Businesses and business people in South Africa have an energy that you will not see anywhere else in the world. Without sounding too political, the business men and women in the country have learned that if they want to get ahead they need to do so inspite of those in charge of running the country. Therefore, they have an approach to business which is refreshing and direct. Here are some tips from an expat Durban Boy about business in SA.
- Meeting at a braai is completely allowed especially for big business. People are busy during working hours, especially South Africans who are famous for getting in and working tirelessly. Take the meeting outside. South Africa is blessed with so many natural places of interest and beautiful scenery and a genuine love for outdoor braais (barbecues) and beer that it sets a perfect icebreaking scenario. (also South African’s love an excuse for a beer.) So, ditch the office, get them outside.
- Drink the water. Traffic lights are referred to as robots, “pants” are trousers, wearing sandals with jeans is perfectly acceptable; make sure you wear a hat and there is no excuse to not keep hydrated because the water from every tap is drinkable. This is a surprise to Europeans especially and anyone who’s visited India or Spain on holiday; not only is the water in South Africa completely mineral free it is soft and even taps on the side of the road are drinkable.
- Expect to speak politics. Politics in South Africa range from polite discussions to riots and there is a genuine frustration in the people with regards to ineptidues of the leadership; even those few South Africans who claim to not like politcal conversations, will take some time to explain to you why they don’t like political conversations until you get into a debate about it. Just go with it and remember to offer to buy the next round.
- I mentioned braais. This is a cultural, historical, much loved, inexcapable pass time and the best way to integrate yourself into the culture, especially the business culture, is to try the culinary dishes of choice. You have braais, ranging from cooking everything from boerwors, to steak, to ostrich burgers and millies. To sadsa and gravey which you daren’t ask for a spoon to eat. You should also try a bunny chow and monkey gland sauce on your burgers.
- Get an Air BNB with a washing machine. No matter how much you pack you’ll find you need to wash your clothes because you will sweat. Luckily, even in winter, it is still hot enough for clothes to dry within an hour of being hung up.
- Buy these: Zambak – a miracle herbal ointment that’ll take away the itchiness from the hundreds of mosquito bites you’re going to get. Sunscreen Factor 50, because even sitting inside you’ll get sunburnt and nothing ruins a trip like losing a couple of layers of skin. Lip balm- trust me you’ll thank me and finally moist towlettes.