Culture Madagascar

The cultural differences between Europeans and the people of Madagascar are so big that you could devote a whole book to them. Even within the different regions, you will find differences in the way in which people interact with one another. You need to accept that people in Madagascar in some respects have different demands than you're used to. So you should not get irritated if they do not react to something in the same way in which you are accustomed. For instance, they look differently at appointments and have a different sense of time. Malagasy have a relaxed and laid back lifestyle. Mora mora is the motto. This makes them no less different. With proper preparation you can already adjust to these cultural differences. Notice the trick is to stay positive, be flexible and respect a different way of life. Take your time, try to be open and tolerant and try to chat with people. Do you speak the language? if not, then there are other ways to make contact. A simple greeting or a simple smile costs nothing and opens all doors and hearts.

Malagasy people greet each other with a hug and three kisses on the cheeks. Even men and women greet each other this way. In Madagascar commissioned officers, politicians and businessmen generally wear western clothes to emphasize their important position. Even with forty degrees Celsius they wear a jacket, shirt and tie. Outside the capital bears the majority of the population, traditional clothes.

If you are invited to people's homes then you are supposed to pay something for the meal. Wait to eat until the oldest family member invites you to do so. While visiting family, dress neatly and definitely not too exposed. Long pants or skirts should cover exposed areas. Do not interrupt people when they speak. Do not raise your voice, even if something doesn't go to your liking. Do not point your finger at someone.


Madagascar is the land of the fady, rules dictated by ancestors that must be respected. The taboos are based on historical experience. If for example anyone was ever saved by a dog, then a dogs descendants may never be mistreated. In this way, the strangest things are declared to fady. On the coast it is fady to eat pork beside the sea. It is wrong to point to a grave. Out of respect for the people it is wise to be informed about fady.
For our visitors, it is impossible to give an exact insight into what is fady and what is not. Nevertheless, there are some guidelines regarding fady that actually apply to the whole country and you should take into account. Respect for people, property, family relationships and parents is important. Never speak a bad word about the dead. Respect the inhabitants of Madagascar. Rice Terraces also occupy an important position and deserve respect. Do not joke about local fady. For the population fady is a serious matter.

In Antananarivo and other larger towns are small shops with a wide range of souvenirs and handmade products. Local markets such as Marche Artisanal in Antananarivo, are the best place for handmade art objects such as carvings, raffia products, handmade paper flowers, gems, horn products and cloths. Vango Vango are the silver bracelets that you see a lot in the south and traditionally worn by men. Lamba Oany are coloured printed cotton cloths that women wear in different ways. A lamba mena is a cloth in which the dead are wrapped.

In supermarkets and larger stores prices are usually fixed while in souvenir shops and markets haggling is usual. The price that sellers initially give can sometimes be a bit higher than the normal selling price. By negotiating, you are showing respect for the seller. There is no fixed price so you have to decide for yourself how low you wish to go. Only bid if you really want to buy something. During the negotiation, the seller will try to win your sympathy with a friendly conversation or offering a drink. That's all part of the bargaining game. Do not feel burdened if you get something for a low price because the seller rarely sells below the price they want. If you do not reach an agreement on the price you can simply move on.


Realize that you are constantly there as a guest in a country where one simply has different manners. This is not abnormal, it is you that is acting differently.