South Africa is a fairly big country geographically, and is populated by a number of cultural groupings. There are people descended from the European settlers who came to South Africa in the last 350 years, tribal groups, and also the families of former slaves, and these people have moved around in the country throughout South Africa’s history. The post-Apartheid globalization of the South African economy and South African legislative reform means that cultural discrimination or other is now illegal.
The population of South Africa is roughly 50 million people, and there are eleven official languages – English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga and Afrikaans. However, English should serve you well in most situations, since it is the language of business and government. Numerically speaking, isiZulu is spoken by the largest number of people, but they are predominantly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The main religion in South Africa is Christianity, but there is also a large Islamic population, mainly in the Western Cape, and there are also Hindu and Jewish communities, as well as traditional African belief systems.
With so many cultures in the country, you may wonder whether social and commercial activities are a tricky prospect. They are not. There are certain basic rules that apply, as in any other country, and you should soon master the South African version.
Smoking has been banned in all public buildings and transport. You have to be 18 years old to buy alcohol or drive a car. In South Africa, you become a major legally at the age of 18, and you also have to be 18 to vote or buy land.
After a job interview, you should not pester the interviewer with persistent telephone calls. A single call, to thank them for interviewing you, is sufficient. If they want to hire you, they will get back to you. Usually, if you haven’t heard from them in a specified time, your application has been unsuccessful. This may sound distant to people in some cultures, but it is the norm in South Africa.
Lastly, shaking hands in South Africa has two forms – the Western style with the hands pointing down, and the African overhand style with the thumbs pointing upwards. You will need to master both, as it is impossible to predict who will use which style. But you may also find that people in South Africa will be very willing to show you how to do things, and will simply smile and assist you if you get stuck.