South Africa Business Etiquette & Culture

















South Africa Introduction

South Africa has a population of approximately 40 million people. Three-quarters of its population is black (African) and approximately 15% is white (European). The rest is a mixture of white, Malayan and blacks whose ancestors were of Asian descent. There are six major ethnic groups in South Africa: Afrikaner, Coloured/Cape Malay, Bantu, English, Chinese and Indian. There are 11 official languages in South Africa. Most South Africans speak English and Afrikaans, which is derived from their Dutch heritage.

South Africa is considered the industrial giant of Africa. It is a substantial resource for minerals including gold, silver, copper and diamonds.


South Africa Fun Fact

South Africans love success stories and many admire Americans because they believe in what is known as the "American Dream."

Geert Hofstede Analysis for South Africa

The Geert Hofstede analysis for South Africa illustrates their emphasis on Individualism. South Africans ranked extremely high in all categories of the Hofstede model. However, there is no ranking for Long-term Orientation. Being the Individualist that the South Africans are, they may shy away from Long-term relationships.  More Details

Hofstede Cultural Scores for South Africa


Religion in South Africa


We have defined a predominantly Christian country as over 50% of the population practicing some form of Christianity, other than Catholicism. In this group, the primary correlation between religion and the Geert Hofstede Dimensions is a high Individualism (IDV) ranking. (See the accompanying article)

South Africa Appearance

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  South Africans of Urban cultures generally wear western dress.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Dress well in public, it will be expected by your South African host.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  African women wear a sari.


South Africa Behavior & Manners

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Gift giving is not the norm in business.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Do not present gifts with the left hand.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Use either both hands or the right hand when giving and presenting gifts.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) Gifts will be opened upon receipt.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Business meetings can be held over lunch or dinner in a good restaurant.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Meals at the home of a white South African will include a barbecue by the pool--called a braaivleis (Afrikaans for roasted meat) or braai.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) More information on International Gift Giving


South Africa Communications 

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  The handshake is the most common greeting. There are a variety of handshakes between ethnic groups.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Use titles and surnames to address people.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Appointments should be made starting at 9 a.m.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) Do not rush deals. South Africans are very casual in their business dealings.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Business cards have no formal exchange protocol.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) South Africans prefer a "win-win" situation.


 South African Resources

International Business Center Newsletter
Free subscription offer click here

Site Resource Page

OneWorld Country Guide to South Africa

International Career Center - Information on international careers and jobs

Fact Book on South Africa

Directory of South African Newspapers

South Africa OnLine

InterKnowlege - Africa

Geographia - South Africa

Tyson, Harvey, Richard Steyn, Rex Gibson, US Ambassador George Trail and Sherien Desai, SA 97-98, South Africa at a Glance, Editors Inc., 2001

Culturegrams, Brigham Young University, 1996, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Brigham Young University.

Business Resources

Good site with good information

Mbendi Country Profile
Overview of the country - Investment and economic information

Library of Congress
Country study of South Africa

Government Resources

South African Government of National Unity
Comprehensive information about South Africa.

U.S. Commercial Service
Country Commercial Guide to South Africa

Travel Resources

Paperwork for travel

Lonely Planet
Very good site with comprehensive travel information

World Travel Guide
Good site with travel related information

Other Resources

Ananzi South African Search Engine
South African search engine

Good site with lots of South Africa related links

South Africa
Directory of information for business, government, tourism, culture, and more

University of South Africa, Pretoria
Official web site of the UNISA

Chamber of Mines of South Africa
Online service for South Africa's private sector mining industry

South Africa Online -- Entrance to the Web in Southern Africa
Includes Currency Rates, Weather Forecast, Humour, Surveys and Site Listings.

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Page authored by: De'Edra Williams

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