Despite what many people think, Madagascar is not just a children’s cartoon but really is a country. In fact, it’s an island nation, and one of the world’s most biologically and culturally diverse ones too.
Where is this country of Madagascar?
Madagascar is situated in the Indian Ocean and is the fourth largest island in the world.
Because it has been isolated from the rest of Africa for about 88 million years, many of its plants and animals are unique to the island. In fact, humans only discovered Madagascar 10,000 years ago. But, if you thought that was recent, consider that you only now have discovered the answer to the question “Is Madagascar a country?”.
Do all those animals really live there?
Madagascar is considered to be ‘megadiverse’ and is renowned for its wildlife. Unlike the cartoon, it doesn’t have lions, giraffes, or hippos, but it does have a huge amount of unique species not found anywhere else on the planet, for example chameleons and lemurs.
What about the people?
Not only does the country of Madagascar have really cool animals, the culture is pretty unique too. People from Madagascar are referred to as Malagasy and there are about 26.2 million of them. In addition, there are over 18 different tribes, the largest ethnic group known as Merina.
Did you know that Merina children have their first haircut at the age of 3 months?
What languages does the country of Madagascar use?
The official language of Madagascar is Malagasy and is part of the Austronesian language family which includes the languages of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. In fact, it shares much of its vocabulary with the Ma’anyan language and also includes loan words from Arabic, French and Swahili.
Malagasy people usually greet each other with “Manao ahoana” and as per Malagasy custom, women should always greet the man first.
Did you know that some Malagasy people avoid eye contact with the people they are talking to? It is not that they are impolite, they have just been raised to do so!
Shopping in Madagascar
Bargaining plays an important part in Malagasy culture. In Madagascar, you can bargain on the street or in one of the many markets. You won’t be able to bargain in stores, but you could still ask the shopkeeper if they could lower their prices. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
If you’re planning your next trip, then don’t leave it to chance but be sure to check out Lonely Planet’s guide book on Madagascar here.
Fancy learning Malagasy? At Tribalingual we have created a four week online Malagasy course, delivered by our native speaker, Haingo.
So, next time someone asks you “Is Madagascar a country, isn’t it just a film?” you can correct them. For us, Madagascar is not like Narnia or Never Never Land, but it is just as magical.