<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?event=init&tid=2613556253294&pd[em]=&noscript=1" /> Giving and Accepting Gifts and Compliments in Morocco Skip to Content

Giving and Accepting Gifts and Compliments in Morocco

Today’s post is at the request of a reader who will be traveling to Morocco soon. The topic may seem straight forward to someone living in North America or Europe. If someone has a nice shirt you might say, “wow I really like your shirt!” to which they’ll typically respond, “thank you!” or some variation of this conversation. Certainly the frequency and context of  making and accepting compliments varies depending on country however it most often is simply an exchange of pleasantries.

Not so in Morocco.

There are some unwritten rules to complimenting here – and you’ll find yourself more at ease if you know before you go. Before I get into this let me point out it’s impossible to generalize ALL Moroccans, certainly not all of these apply to everyone. There is a wide range of protocol depending on social class, where in Morocco they live, and whether it’s a rural or urban environment. None of these will fit everyone, and I’m sure I’ve missed some – please keep that in mind while reading!

To illuminate the points I’ll give some examples.

Giving Compliments in Morocco

You: Wow! I really love your scarf! Where did you get it?

Your Hostess: Oh you like it? You can have it!

You: Oh no no I just was wondering where I could get one too.

Your Hostess: No, no I insist! *hands over scarf*

Awkward pause.

Crap.

How to Deal with This Situation

Option 1: Take the easy way out avoid complimenting altogether.

Here’s what I’ve learned we (Americans) often use compliments as a means of small talk. A lot of times we don’t genuinely mean it, sure we might like something but we’re not head over heels with it and we certainly don’t want it for ourselves. Other times we are curious because we’d like to buy it or something similar but we don’t want yours. So if you find yourself veering this way, just stop talking and enjoy the silence.

Option 2: Accept the gift if it’s given…

…but be prepared to give the giver something of equal or greater value the next time you see them. So it seems really genuine that a gift is given this way but know there’s usually some expectation that you’ll be giving a gift back at some point that is of equal or greater value. Of course sometimes it really is genuine but the rest of the time there’s an expectation of something more.

Things Not to Ask in Morocco

You: Oh it’s so nice to see you! How have you been?

Your Hostess: Wonderful and you?

You: Really good! How is your husband? It’s been so long since I’ve seen him

Your Hostess: Fine.

You: Of wasn’t he going to get a new job or promotion?

Your Hostess: Yes.

You: And? What happened? He’s such a good man and hard worker I’m sure he got it!

You Hostess: *Changing subject*

This conversation went downhill fast. Some general advice, don’t talk about another woman’s husband or if you’re a man don’t ask about another man’s wife. It’s fine to casually mention or ask about them (and other family members) in conversation but not at length, and nothing beyond a very basic question. This may be slightly different if you are really good friends but if you are acquaintances or have just met don’t do it. I asked MarocBaba if he ever asked his friends about their wives and it was a resounding no. When I asked why he was puzzled as to why someone would ask that and said he would be offended if someone asked him about me in anyway beyond just a general inquiry. It’s just not polite.

Gift Giving Advice

Lots of people ask me for suggestions on what to bring as gifts to family and friends in Morocco so here is some general advice.

Cookies are a Great Gift

Don’t bring homemade gifts – it’s not what’s “from the heart” that counts. Really, it’s a nice thought but handmade gifts here hold almost no significance. People really do want material things.

If it’s a long term friendship – keep track of gifts (birthdays/weddings/etc) the expectation is when it’s your turn to give a gift you give something at least the same value and possibly slightly bigger.

Gift ideas for first time meeting (prospective) family members;

  • nice chocolates, cookies, or candies
  • perfume for women
  • small toys if they have children
  • candles
  • kitchen towels or table cloths
  • baseball hats (men and boys)

You may be invited to visit someone’s home in Morocco. It could be a friend or someone you’ve just met. In these situations it is customary to bring a gift. Invitations are often extended for lunch or coffee time. Some ideas of things to bring;

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • cookies
  • small gift or treat for kids
  • flowers – if someone has gotten out of the hospital
  • sugar cones – this is common in rural areas especially or brought to families if someone has died.

I tried to cover some of the larger issues here but if there’s something I’ve left off that you’re still wondering about leave a comment and I will do my best to answer in the comments or update the post.

 

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Ann L

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

I live in Rabat with my 2 young (blond) children. I have had multiple situations where my children have been given a gift of food from either a mother or her children. Once at a park a mom sent her daughter over to give my daughter a couple mandarins. Another time I was at a “farmers market” and a woman came over and offered my daughter a piece of cake from a sample pack she just bought. Other times it’s chocolates. What’s the best way to handle this? Accept it with a heartfelt “shoukran” and move on? Politely refuse? These are strangers so it’s not like I can return the favor later.

Amanda Mouttaki

Thursday 7th of January 2021

When it comes to food and situations like this it's very very common that if they spot you they will offer you a piece. Whether you accept or reject it's ok (you won't offend someone if you decline but should feel free to accept). You can't return the favor but you can "pass it forward" some time by sharing with someone else. :)

nick

Thursday 15th of October 2020

Hello. A Muslim friend of mine in morocco dad died. In the US, where im from, its customary to send flowers. I was thinking of sending either white flowers or possibly a food basket since ive read theres a "feast" period.

Anyone willing to advise on this?

Amanda Mouttaki

Thursday 15th of October 2020

Flowers aren't often gifted for death but food might be welcome. Truthfully sending a small financial amount may be best. Typically burials and funerals happen within 24 hours however the mourning can last several days.

lynda

Monday 24th of February 2020

What a delight to find your site Amanda. I'm visiting Morocco (Marrakech) in a few weeks time and was searching for ideas for gifts. In travels in Asia and the pacific I often carry small items which are suitable to give as small 'thank you' gifts when I'm leaving home-stays or hotels. I've met some wonderful people and I enjoy being able to say 'thank you for your kindness/hospitality' in a more personal way. Sometimes it might be the owner, sometimes it might be a chef who's cooked me a special meal, or a maid who's helped me with shopping on her day off. I also pack a small supply of tiny toy koalas and kangaroos if I want to give something to the children. When they run out, a Couple of different Australian coins seem to be enjoyed. The gift is general given at the very last moment as I'm leaving so it doesn't leave time for anyone to feel they have to reciprocate. Do you think this sort of gift giving ok in Morocco?

Amanda Mouttaki

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

Hi Lynda - I'm sure any gift you might give would be welcome and appreciated <3 It's very thoughtful of you.

Amy Marcinczyk

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Hi! My daughter will be traveling to Morocco to meet her fiancee's family in April of this year. We are from the US (Georgia) and were wondering what specific gifts would be appropriate for his parents and his older sister.

Thank you so much for all your help, you have been a wealth of information!

Amy

Amanda Mouttaki

Saturday 1st of February 2020

You may want to speak with her to get a sense for what the family likes but things like scarves, perfume/cologne, food treats (that don't have pork products or alcohol in them), jewelry (not like diamonds but nice costume jewelry lik earrings/necklaces/bracelets). Hats always seem to be good for men, and if there are kids than age appropriate toys or art things go over well.

Jane

Sunday 19th of January 2020

Thank you for your amazing insights, and the time and energy you take to write these posts. Really helpful. I spent half my life living in Korea with my Korean husband, and some of what you report is so universal. Now, however, I travel 2 times a year to Morocco to meet with my Moroccan colleagues for the child welfare/humanitarian work that we do there. I would like to bring them non-extravagant, but well-appreciated gifts, and am stressed as to what is appropriate.The majority of my colleagues are women, so I was thinking hand lotion or night cream, candles, or a coin purse or small purse? I did the chocolate and coffee route last time, and it was well received, but I know them better now and wanted to buy them something a bit (but not too) personal. Two men in their 30-40s work for me as well and I would like to present them with small gifts, but don't want to be inappropriate. For the one man, maybe I can just give him a gift for his wife? Feeling stressed....thank you!

Amanda Mouttaki

Tuesday 10th of March 2020

I think you could bring something similar to what you brought the first time if you do want to bring a gift. That sort of thing is always appreciated as Moroccans are big on entertaining.

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