Cultural tips: South Africans

Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with South Africans 

  • Post-apartheid South Africa is emerging into the world limelight as one of the most multicultural nations on earth. It is not a melting pot of immigrants like the United States or Australia, but a society where several communities and races – British, Afrikaans, Malay, Indian, Zulu, Xhosa and other black tribes – remain as separate and integral forces.
  • Recognize and adapt to the main cultures – White, black, Indian and Cape Colored, but search for commonalities among the groups.
  • South Africans have a certain sense of precariousness in an overwhelmingly black country, but they are survivors, and they play a very useful and deserving role in the nation’s economy.
  • Accept that return on investment will not be as rapid as “in the old days”.
  • Style is slow, plodding and repetitive.
  • Theatrical demands and explosive outbursts are not uncommon.
  • Bargaining and haggling are part of the negotiation process.
  • Introduce business which is meaningful and viable in the new South African context.
  • All South Africans would like to see their country prosper – decide how you can be of help.
  • Commit yourself to the future on the country – it is, after all, highly prosperous by African standards.
  • Praise Mandela for his wise leadership and lasting charisma.
  • Be even-handed with all cultural and racial groups.
  • In the modern economy, blacks continue to show traditional wisdom, but inexperience with new economic factors is often a handicap.
  • Acknowledge the multicultural sensitivity of many South Africans and the benefits thereof.
  • Show an interest in sports, especially cricket and rugby (but also soccer); all groups participate to some extent.
  • Avoid dwelling on the country’s problems without offering solutions.
  • It is advised not to criticize past policies – it is better to them behind you.
  • All South Africans are extremely hospitable; reflect their warmth.