Successful Entertaining in South Africa

Many business travellers say that South Africa is one of the best places in the world to eat out and your South African contacts will probably be eager to help you sample the delights of the many excellent restaurants on offer.

You are as likely to be asked out for lunch as dinner and may even be invited back to somebody’s home for a meal in the evening.

South African food is extremely varied and has its origins in the many cultures and peoples, which populate this cosmopolitan country. European, Indian, Malay, African and French cuisine are very common – with other influences coming from almost everywhere in the world.

Large amounts of meat are consumed in South Africa and vegetarians are often tolerated with wry amusement.

The tap water is safe in almost all areas as it is chemically treated. However, if you are unsure, bottled mineral water is widely available. Locally brewed beer and wines are of very high quality. You can find that normally conservative, serious business contacts become far less formal after a few beers over dinner.

Tipping for service is usual practice (rather than compulsory) in South Africa and usually ranges between 10% and 15% in restaurants

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in South Africa

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

Free Download


If central Africa is poised to take off from an economic perspective then South Africa should be seen as the continent’s engine. South Africa takes on super-power qualities when looked at from an African perspective. South Africa is far and away the largest economy in Africa and the economic health of so many of its neighbours are intrinsically linked with the robustness of South Africa’s commercial sector.

The transition from the previous apartheid-led policies to a fully functioning democracy, offering equal opportunity for all, was never going to be an easy one. The birth pangs of the new rainbow nation are still being felt and political corruption and in-fighting have not helped the process. Nonetheless, South Africa has made significant progress in most areas and, critically, has not descended towards social chaos and economic meltdown as many predicted. South Africa survives and South Africa grows. Its future will be fascinating to watch and its future could, to a large measure, determine the future of Africa.

If you are considering doing business in Africa (and more and more companies are moving into Africa), then it is probably a good idea to do business in South Africa first as a stepping stone to the rest of the continent.

However, South Africa is complex. It is a complex mix of cultures, races, languages and differing approaches to business. You need to be flexible in South Africa and you need to be observant. You need to know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ process that will work in such a complicated environment. Learn about the country before you go on a business trip to – it makes commercial sense to do so (and its fascinating at the same time.)

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of South African business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips