The etiquette of business dining in Nigeria

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A country where business is usually only conducted once a personal relationship has been built, business dining is common in Nigeria. While you may be invited to a restaurant meal in a major city, such as Lagos, they usually take place in the home of a business contact.

Seating arrangements

If you have been invited to dine at the home of a business contact, the first thing you may be required to do is remove your shoes. When moving throughout their home it is also important to allow senior people present to enter the room before you.

The most honoured position at a business meal in Nigeria is next to the host. You may be seated on low stools or the floor around the table and should make sure your feet and toes are not pointing towards the others diners or the food.

If you are meeting in a restaurant you may have to sit on a shared table, but should not make conversation with other parties, instead acting as though you are on a private table. Women may be seated with other women, rather than with the men.

Table manners

It is customary for the honoured guest to be served first, followed by the oldest male and then the rest of the men (then any women and children present). You should not start eating or drink until the oldest man has been served and has started.

You may be expected to wash your hands before and after meals and should always eat and pass bowls with your right hand. If provided with utensils, they are likely to be a fork and a spoon, and these should also be used solely with your right hand.

The serving of tea is an important part of hosting in Nigeria and is usually served in three rounds, first unsweetened, then with some sugar and finally a very sweet tea. This tradition is meant to mirror the development of friendship and you should always accept a cup when offered, even if you only briefly raise it to you lips.

At most Nigerian meals it is considered improper etiquette to eat and drink at the same time and it is usual to eat first, then drink. You may find that at the end of the meal, those in attendance will give a small burp to indicate that they are satisfied.

As many Nigerians are Muslims it is best to avoid ordering pork dishes and drinking alcohol at business meals, unless you are following the lead of your host, who is doing so themselves.

You should also take your lead from the host when it comes to talking business. Once a relationship has developed it is commonplace to raise business matters during meals, so you may find your Nigerian business associates want to discuss deals at the table.

If you are dining in a restaurant and need to summon the waiting staff, do so by subtly raising your hand or by making eye contact, waving is seen as impolite.

Toasting and drinking

If you are the honoured guest you will not be expected to make a big statement or toast, as this is deemed unnecessary between friends. Instead you should offer humble thanks and a small compliment.

While attending a Nigerian business meal you should never pour your own drink, instead waiting to be served.

The bill

Whoever has invited you to attend the meal will be expected to pay the bill. Tips in restaurants in Nigeria should be around 10%.

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