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About Nigeria

by: Gert Jan van Reenen, Associate partner of Hofstede Insights
Currency:  Naira, Symbol: ₦
The naira is subdivided into 100 Kobo.    
Denominations: Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 & 1000 Naira. Coins: 50 Kobo, 1 & 2 Naira          
Capital: Abuja
Time Zone: UTC +1


In this profile our experts have compiled the most important information for you to start doing business in Nigeria. The country profiles are meant as a general introduction and are linked to other documents from the platform that go into much more detail on each culture.

Nigeria has hundreds of different ethnic groups. The 4 largest of these groups are the Hausa, the Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba. At a micro level the culture of Nigeria is therefore extremely diverse, as expressed by different rituals, languages, etc. However, at the level of values, as expressed in the Hofstede model, they have a lot in common.

Please note that the description below is based on estimated scores.
Nigeria scores high on Power Distance, 80, indicating an appreciation for hierarchy and a top-down structure in society and organisations. The meaning is that there is much inequality in society in general and in organisations. In case your country of origin has a low score on this dimension, this may be challenging. For doing business, there are important implications: your behaviour in general in terms of dealing with other people, decision making, etc.

Nigeria, with a rather low score of 30 on IDV (Individualism), is a society with predominantly collectivistic traits. Apart from many other things, the implication is that all people are members of large in-groups (your direct family, your village, your tribe). The tribal ties are very strong. Mutual loyalty, responsibility and trust are important characteristics, applying only in the in-group. However, due to urbanisation and economic development, there may be slight individualistic tendencies.

Nigeria scores 60 on MAS and is thus considered a Masculine society. Status symbols, like titles (Mr., Dr., etc.), gadgets, cars are important symbols of who you are and your achievements in life.

Nigeria scores 55 on UAI (Uncertainty Avoidance) and thus has a medium high preference for avoiding uncertainty. For example, rules are important and yet applied with flexibility.
With a low score of 13 on LTO (Long Term Orientation), Nigeria is characterised by a rather short-term orientation, focus on today and not on the future.
Nigeria has a high score of 84 on IVR (Indulgence versus Restraint), meaning that it is a culture of indulgence; the practical meaning is that Nigerians like to enjoy life.

There is a big variety in cultures and languages; however, for foreigners they not easy to distinguish. In terms of religion: the South of Nigeria is predominantly Christian, the North Muslim.

Need a refresher on what each of the dimensions mean? (see Level 3)


Some cornerstones of Nigerian culture

Apart from the regular Christian and Muslim holidays (Christmas and Easter,  Eid Al Fitri and Eid Al Kabir, all national public holidays), the different ethnic groups in different locations have the same way for celebrating these festivals. There are many musical, cultural and other festivals throughout the year. For an overview of festivals each month go to:
In case you are with Muslims, omit the Ramadan period, unless you are sincerely interested and will participate in fasting for some time, or joining for iftar dinner at night. 
There are hundreds of ethnic groups and languages in Nigeria. Very well known are: Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Kanura. English is the business language.
Here are some guidelines to assist you in deciding how to behave in a fairly wide range of situations when among Nigerian acquaintances:  

When in Nigeria

  • Be friendly and smile
  • Formal but hospitable welcome. Shaking hands. In informal situations, shaking hands may include a swing of the right arm, before firmly clasping the hand of the other person.
  • No shaking hands with women in Muslim areas
  • Show respect.
  • Use professional titles such as «Professor» and «Doctor» or courtesy titles like «Mr.», «Mrs.», or «Miss.»
  • Small talk is the right way to make contact, to start building trust. Don’t start talking business right away, unless your host indicates to do so.
  • Present your business card, make clear who you are. It should be clear what your background is, and who or what you represent.
  • Many contacts start with exchanging information about the family (how is your family, your kids, etc.).

Good to know

  • The best period to be in Nigeria is from November through March
  • Handshaking is the customary greeting in business; don’t rush it. Nigerians do this more elaborately compared to westerners; they feel it conveys respect for the other person.
  • Unless you are very familiar with someone, omit expressing explicit opinions about politics and specific persons.
  • Be careful with humour: what is considered funny in your own country, could be considered as an insult in Nigeria
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol in the Islamic North of the country
  • In business lunch or diner eat with your right hand as the left hand may be considered as impure
  • Check appointments the day before the meeting.
  • Take into account that Nigerians may be delayed. Apologies from their side are not necessary. Just accept this without comments. On the other hand, Nigerians do respect westerners’ punctuality
  • Social occasions like marriage may take the whole day. In case you are invited, don’t feel obliged to stay the whole day. You can drop in at any time and leave when you want; make sure you have met with the most important persons
  • Going out for lunch or dinner is a way to get closer in a relaxed and informal way.
  • Typically, the person who has initiated the invitation will pay for a meal in a restaurant, although you may have to fight for the check even though you have issued the invitation
  • Traveling in and to other cities is time consuming.

Body language

  • Shaking hands when familiar and friendly is a ritual of swinging arms. Watch carefully how it works and get used to the ‘strange’ touching of hands.
  • Nigerians of the same sex stand closer together when conversing than Europeans
  • “Thumbs up” is considered to be a very rude gesture
  • Avoid showing the sole of your shoe
  • Use your right hand for eating

Dress code

The way people dress in Nigeria is important as it is an indication of your status and importance. Men generally wear dark suits and ties or the national dress; during business hours women wear dark, business-style suits. An important piece of advice to foreigners: “we do not want to see the geography of your body”. Please note that the North of the country in these respects is more traditional as compared to the South.
When choosing your outfit, take into account that Nigeria is a very hot place. During the rainy season make sure to be protected against heavy downpours.

Keywords to describe Nigerian culture:





Doing business in Nigeria can be challenging. Below you will find practical advice on what to do or not to do
  • It is important to get a good introduction (i.e. by someone with the ‘right’ stature, like the embassy of your country, or someone close to the other party).
  • You have to do business/negotiate at your level. It is required to do business with the most senior person in the organisation. Where subordinates deal with subordinates., you as representative of your organisation, meet with the highest possible level. Make sure your boss back home provides you with ‘status’, Adjust your business card accordingly.
  • It is important to not be in a hurry. Particularly for a Westerner, whose time is limited, there is a potential trap, i.e. being too pushy in getting things done. Working on the relationship and developing trust is more important before doing business
  • Business people prefer relaxed conversation before business. Doing business works out well during informal get-togethers. This is necessary to develop trust, an indispensable condition for being successful. Starting a discussion with small talk on unrelated issues is seen as a way of building trust.
  • Punctuality is relaxed, although as a foreigner you are expected to be on time.  If your host is an important person, he or she may be later. Nigerians do respect the punctuality of foreigners
  • Before making a first agreement, make sure that the agreement or contract is legally sound for both parties.
  • Be reliable. If you are invited by your host to their home, this is a sign of trust. From your side, you may consider to invite your business partner for dinner to support the development of trust.
  • Schedule business appointments in advance. Remember that once you are familiar with your host, you may drop in (via secretary) without appointment
  • Although Nigerians can be rather direct, one has to be careful in saying ‘no’. It’s better to be vague and noncommittal; your counterpart as a Nigerian will understand.
  • Like in many other African cultures, a Ph.D. or a physician is called “Doctor”. Be formal in addressing people: Mr., Miss, Mrs.
  • Good conversation topics: history, culture, soccer, coffee; in general topics that may not cause embarrassment.  Bad conversation topics: politics, religion,
  • Nigerians enjoy conversation and exchange of views, discussion may be lengthy; the same may be repeated various times for emphasis.




Power Distance

This dimension (score 80) on the Hofstede Model is an indication of inequality in society. In society in general, and in organisations, it is a fact of life that there is a hierarchy accepted by everyone. In doing business, it is important to know when you visit an organisation, who is the person highest in power, probably the only one to take final decisions. Criteria for power differences: position in the organisation, age (older people should be met with respect), educational level. Please note that people in one situation can be in a position of power (head of the village) and low in another (taxi driver in the city).


Nigeria, scoring 30 on Individualism is considered a collectivist society. This means that people are very much attached to and obliged to their relatives in the broad sense: core family, extended family, tribe, etc. Somehow, they easily recognise members of their own tribe. Favouritism is characteristic in such a culture. This ‘favouritism’ may apply to jobs, and plays a role in employer/employee relationships. Favouritism towards (even remote extended) family members, as we would call it, is for Nigerians a moral obligation.
In a novel by Chinua Achebe (Things fall apart), the author describes how this moral obligation may force you to bend the rules and may lead to corruption. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and overrides most other societal rules and regulations. An African political scientist: “....the very fact that we have a highly developed sense of responsibility towards our own kinsmen….has resulted in diluting our capacity to empathise with those that are much further from us” (Into Africa, p. 14). 


Nigeria scores 60 on the Masculinity dimension, implying a masculine society. Nigeria is indeed very masculine in terms of status symbols. Status symbols (car, watch, etc.) are a way to demonstrate success and achievement. It also means that the use of titles (Dr., Mr., etc.) is important. Women also play an important role in business life and show status in similar ways. The ‘mama benz’ personality is the well known archetype of successful business women, dressing in colourful, rather expensive textiles (African design, printed by Vlisco in the Netherlands). 

Uncertainty Avoidance

On this Hofstede dimension Nigeria scores 55. This means a medium high preference for avoiding uncertainty. In practice, this means that there is a tendency towards formality, however, in a flexible way.  This flexibility is shown where Nigerians are rather formal in one working situation, and informal after work.  Familiarity with someone may help to mitigate the importance of formality and rules.

Long Term Orientation

Nigeria has a rather low score on LTO, 13. This implies a short term orientation, living very much by the day; no planning ahead, spending today, not saving for tomorrow. A nice example has been given by the Polish author Ryszard Kapuscinski in one of his books on Africa. He tells the story of a big pothole in the road through a village that never gets repaired. With the growing of the pothole traffic gets increasingly stuck. Around the ever-growing pothole a kind of temporary economic development takes place: peopled to help cars/drivers to cross the pothole, small shops settle down to sell foodstuff, etc. This continues until someone decides that the pothole should be repaired.
Nigeria's highest Hofstede Dimension is Indulgence, 84. This dimension is defined as the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses. Nigeria’s high score is an indication of a Indulgent culture, i.e. where much emphasis is put on leisure time and gratification. This one can easily recognise in daily life. People like to go out and spend, especially during the weekends. The way it looks like is that, generally, Nigerians like to spend their money on beautiful clothes, leisure time, and having fun, even when they don’t have abundant money.
For a more detailed analysis on the Cultural Dimensions, and how Nigeria compares to other countries, please visit Hofstede Insights’ Country Comparison tool.
On more information on doing business in Nigeria.

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