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Work culture and etiquette in South Africa

While working in South Africa, you will be exposed to the South African work culture culture. The work culture and etiquette in South Africa can take a bit of getting used to. A good start to gaining overseas work experience is familiarising yourself with South African work culture and etiquette.

Work culture and etiquette in South Africa - Languages in South Africa:

South Africa has 11 official languages, but English is the language that is most widely spoken. English is the language used in the workplace and during meetings. The other official languages in South Africa are Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho (Northern and Southern), Swazi, Tswana, Venda, Ndebele and Tsonga.

Work culture and etiquette in South Africa - Business hours and holidays in South Africa:

Business office hours are from 08h00 until 17h00 on weekdays but many offices close at 15h00 or 16h00 on a Friday. Many shops are open from 09h00 until about 17h30 on weekdays, but close earlier on Saturdays. Banks are open from Monday to Saturday from 08h00 to 15h00. On Sundays shops close at 13h00 or 14h00. In the bigger shopping malls, however, shop open hours are usually from 10h00 to 20h00. Offices are not open on weekends, and almost all offices close over Christmas and reopen early in January.

Work culture and etiquette in South Africa - South African concept of time:

Punctuality is taken seriously in business but is more flexible in social situations. You will often hear a South African saying they will do something now-now or just now. When a South African says "now-now", it mean shortly. If they say "just now", they mean they'll do it in the near future, but not immediately.

Work culture and etiquette in South Africa - Café and laptop work culture:

The laid-back, relaxed South African culture is evident in the workplace too. You will often find people working on laptops and having business meetings in little coffee shops. Over the past few years restaurants and coffee shops have begun to offer free Wi-Fi in Cape Town. With café culture thriving, there are many Wi-Fi hotspots to choose from, each with a different ambience that can range from popular buzzing to a quiet, professional atmosphere. Different coffee shops have different requirements. Some charge after an hour if you just have a coffee, and some allow free Wi-Fi with any order. Here is a list of 10 Top Wi-Fi hotspots in Cape Town compiled by Cape Town Magazine.

The Company’s Garden, Cape Town’s oldest heritage site, offers free Wi-Fi to those in the gardens and surrounding restaurants. Users are allowed 100MB of data per day to enjoy in the beautiful setting. There are barcodes on the trees to scan and access information, and interesting facts about the flora and fauna.

Work culture and etiquette in South Africa - Greeting in South Africa:

There are many different ways of greeting, but a handshake is safest to use in any situation. A handshake, with eye contact and a smile, is the general greeting used by both men and women. Some women might just nod their heads and smile, in which case you then respond in the same way. Be aware of cultural barriers. In more traditional African cultures it is considered disrespectful for younger females to make eye contact with an older male, so don’t be offended if some young women don’t make eye contact.

Work culture and etiquette in South Africa - Work dress code in South Africa:

The work dress code in Johannesburg is more formal in comparison with Cape Town and Durban. The dress code in big companies is still quite conservative and a suit is normally acceptable, but the dress code has become informal in many companies. For the first meeting it is wise to dress conservatively and ascertain the dress code of the company once you are there. If you are unsure of what to wear, choose something semi-smart for your first day.

For formal business meetings it is generally expected that you wear a suit. Pants are acceptable for woman to wear, and high heels are common. Clothes shouldn’t be too revealing or tight fitting, and the dress or skirt should not be shorter than knee length.

The work culture and etiquette in South Africa can take a bit of getting used to. South Africans are relaxed and friendly but they also work hard. Due to the absence of strict regulations that many overseas businesses have to deal with, South Africa is an ideal breeding ground for entrepreneurs. In fact, South Africa is a nourishing place for new ventures. A lack of competition in many sectors, a skilled work force, a plan-making culture and accommodating work visa regulations make South Africa a business destination of choice for many national and international companies. Hence, international work force with foreign language skills is in demand, to fill vacancies in those young enterprises.

Should you be interested in working in South Africa, feel free to contact one of our foreign language recruitment consultants. To browse current jobs please follow the link.