South Africa Business Etiquette Essay Sample

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  • Word count: 1,331
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  • Category: africa

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Introduction South Africa is a unique country at the southern tip of Africa, with its incredible diversity. According to Kwint Essential, South Africa is considered to be the most multicultural countries in the world, with many different ethnic groups making up the population. When one think of South Africa, African American race comes to mind. While doing research on this country, one can learn that colonialism and immigration have brought white

immigration have brought white Europeans, Indo-Malays, Indians, as well as Chinese and many others. Business etiquette is differently worldwide, which mainly prints out the behavior that allows us to communicate in the business world and interact with others in an elegant manner. The purpose of this paper will be form a comprehensive analysis of South African culture, mainly for the uniqueness of business values which makes the country successful in their business practices. Ultimately, the paper will point out the specific business etiquette and cultural aspects that influence business practices of this country.

Business Etiquette

The business etiquette in South Africa is quite different than other countries. For example, networking and relationship building are indispensable if one wish to be successful in business in South Africa. South Africans like to establish a certain level of trust before they commit to business contracts negotiations. As far as South Africa business organizations, everyone is encouraged to adopt an egalitarian style, which helps to build on policies for equality. Also, the elderly should be well respected in the workplace. Although egalitarian style is encouraged in the workplace, women are treated in a different way. Women have yet to achieve the same status and success of that of other male counterparts and can be treated with less respect and integrity in business situations.

In terms of communication style, this can differ significantly depending on a person’s cultural heritage, because there are many types of cultural backgrounds. For instance, there can be a lot of differences between the way a black South African communicate with a white South African, as compared to United States communication style. Daft (2012) states that a person should not generalize when communicating with others, this statement is also true especially when dealing with South Africans in business. According to World Business Culture, the common business language is English, with a strong accent.

However, one may expect a different custom of the English language depending on who you are dealing with. Meaning, when talking to a white South African they seem to be more intelligent, using a wide range of vocabulary. While black South Africans are looked down on, ignorant, and do not know much. Overall, people are address by using their first name in typical business situations except for dealing with a driver or maid. When dealing with one or the other, the first name may be preceded by Mr. or Mrs. It is also uncommon to use formal titles such as “doctor” or “professor.” The way people interact and address themselves is entirely different. That’s why communication is a key factor in life no matter the circumstance!

Management Culture

This paragraph will explain business management culture in South Africa including, hierarchy, business meetings, the way South Africans do business, and their time perception. The South African traditional organizations structure is based on a pyramid. In the republic, many South Africans can rely on the apartheid system. According to Culture Crossing, apartheid is a policy of segregation of the nonwhite population. Groups often live side by side rather than merge, so when foreigners come in they are not aware of the strong influence that apartheid still holds for the South Africans.

Most of South African meetings are informal, but on time according to schedule. At the beginning of the meetings a person have time to engage in small talk just to greet one another and to hand out their business cards. That’s the only time they have to exchange their business cards, at the beginning of the meeting or at the end.

One thing a person can find interesting while doing research on South Africa is the way they dress. Some South Africans come to work in their traditional African costumes, or even during business meetings. However, for the first meeting it is best for them to dress more conservative. The men should be required to wear dark colored business suits, while the women should wear elegant business dresses.

South Africans make it their business to always be on time, most importantly when attending a meeting. Appointments are rare and should be used most of the time in the business life. In fact, according to World Business Culture, when making an appointment one should avoid scheduling between mid-December to mid-January and weeks before surrounding Easter; with that being said Christmas and Easter holidays must be important to the South African culture.

Uniqueness of the Culture

Last but not least, the final paragraph will point out the uniqueness of the culture containing the way South African exchange gifts, personal space and touching, and how the law works. Most similar to the United States culture, gifts should be open only when received. Traditionally, give gifts mainly for birthdays and Christmas. According to Culture Crossing, age twenty one and forty are the two main birthdays celebrated with large parts with one main extravagant gift. Culture Crossing also stated that if a person is invited to a South African home, one should bring either flowers, high price chocolates, or a bottle of South African wine to the hostess. Taking the time out to wrap a gift is greatly appreciated in South African community because it shows respect and effort.

Standing and speaking close to one another is typical in their community. However for me, personal space is at least an arm’s length. Most people in South Africa value shared orientations, so family leisure time is very important and is taking seriously. South Africans love to tell stories and when one it told there tends to be a lot of toughing on the arms, shoulders, and hands. They try to make their stories as if it is real with the imitation of sounds and facial expressions.

As citizens of our country, we all should abide by the law. One can argue that the legal drinking age in all countries should be twenty one. Conversely, the legal drinking age for South Africans is eighteen. They cannot drink alcohol on the streets or on the beaches. According to the Culture Crossing there is a lot of theft at airports. So to prevent thieves from stealing as much, airports now offer a service where you have your bags wrapped in plastic to prevent theft.


In conclusion, South Africa business culture is different than other countries in many ways. Doing research on South Africa can leave one with a strong understanding of their business etiquette. After have reading this paper, one should be able to identify the cultural aspects of the country, the way South African management system works including hierarchy, business meetings, the way south Africans do business as well as their time perception and the uniqueness of the country. Summing up how South Africans exchange gifts, their personal space and touching, and how the law is monitored over there.

Kwint Essential (2013). Retrieved on July 17, 2013 from Culture Crossing (2013). Retrieved on July 22, 2013 from World Business Culture (2013). Retrieved on July 25, 2013 from Mangement, Richard L Daft, 11th ed, Southwest Cengage Learning

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