Not quite sure it’s competition if you share.

Something I find unique about Madagascar that differs from the States is business techniques. Businesses in the States just look out for themselves. Where ever they can get the customers and the business, they’ll take it. And that’s not their fault. We were raised with the concept of The American Dream. That we have the equality, democracy, and material prosperity to fulfill our dreams. That we can provide for our families by starting our own business ventures or pursue any career that we want to. And with so many businesses opening up every day, businesses fight to keep their doors open. Some start promotions, buy one get one free. Other offer frequent shopper perks. If you buy seven coffees from us, your eighth one is free. Restaurants offer Happy Hours and discounts if you eat at a certain time. So if a mom and pop business is being threatened to close because their revenues aren’t covering their expenses and they need to steal some of your customers to stay alive, they’ll do whatever it takes.

But here in Madagascar, things work slightly differently. I cannot generalize and say this is how all businesses operate in Madagascar, but I can give my views on businesses in and around my village. There is this unstated conception of sharing. I have witnessed one business loan money to another business just to get through the week. I have seen a carpenter tell me they can’t build something right now because they are busy for the next few days, but refer me to their competitor across town when they could have just told me I would have to wait a little bit. I seen meetings between the “cafe” like establishments deciding what meals each person is going to make that day so two or more of them are not competing against each other for customers who are searching for a specific meal. They also share rice. If one establishment happens to run out, they will send their employee to fetch rice from another with no questions asked. My painting organization has offered to take full responsibility for building a boutique, yet is opening the boutique to anyone that wants to sell their product. So is that really competition?

There is a sense of comradery between people in my village. Everyone helps out everyone else, regardless of family relations or not. Whether that is watching your child, running to the market for you if you’re sick, or helping you flag down a taxi brousse, you know you have the support of your peers. I feel the States can learn a lesson or two from the people of Madagascar. Rather than just thinking about themselves, they should include others as well. After all, for such a powerful country, we have our fair share of citizens struggling to get by. We have businesses shutting their doors having lost their life savings trying to start a business and nothing left to live off of. Give back a little. You never know when you’re going to be in a tough spot and could use a little help.

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