5 Things Malagasy People Do to Make You Feel Welcome

(Part 2 of a 3 part series on Hospitality)
You can see the rest of the series here: Part 1 & Part 3.

            The Malagasy people are some of the most welcoming people I have ever encountered.  Their culture is one that fosters friendship, community, and hospitality.  In light of this I have put together a list of five things that Malagasy people do that makes me feel welcome here.

Two of the Malagasy language trainers greeting each other
1. Greeting
            In Madagascar greetings are an essential part of the everyday interactions that make up the
cultural fabric of the community.  They let others know that you notice them and care about them and they tie the community together.  In Madagascar there are many different ways to greet someone depending on the dialect or region where you are speaking (you can see a video of some of the dialectal greetings here), which goes to create a sense of community for those that speak the same dialect.  Malagasy people, especially in smaller towns and villages, greet everyone they pass.  Usually a simple ‘Hello,’ with the occasional ‘What’s new?’ or ‘What’s the talk?,’ is all that is said but it goes a long away.  Those that don’t conform to this custom are usually referred to as ‘masiaka,’ meaning to be mean.

social call
Two of the neighbor kids paying me a visit
2. Mitsidisidika (Social Call)
           Courtesy visits to friends and family are an important part of Malagasy culture that helps create a close nit community.  The Malagasy term ‘mitsidika’ means to visit or stop by.  Adding the last part (the root) twice causes the word to take on a meaning of ‘kind of.’  Although these visits can sometimes be of the more formal type, accompanied by food and/or drinks, most often they are just a simple check-in to say hi and see how someone is doing.  In Madagascar, especially in the countryside, many people do not have phones and the credit to call is relatively expensive so people rely on these visits to let each other know they are thinking about them.  These visits are not an everyday event, but many people try to visit each other at least every other week or so. 

welcoming me in
Welcomed into a party for the teachers from around Vondrozo
3. Welcoming You In
            The Malagasy people are some of the most welcoming in the world which has generated a culture that permeates both giving to and helping others.  Mandroso, the Malagasy word to welcome someone in, has two meanings, ‘to come in’ and ‘to serve food’ and is used often in both instances (like many Malagasy words it has many meanings, i.e. to progress).  It most commonly used in the first instance; to welcome someone in.  While you are walking down the road, through a market, or visiting others, people will also yell out “Mandroso” to call you in to their house or shop.  The second sense is used when you enter a house or restaurant/bar where people are eating/drinking.  In this sense they are offering you to serve yourself the food or drink and although you can take them up on the offer with no hard feelings from them it is often just a offer of good will.   

washing clothes
My host brothers teaching me to hand wash my clothes
4. Showing How to Do Things
            The Malagasy people are very welcoming and want you to be tamana (feel at home or accustomed to life) with your life here in Madagascar.  One of the ways that they go about doing this is to show you how to do things.  This could range from teaching you about culture and language to showing you how to cook Malagasy dishes and how to wash your clothes.  It’s a simple gesture of friendship, not because they don’t think that you know how to do things, but because they want you to feel comfortable in your life here. 

Fruit at a vendor
5. Voandalana (Souvenir)
The Malagasy term voandalana can be equated to a souvenir but it is not exactly the same.  Like many Malagasy words, voandalana has no direct word for word translation in English.  The term literally means ‘fruit of the road’ and though it is most often fruit, or some type of vegetable, it can literally be anything.  The culture around travel here in Madagascar is that you should bring this gift to whoever you are coming back home to or visiting to show them that you were thinking of them while you were away.  It is not so much a souvenir of the place you have been, it could simply be something they could as easily have bought at their local market, but it is something to show them that you care for them.

*I have tried to use Malagasy Official with all Malagasy words to make it more comprehensible*
(You can read the rest of this series here: Part 1 & Part 3.)

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