Doing business in South Africa

In meetings with South Africans, you should speak in a relationship-oriented and positive way. Let pictures be created in the minds of your listeners. ZHANG

The common preconception that South Africans are unflappable, or that they don’t take punctuality very seriously, is just that: a preconception. Anyone who is late for a meeting at the Cape is simply considered rude. 

However, there are minor exceptions to this rule in the case of a traditionally run local company. This is because the idea of hierarchy is often more pronounced here and it is true that the one with the higher status can be less exacting about being on time. For you as a guest in a South African company though, it is always appropriate to be in the conference room at the agreed time.

Formal procedure with a moderator

The fact that there is an agenda is felt to be important in South Africa. But you don’t have to be too attached to it. Individual agenda items can be discussed flexibly. All in all, an agenda is more of a process-oriented guideline and is geared to the needs and concerns of the meeting participants.

The beginning of the meeting is usually more formal. The host or chairperson will take the floor and greet all those present by name and, if necessary, briefly introduce them to each other. He or she will also moderate the meeting during the course of the meeting.

Breaks help to lighten the mood

Numerous meeting breaks with snacks and drinks are of great importance in South Africa. By the way, the status of a business meeting is often measured by the food being served. It is imperative for South Africans that their physical well-being is taken care of.

The many breaks will also be for small talk about sports and family – just don’t mention anything too personal! – or to deepen business contacts and chat about the topics of the meeting in a relaxed atmosphere.

Relationship-oriented approach to conversations

South Africans are relationship-oriented in business life. Critical words have a very negative effect on them, as they quickly endanger the good personal relationship between business partners or colleagues. Therefore, you should learn more about business communication in South Africa by watching some of our new expert videos!

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