Nigerian culture & tradition

Written by candace n. smith
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Nigerian culture & tradition
Nigerian flag. (Nigeria flag icon. (with clipping path) image by Andrey Zyk from

Nigeria is a country in western Africa on the border of the Gulf of Guinea. The country is rich in natural resources, including oil, natural gas, petroleum, iron and coal. Agricultural, fishing and forestry industries are also significant, according to the CIA World Factbook. The West African country was colonised by the British in 1914, but Nigerians observe their pre-colonised culture and traditions.

Types of Languages

There are an estimated 521 languages in Nigeria. They are classified by three families of African languages: Niger-Congo languages, the Hausa language and Kanuri. Nigerians most commonly speak the native tongue of their ethnic group, which span more than 250 groups, including Hausa, Fulani--these two comprise the majority of the Nigerian population--Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio and Tiv. English is the official language of the country and is utilised primarily in education, business transactions and government business.


Nigerians are proud of their country, well-educated and industrious. Extended families, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws, are prevalent in Nigerian culture. The family system has a hierarchy and seniority structure. Social standing is achieved through the actions of the extended family members. The entire family is responsible for the well-being and financial aid of all other members. Age and position automatically earns the respect and reverence of the younger members. The oldest person is responsible for making decisions for the entire group.


Nigerians regard meeting a person and greeting them properly to be very important. A proper greeting includes a firm handshake and a welcoming smile. A sense of sincerity is important to convey, as well as an awareness of not rushing through the greeting. Questions about health and family are brought up during the greeting. An academic or professional title and surname is generally used when greeting someone; first names are only used after obtaining permission. Women are greeted only after extending their hand first.

Business Customs

Nigerian business etiquette is similar to that of the U.S. Handshakes start and end a meeting. Business cards are exchanged informally. When receiving a business card, use two hands or the right hand, not the left. First names are never used on business cards and a clear title or university degree needs to be clearly visible on the card. Time is spent studying the card before the recipient puts it away. A personal relationship is established prior to a Nigerian conducting business with a person or company.


Nigerian woman are responsible for providing for the family. Men have little obligation to provide for their wives and children. It is customary for Nigerian men to have more than one wife and Nigerians families are very large compared to U.S. families. Farming and making homemade products to sell in the local markets is the main source of income for women. Very few women are active in professional and political positions. Men are dominant over women throughout Nigerian society. Men have the rights to beat their wives up to the point of permanent physical injury, according to the International Convention on Equality for Women.

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