We respect your privacy.

However, this website will sometimes use cookies in order to utlize specific uses from third-party sites. If you agree with these guidelines, please click the button bellow.
Or you can customize how cookies are used here : Manage your cookies

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Business Etiquette

December 15, 2022
Having the third largest economy in all of Africa, South Africa is a pretty well-off country. It's also technologically advanced, has diverse industries, and is overall well-industrialized. Because of this, more and more companies, organizations, and the like aim to do business with South Africa. Many businessmen even travel all the way here to seal all sorts of deals. If you're one of them, you'd benefit from learning a little about South Africa's business etiquette. This includes never being late, wearing business attire, sending a letter after meetings, to name a few. Following these rules can make or break your business here!

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Business Etiquette

South African Companies Follow The Hierarchal Structure

The first thing you have to know about South Africa's business etiquette and culture as a whole is that it follows a hierarchal structure. It’s the same as in countries like Germany and Thailand. The ones at the top, from the business executives to the managerial positions, hold most of the power. They do the decision-making and the subordinates all follow. And even during meetings, those in senior positions are given first priority. They're greeted first by the speaker, they're the first ones served refreshments, and everyone in the room has to listen to what they have to say. That's just the way it is here!

Know Traditional Tribes' Cultures & Etiquette

They don't call South Africa a “rainbow nation” for nothing! Even though it's become one big country, it's still a collection of various cultures, ethnicities, and most important of all, tribes. Even though South Africa has become a more modern and technologically advanced nation, many of the tribal traditions still remain. And they're even followed within corporate settings too. So before you head off to South Africa to do business here, research more about the local company you're looking to partner up with and see if they have their own specific customs when they work. This will improve your chances of sealing the deal!

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Business Etiquette

Always Make Appointments In Advance

A common stereotype among black South Africans is that they follow “African time.” This refers to a relatively nonchalant attitude towards time and punctuality. But this is certainly not the case at all! Or at least, not for South African businessmen and women. A good example is when you set up meetings. South African business etiquette dictates that you have to make an appointment well in advance. Typically, it's better to do it a few weeks prior to the set date of the meeting. Don't just schedule it suddenly and expect people to attend.

Never Be Late

In the same vein, South Africans expect you to always arrive on time. Whether it's on an ordinary day at work or at an important meeting, punctuality is key. Arriving on the dot is even better as going there too early can also be quite awkward. And if you simply can't help but be late, try to inform the others at the meeting beforehand if you can. Don't worry! More often than not, South Africans also give grace periods. Arriving a few minutes late isn't that big of a deal. But if you're more than ten minutes late, then you better have a good explanation for it!

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Business Etiquette

Wear Business Attire

Now, what should you wear to work in South Africa? Depending on your industry, appropriate business attire is always the way to go. For men, this means dark or neutral-colored tailored suits. For women, this means elegant dresses or well-fitted suits. The concept of 'dress to impress' isn't lost on South African businessmen/women. On the contrary, the more you look neat, clean, and well-kept, the more they treat you with respect. But in you're more relaxed industries, say, graphic design, for example. Business casual is enough to make a good impression.

Avoid Scheduling Meetings in South African Prime Vacation Time

Just like how the French business etiquette (and even laws) bar you from setting meetings on weekends and summer months, you'll find it difficult to meet important clients or colleagues during the country's prime vacation time. These periods are from mid-December to mid-January and the two weeks surrounding Easter Sunday. Even when the holiday season is supposed to be a busy time of the year, you'd find it difficult to set a meeting then. And since Christianity is a dominant religion in South Africa, the Easter season is also a time of prayer and spending quality time with family.

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Business Etiquette

Send a Letter After The Meeting

Here in South Africa, it's common to send a letter after the meeting. It should contain a summary of everything that has been discussed in the said meeting and the next steps moving forward. The tone of the letter should be formal too, a show of respect to the other parties involved. And while this isn't exactly a requirement, it will help you as you conduct business from here on in. The letter shows that you understood what transpired, which also means that you listened carefully to what they had to say.

Never Interrupt Someone When They're Speaking

It goes without saying that interrupting someone is rude. You shouldn't do that to anyone at all, let alone your business clients and colleagues at work. But in other countries, interrupting during a meeting has become the norm. So much so that it's not even seen as rude anymore, at least not by the other attendees (the one interrupted, however, is a different story!) at the meeting. Do that anywhere else and it'd be like nothing at all. But do that in South Africa and you can expect to get some backlash. It may even affect your entire career!

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Business Etiquette

There are many things you need to know about South Africa's business etiquette. From their use of the hierarchal structure at the office to how their views towards punctuality, it's imperative that you know the right ways to do business with them.

#business-etiquette   #etiquette   #traditions