In order to build relationships in South Africa, practice favors and nice deeds whenever possible and you will very rapidly create a team of friends and supporters that you will be able to rely on when you will really need help.
In general, South Africans are friendly, warm and welcoming people but with so many different cultural backgrounds it is only natural that the expectations of each individual should differ greatly. As such, it is crucial to treat everybody equally, and you should be prepared for the diverse way people will react to situations and adjust to the cultural differences among groups.
As a matter of fact, in South Africa, black people, colored people, Asians, whites and white Afrikaners live and work side-by-side, each maintaining their individuality. South Africans are relationship-oriented; hence one should build personal relationships and trust in order to be able to understand them better and yield successful outcomes from it; Relationship-building and networking are necessary means to succeed in South Africa.
There are several things to consider for any businessman when building strong relationships with South Africans:
- Build personal relationships with them.
- Hospitality is a vital treat here, therefore make sure you accept invitations and return them at a later stage, if you can
- Expect initial preliminary meetings for getting to know each other
- South Africans are more physical than North Europeans or Americans, so be prepared for more physical contact than you may be used to.
- Ask questions about their cultural background and traditions. They will appreciate it.
- Acceptable topics of conversation are recent history and race relations, but you should always be able to read between the lines because sometimes people can give you a ‘politically correct’ answer which may or may not be deeply felt.
Make a good impression
In order to make a good impression you should always be friendly, polite, open and fair. Be sociable with your business counterparts, and expect some fairly direct questions about your background. As there are different cultural groups in South Africa, remember that:
- Black South Africans really appreciate admission for their triumphs, a long-term outlook and fair treatment.
- Asians are hardworking, conservative and courteous of their elders.
- English-speaking White South Africans are quiet, unsociable, with a linear way of thinking and prefer to avoid conflict.
- Afrikaners, on the other hand, are much more straightforward in their approach.
To conclude, I would say that one should recognize these cultural differences and respond accordingly in order to achieve successful, trustful and long-term relationships with South Africans.
If you want to find out more about building relationship across cultures read this article: