Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Business Customs of Nigeria


As Nigeria’s population is made of many different distinct ethnic groups, the customs and etiquette of business communication can vary greatly. In general, the whole population of Nigeria will communicate in an outgoing, friendly matter. Though there are hundreds of languages in the country, business meetings will probably be conducted in the the English language. Avoid using any slang or sayings from other English-speaking nations, as they probably will not make sense to Nigerians.

Nigerian business people prefer to work with those they know and trust, and will take a long time getting to know new colleagues. They will spend time asking about family, as families are held at great importance in this country. Be patient during this process, because it is significant, and things will not go well if you rush into business matters. Show genuine interest during this warm-up period. Tell your Nigerian colleagues of any academic achievements, as they will be impressed and will not think you are being pretentious.

Facial expressions are important when communicating in Nigeria, and most people will take note if faces look interested. Straight-looking faces are conceived as rude, but people will often smile if they feel confused. Direct eye contact implies respect of the other person. If they do not know someone well, it is common to stare at their forehead or shoulders until they feel comfortable making eye contact. People often use hand gestures when communicating as well.

Though this body language can be the case for many people, other Nigerians are extremely direct and will tell you exactly what they are thinking. Nigerians in the southern half of the nation will probably be more direct speakers. They are more likely to speak loudly and raise their tone than the people in the North. The southwest of Nigeria consists of many people from the Yoruba tribe, and they have particular ways of communicating, using many proverbs and sayings. During long meetings, they will try to liven the mood by means of humor.

At meetings, be very polite and reserved while Nigerians try to get to know you. When negotiating, try not to exaggerate your offers or claims, as this will be viewed negatively. If you are in a group of people, they are all supposed to be a team on the same front, so avoid disagreeing with your partners. If you plan on using an agenda during a business meeting, you should send it in advance, and prepare to adhere to it.

In terms of dress, both men and women should wear conservative, dark-colored suits. As it is a hot climate in Nigeria, these suits can be made out of light materials.


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