If you are planning to do business in South Africa, you will need to have a very clear idea of what works and what doesn’t. Every country in the world has different business customs, and it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with these to avoid making a potentially costly mistake.
Here are some of the most important business etiquette tips in South Africa to ensure your business trip is a resounding success.
Be Respectful of Older People
The South African culture is very respectful of its elders, so make sure you show the same respect when you are in the country. Even if the older person is not involved in the meeting, you are going to make a very bad impression if you don’t show respect, and that will get you off to a bad start.
Smart attire is important in South Africa. This means a dark suit and tie for men along with a long-sleeved shirt, and a dark suit or conservative dress for women. You may find that locals dress more casually but always go with smart attire to be on the safe side.
On a similar note, it’s a good idea to choose a hotel where you can relax and freshen up ahead of important meetings so you can turn up looking your best. If you’re in Johannesburg, the Marriott African Pride Melrose Arch is a good option, and it also has meeting rooms.
Hold Meetings in Person
South Africans like to meet someone and get to know them personally before they do business with them. Don’t try to conduct initial meetings over the phone, and always meet in person. If you don’t know them, get a letter of introduction to increase trust.
In the first meeting, focus on getting to know each other rather than just focusing on business. If they like you, they are more likely to want to work with you.
Punctuality Is Important
Always arrive on time and keep your appointments, no matter how casual it is or where the meeting takes place. Take a taxi to the place where the meeting is taking place and arrive in plenty of time to avoid showing up late.
Don’t Be Surprised by Displays of Affection
You might find that South Africans are more likely to express affection quite openly, and they might be more friendly than you are used to in business settings. Back slapping and even holding hands is not uncommon. These are good signs that you should be encouraged by.
If you are invited to someone’s home or out to dinner, take a small gift with you. It doesn’t have to be anything large, but a bottle of wine or something similar will be well received.
Avoid Offending Your Host
You might unwittingly offend your host purely because you are unaware of certain South African business etiquette customs, so become familiar with these. One is to always try to finish the food on your plate because if you do not, this might be seen as an insult.
Also, if there are servants at dinner, it’s not appropriate to hold conversations with them. And avoid pointing at someone with your index finger, which is seen as rude.
Make Your Business Trip to South Africa a Success
These are some of the main things you should keep in mind when it comes to doing business in South Africa. Follow them and make sure you are prepared for your business meetings, and improve your chances of making your time in the country a success.