Culture 101

I wanted to share some cultural bits that I found very interesting. I have traveled on all continents and thought that I am pretty cultural savvy – especially spending 4 years in Afghanistan as a kid – thought I got the Arab culture down. Well, some of it yes – it actually brings lots of memories back – but it is the impact to business that is new to me. I am also learning so much from my team mates – we have Japan, China, UK, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden represented so true global team.

So, first, our office – the network in the building of American Legation doesn’t work for us very well, it is better to sit high, without a roof, so Ryosuke’s wifi hot spot gets signal. This is what it looks like and sounds like with the prayers.

  • The first thing that strikes me in Morocco is the overwhelming presence of men. This may sound strange. There are men everywhere – mostly hanging out, sitting in cafes facing the outside, watching, drinking tea, talking in public places, selling in stores. It is very noticeable to me because you do get some looks but nothing dangerous. You don’t see women gathering in public or just sitting around. The only time you see local women is mostly with children. They are not the waitresses in restaurants, they are not selling in stores, they are not in the reception of our hotel – it is as if they are invisible. Of course, there are women in western clothes that we met on our project but that is only a few. While things are improving, there are some serious underlying issues still being sorted out. (I haven’t seen anything bad, just my observations)
someone started throwing beets all over the place - box followed soon after...
someone started throwing beets all over the place – box followed soon after…
the full cafes - all men, not a single woman
the full cafes – all men, not a single woman
  • Personal responsibility is a tough thing – the best way to describe it was this proverb “When Moroccan misses a train, they don’t say they were late – the train left without waiting for them. When Moroccan loses a wallet, they didn’t lose it, the money fell out of their pocket”
  • Everything takes time – everyone will try – but sometimes, that may take quite a while – inshallah (fingers crossed!)
  • While the culture is mostly non-confrontational, there are plenty of confrontations in Arabic on the streets. It is a very volatile, loud and passionate language – lots of hands, waving, raising voice, h/ch/kh/k/ consonants flying around – and then a laugh! You think they just had a huge fight but it was just a normal conversation.
  • The word “chin chin” has a very different meaning in Portuguese and Japanese 🙂
  • Weather is very relative – while most of us were freezing past week and Moroccans wore winter jackets, our English teammate considered this a heat wave
  • Hashish, marijuana and who knows what can be smelled everywhere – apparently used to be and still is a profitable industry in the mountains
  • Eurovision is still very big in Europe 🙂 nothing changed
  • Soccer is huge here – everything is about Messi and other soccer players – so who knows what happens on Saturday when the Champion’s League is on!

One other thing that strikes me from business perspective is the fluency of 3-4 languages of many Moroccans. They interchange French, Spanish, Arabic creating Moroccan language that is really hard to follow. While I don’t speak French (and hamdu lillah Lavinia does) – thanks to the passion of speech, you do get the point many times. But imagine how competitive this nation could be – being fluent in 4 languages – in the future ! It really makes me think about the future of Lucas, Max and Mia and what type of competitive job environment they will be facing. Yes, literacy is low today and even basic business skills and stronger university education is needed – but once they figure it out – we are all in trouble !

Today, Moroccan style Delhi Belly visited me – so very upset stomach – and fasting, going to bed early. Hamdu lillah (Praise the Lord) it is a weekend tomorrow ! #ibmcsc

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