As well as just generally making you a considerate, decent traveller, understanding local life means you’ll be able to engage more with the people. Guidebooks are great; but many tend to focus more on what to do and where to go. Which is where the Culture Smart guidebook series stands out as something different.
When I visit somewhere new, I’m keen to lap up what makes locals tick; to learn the country’s history, anthropology and culture. The internet is, of course, a great source, but sometimes it just helps to have a handy resource in your day bag to dig into. Plus, the handbag sized book makes for great plane reading on your way out!
After visiting Morocco twice, I thought it’d be a great book to check out in line with my experiences in the country; there are over 100 countries to choose from in the series though.
All the Culture Smart guidebooks are written by long-term expats, journalists, professors and local professionals, so you know you’re getting some good quality advice from people who’ve experienced day-to-day life in the country. It goes into depth about local customs and culture, while still being easy to read, split into concise sections and digestible chunks. You might not find every section and paragraph relevant to your individual trip, but the format makes it easy to find information that you need.
The ‘Key Facts’ section at the beginning is a great crash course in the basics of the country you’re visiting, with the basic useful info including currency, country dialing code and climate. Afterwards, you’ll find some nice chunky sections about Land and People, Values and Attidues, and Beliefs, Traditions and Customs. If you’re the kind of person who always likes to know the background of the place you’re visiting, this is a really great guide.
A part that was super helpful for me was the section on food and drink. Different from other guidebooks in that it doesn’t throw out recommendations; instead, the Culture Smart guidebook is all about eating customs and key dishes. If you’re not sure what to order on a menu, this section’s great for translating menus and working out some local ‘must-try’s.
Business travellers will also appreciate a dedicated section for those travelling for work, where you’ll find information on meeting etiquette, negotiation and business communication.
Having visited Morocco twice before this book made its way into my hands; there was a lot that I’d been quite confused by, and found to be quite contradictory from information on the internet. If I’d had this before I went, I definitely would have felt more comfortable with some of the situations I found myself in.
Basically, to sum up, if you’re off on your travels any time soon and want to get an idea of local culture and customs, these books are pretty brilliant.