Vazaha & Gasy explained

What do the words mean?

The title of this blog-site is a combination of two words, Vazaha and Gasy.

Gasy is short for Malagasy and means someone or something that comes from Madagascar.

If you don’t know what Vazaha means, you are one.

Vazaha means ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’ and almost always refers to a white person.

So, the title of this website means ‘Person-or-thing-not-from-Madagascar / Person-or-thing-from-Madagascar’.

Aren’t they Madagascans?

The word in the Malagasy language for someone or something from Madagascar is Malagasy (mal-a-gass-ee / mal-a-gass) or Gasy (gass-ee /gass).

The French way of saying this is Malgache (mal-gash) which sounds very similar to the way Malagasys say ‘Malagasy’ because they don’t really distinguish between an ‘s’ sound (as in ‘serpent’) and ‘sh’ sound (as in ‘sherbert’).

I used to beat my friends and family soundly for saying Madagascan (surely I didn’t also write to the BBC website to complain like a pompous fool?) until I found out that this is the correct term in both the United States and Great Britain.

Why is the blog-site so named?

It sums up different aspects of this blog:

1. My experiences, as a Vazaha making a life in Madagascar (and I will always be a Vazaha even if I never leave these shores until I die).

2. Observations about life in Madagascar– mainly for the benefit of Vazahas (though not necessarily white ones).

3. My family is VazahaGasy. I am Vazaha, my partner (Jean) is Gasy and our son (Fred) is mixed race…..or VazahaGasy. Much of the motivation for writing this blog comes from making sense of the challenges we face, living between two very different cultures. (see ‘About’ for more information on me and my family)

4. Anyone living in Madagascar knows just how important these two words are …Vazaha and Gasy… as status and lifestyle are defined much more closely by race than they are in Europe (see my post Are Malagasys racist?)


3 Responses

  1. thanks for this brilliant blog
    i spent some happy times wandering madagascar as a teenager & your words bring back the sweetness of mlagasy life

    sasa poana izay tsy tia

  2. this is really interesting!
    I also heard many people say Madagascarian.

  3. My daughter is learning about Madagascar at school. I found the blog helpful to her in understanding the culture. Thank you for the blog.

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