Building relationships is always difficult, especially if you don’t possess any knowledge or information about the culture of the country you are working with. Nigeria is a country where tribal bonds play an important life. You should always keep in mind that Nigerians firstly belong to a tribe, secondly to a village and a faith and thirdly to the country of Nigeria.
There are cultural differences in each tribe that you should be aware of, but they all have some common characteristics, such as: hospitality; friendliness; respect for seniors; and a deep-rooted faith. Relationships most of all are based on friendship, trust, nepotism and the potential for mutual advantage.
When building relationships with Nigerians, you should know that they are relationship-oriented. Therefore, they expect to have close relationships with their business partners. There are some tips that are ‘a must-know’ when communicating and building trust with Nigerians:
- Be patient and don’t rush things. Everything gets done through connections and personal trust.
- Nigerians are generous and outgoing people so make sure you always accept their hospitality, otherwise they will feel offended.
- Show great respect to the elders.
- Everything should be done face-to-face. If you don’t act this way, Nigerians will consider that you are not a serious person.
- Have a basic knowledge and understanding of their different cultural groups and avoid generalizations.
- Do not lose patience or show irritation as you will only lose face.
- Recognize people by their names and ask about their family and health.
- Avoid words which could imply backwardness – native, jungle, witchcraft, huts, costumes, black magic etc. Always show respect for local traditions and customs.
- Learn the Nigerian way of communicating, using colorful idioms, stories, anecdotes and if you are delivering bad news use parables.
Regardless of where you are coming from or who is in front of you; no matter how frustrated you are and how much culture shock you may be experiencing, if you are in Nigeria to do business and build relationships, your only way to be successful is to keep an open mind. You should adapt to what the new culture is offering and demanding from you and slowly get comfortable with their way of working and communicating.
If you want to find out more about building relationship across cultures read this article: