibility for decisions taken internally. Decisions are not reached quickly and require several rounds of negotiations.

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.

First Contact
As Moroccans can be reluctant to do business with people they do not know, it is important to make a good impression when meeting Moroccan business contacts for the first time. During a first meeting, Moroccan partners may ask questions that could be considered personal or irrelevant in Western societies. Moroccans from the higher socio-economic class may be more reserved and do not necessarily appreciate people being too familiar when they first meet. It is advised to bring along an interpreter as most negotiations are conducted in French. As working hours are reduced during the month of Ramadan, it is advisable to set up first meetings before or after this period.
Time Management
Moroccan business contacts have a looser sense of time than in most western countries. Punctuality is not necessarily regarded as a virtue. 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 and Titles
Greeting a Moroccan business contact varies based on their 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. Devout Muslims are most likely to refrain from shaking hands with someone from the opposite sex. In that case, a nod and a smile should suffice. It is advisable to address your business partners with Mr., Mrs or Miss unless you are on a first name basis.
Gift Policy
Exchanging gifts after a first business meeting is not too common. Nevertheless, Moroccan business partners may invite you to their home once they get to know you and, in that case, it is strongly recommended to bring a gift. It is appropriate to bring fruit, pastries and/or flowers. Avoid gifting alcohol unless you are sure that your local counterpart drinks alcohol.
Dress Code
Business attire is formal and tends to be conservative for both sexes. Men should wear dark business suits, while it is recommended for women to dress conservatively (dark trouser suits, long skirts and dresses which cover most of the arms and legs). 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 the left hand is considered unclean as in most other Muslim countries.
Meetings Management
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.

Moroccans do not usually engage in direct communication, especially in a negative context. Saving face is important to Moroccans and they are most likely to play down any disagreements but also their own failure to honour a commitment. It is advised to double-check and look for subtle allusions to disagreements and negative answers. Consequently, hard selling and confrontation will not be received lightly.

Foreign business contacts should ensure the most senior person in the room pays close attention to their point of view and makes their offer directly to that person. Negotiations, especially when discussing pricing, may take some time, as Moroccans always want to have the last word and feel that they came out on top. Therefore, it is important to start off at a price level that allows you to come down and give the impression that they have won the negotiation. Interrupting someone is quite commonplace and not considered rude. As people tend to talk at the same time, it is recommended to come back to the conversation a bit later in order to ensure that everyone has understood what you were saying.

Moroccan business partners may invite you to dinner either at their own place or in a restaurant. In both cases, it is important to dress smartly and ensure your spouse is actually invited to the dinner as well. If invited to dinner at home, you should take off your shoes and greet everyone. Avoid eating with your left hand as it is considered unclean in Moroccan/Muslim culture. Dining can be done around a communal plate. If that is the case eat from the portion of the plate closest to you.

Sources for Further Information
Culture Crossing - Morocco Business Etiquette
Careeraddict - Moroccan Business Culture

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Opening Hours

Opening Hours and Days
Banks: 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 02:15 p.m. to 05:30 p.m.
Public bodies: from 8:30 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. continuous
Businesses: from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 03:00 p.m. to 08:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.
On Friday, all institutions are closed from 11:00 a.m. to 03:00 p.m.

Public Holidays

Manifesto of Independence January 11
Labour Day May 1
National holiday May 23
Feast of the Throne July 30
Oued Ed-Dahab Allegiance day August 14
The King and the People's Revolution day August 20
Youth day August 21
Anniversary of the Green March November 6
Independence day November 18
Fatih Muharram (First day of the new Islamic calendar year) Varies each year
Aid al-Fitr Varies each year
Aid al-Adha Varies each year
Prophet Mohammed's birth anniversary Varies each year

Periods When Companies Usually Close

Summer vacations August start
Hotel reservation websites
Office Holidays

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Latest update: July 2024

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