We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Madagascar
Everyday life in Madagascar is regulated by numerous fady (taboos) which vary from one region to another. They can forbid foods (pork, lemur, turtle… ), wearing clothes of a particular color, bathing in a river or a lake. Observance of “Fady” is mostly limited to rural areas, as tourists will most likely not run into this problem if they stay in the main towns. However, there are Fady’s in places such as Antananarivo but most Vazaha are exempt. Fady are attributed to ancestors, to whom Malagasy adopt a respectful attitude whatever their religion. It is safest to respect these prohibitions and not violate them, even if you feel they don’t make sense.
Inform yourself about local fady when you arrive in a new place. When addressing anyone older than you or in a position of authority (e.g. police, military, customs officials), use the word “tompoko (TOOMP-koo)” the same way you would use “Sir” or “Ma’am” in English. Respect for elders and authority figures is important in Madagascar. Do not ever take photos of a tomb without permission. Always ask permission before taking photos. Also, if you go to a remote village or hamlet it is fomba or tradition that you first meet with the head of the village if you have business in the village. Meeting this person can save you a lot of time if you have work to do there.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Madagascar, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Madagascar food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Madagascar? Please comment below.