Tsy Malala Fomba Anao (You Don’t Follow Custom)

In Madagascar there are many cultural norms, known as fomba, and taboos, known as fady, that the regular traveling tourist would probably never pick up on.  Though they may be seen as unimportant to the average tourist they are fundamental parts of the Malagasy culture as a whole.  Following is a list of just a few of these that can be found in my region, the Sud Est of Madagascar.
  • When pointing at something or in any direction you must not point with an outstretched index finger like you would do in the western world, but instead point towards it with a bent finger.  The reason for this is that there may be a grave in the direction you are pointing and it is taboo to point at a grave; you may offend the spirit of the ancestor that resides there.  This of course will lead to any number of misfortunes.  For instance, getting very sick shortly after which was the case when I accidentally did it I am told.  On the contrary you must never point at a person with a bent finger.  This would be to insinuate that they are dead and would be very impolite.  You would, to be safe, point with an open hand.
  • When opening a new bottle of liquor you must first pour the first bit of it on the floor for the ancestors before drinking it yourself.  This is to honor the ancestors by giving them their share and making them happy.  On the other end, the last bit of liquor should always go to the oldest person in attendance.  Though there are no drawbacks to not following these traditions it is always best to be respectful. 
  • You can not eat pork before getting in the ocean.  It is said that if you do you will most definitely drown.  Likewise, you can not wear red at the beach for the same reason. 
  • To be respectful when shaking someone’s hand you put cup your right elbow with your left hand when shaking hands.
  • To be respectful when accepting something from someone you hold out your right hand cupped within your left. 
  • You should always take off your shoes when entering someone’s house.  You may take exception to this rule if you are wearing actual shoes instead of flip flops as they are much harder to take off. 
  • The oldest male always takes food at meals first.
  • Dogs are not seen as pets and are extremely fady.  Though one may have a dog around the house, it is only ever used as a guard.  Dogs my not ever enter the house, nor do people pet or play with them.  They are also usually left to fend for themselves for food.
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