In Nigeria culture is very important. Thinking big is what separates us from other Africans. As a business traveler, you want to prepare yourself for any cultural shocks you may come across. This article will focus on the following points:
1. Politics and The Economy – You need this to understand the influences in behaviors.
2. Attitudes to Business, Communications style and Values – Giving people money with your left hand shows a lack of home training.
3. Social Ethics and Negotiation tactics – Have you ever been in a bar full of Nigerians arguing about politics? Witness the pride, passion and DECIBEL LEVELS.
Nigeria culture both business and social is influenced heavily by its politics.
The country is currently experiencing the longest period of civilian rule and democracy in its history.
Many Nigerians consider their country to be an African Super Power and are very proud of that perception but we always complain of not fulfilling our potential as a Great Nation up till now.
Officially, facts about Nigeria says the country has a population of 140m people. Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano are the most developed cities.
Most people you come across in the big cities will either be Christians or Muslims.
Christianity is the dominant religion in the south as Islam is in the north.
Abuja the capital has a national mosque and church, and is seen as a tribal melting pot that also crosses religious line.
Generally, Nigeria's Muslims and Christians are very tolerant of each other.
Economically, the country's main export is Oil. Nigerians will tell you oil has been a gift and a curse.
Past governments' failure to diversify the economy from Oil and chronic neglect of public infrastructure is seen as the root to Nigeria's economic problems of poverty and high unemployment.However, reform has been under way since 1999 and there is some optimism that the country has turned a corner.
You'll notice symbols of Nigeria's vast wealth amongst its decaying public infrastructure.
I see these challenges as business opportunities but the Federal and State Governments need to solve the infrastructure problem like power and transport before Nigeria can really develop as a regional Economic powerhouse.
Most ordinary men and women consider the country rich in natural resources and human capital but are deeply frustrated with the poverty.
Sixty percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line. The Government and Corporate elite are comfortable.
You may notice the frustrations in different forms such as rent seeking behavior or with street traders.
But generally, in Nigeria culture people are friendly and are very welcoming by nature.
There are three main ethnic groups in Nigeria the Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba.
Although these three groups have their own languages, English is the official and main Language for Business.
Outside of offices or corporate establishments people speak Pidgin English.
You may find yourself picking out English words but may struggle to grasp the meaning. An example is I dey go work.
Which means I am going to work.
In Business, it generally helps to be friendly or come across as likable. Show genuine interest in the people you deal with.
In the UK or the States even in China people don't find it necessary to like a person before doing business with them.
In Nigeria we like to find a reason to like you or at least think you're a good, trustworthy person.
This may be a symptom or a fear of being conned.
However, if you are dealing with corporates or government then expect a more formal attitude although you should still make an effort of showing some interest in the people you're doing business with.
In business, Nigerians like a knowledgeable or successful person. University Education is seen as very important.
If you have a degree then don't hide it, especially a Masters or Ph.D. Ostentatiously display it on your business card. Don't worry in Nigeria culture showing off is expected.
There is a Power culture in government and business and even on the streets. These “big” men and woman or leaders have titles or other honors which I'll advise you to find out then use to address them.
Older people are given the responsibility or privilege of leading a group.
Takes things slow initially and don't seem to be in a hurry especially when meeting people for the first time.
In social situations people are laid back and like to talk politics. In the U.K, people shy away from politics as a subject in social conversations.
But Nigerians can argue about politics till the cows come home. Some discussions can get very boisterous.
From taxi drivers to the market woman everyone has a political opinion, which they like to express with conviction.
People will actually ask you to get things done. I get asked for kickbacks all the time. Actually, kickbacks are more like tips.
Give kickbacks or tips at your own discretion but make sure you are accompanied by a local, usually your car driver.
In Nigeria culture, market goods are open to negotiation. Taxis, traders and business men expect you to negotiate on price if you like. You won't get ripped off if you have a local accompany you.
Read about Life in Nigeria .
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