Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Madagascar - Answers & Video

Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Madagascar

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Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business in Madagascar

Madagascar, an island nation located off the southeastern coast of Africa, is known for its unique wildlife, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. When doing business in Madagascar, it is important to understand and respect the local cultural etiquette. This article provides a comprehensive guide to help navigate the business customs and practices in Madagascar.

Overview of Madagascar

Madagascar, officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world. It has a diverse population with various ethnic groups, including the Merina, Betsimisaraka, and Betsileo. The official languages are Malagasy and French, and the country follows a mixed legal system influenced by French civil law and traditional Malagasy customs.

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Business Communication

In Madagascar, building personal relationships is crucial for successful business interactions. It is common for initial meetings to focus on getting to know each other before moving on to business matters. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Greetings: Greet your Malagasy counterparts with a warm handshake and maintain eye contact. It is customary to greet the most senior person first.
  • Formalities: Address individuals by their titles, such as “Monsieur” or “Madame,” followed by their last name. Wait for your host to initiate the use of first names.
  • Small Talk: Engage in light conversation before diving into business discussions. Topics like family, hobbies, and travel are generally well-received.
  • Punctuality: While punctuality is appreciated, it is not uncommon for meetings to start late. Be patient and flexible with the schedule.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Maintain a respectful distance during conversations and avoid excessive gestures. Direct eye contact is important to show attentiveness.

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Negotiation and Decision Making

Negotiations in Madagascar require patience and a collaborative approach. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Building Trust: Establishing trust and rapport is essential. Take the time to build relationships and demonstrate your commitment to a long-term partnership.
  • Indirect Communication: Malagasy culture tends to favor indirect communication. Be attentive to non-verbal cues and read between the lines.
  • Group Consensus: Decision-making processes often involve consensus among a group of stakeholders. Be prepared for multiple rounds of discussions and consultations.
  • Patience: Avoid rushing the negotiation process. Malagasy businesspeople appreciate a calm and patient approach.
  • Respect for Hierarchy: Show respect for hierarchical structures within organizations. Decision-making authority is often concentrated at the top.

Business Attire

Dressing appropriately is important when conducting business in Madagascar. The following guidelines can help you make a good impression:

  • Formal Dress: Business attire is generally formal, with men wearing suits and ties, and women opting for conservative dresses or suits.
  • Climate Considerations: Madagascar has a tropical climate, so lightweight and breathable fabrics are recommended.
  • Conservative Appearance: Modesty is valued in Malagasy culture. Avoid revealing or flashy clothing that may be considered inappropriate.
  • Accessories: Keep accessories minimal and tasteful. Avoid excessive jewelry or accessories that may distract from the business setting.
  • Footwear: Choose closed-toe shoes for a professional look. Sandals or flip-flops are generally not appropriate for business meetings.

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Gift Giving

Gift giving is a common practice in Madagascar and can help foster relationships. Consider the following when presenting gifts:

  • Appropriate Gifts: Offer gifts that reflect the recipient’s interests or something from your home country. Avoid expensive items that may be seen as bribery.
  • Presenting the Gift: Present gifts using both hands as a sign of respect. It is common for gifts to be opened privately later.
  • Gift Etiquette: Be mindful of cultural sensitivities and avoid giving items that may be considered taboo or offensive in Malagasy culture.
  • Reciprocity: If you receive a gift, it is customary to reciprocate with a gift of similar value.
  • Corporate Gifts: When giving gifts in a corporate setting, consult local business partners or colleagues for guidance on appropriate practices.

Business Dining

Dining plays a significant role in business interactions in Madagascar. Here are some dining etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Table Manners: Wait for the host to initiate the meal and follow their lead in terms of seating arrangements and when to start eating.
  • Utensils: Use utensils appropriately, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. It is common to eat with your hands for certain traditional dishes.
  • Respecting Elders: Show deference to older individuals by allowing them to be served first and addressing them with respect.
  • Toast Etiquette: Wait for the host to make a toast before taking a sip. Return the toast with a brief acknowledgement and raise your glass slightly.
  • Food Preferences: Be open to trying local dishes and respect dietary restrictions or preferences of your hosts.


Doing business in Madagascar requires understanding and respecting the local cultural etiquette. By building relationships, communicating effectively, and demonstrating patience, you can navigate the business landscape with confidence. Remember to adapt your approach to suit the Malagasy customs and traditions, and always show respect for the local culture.



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