South Africa: Conversation


There is not much small talk in business and it is not acceptable if people are too loud.

You can expect a traditional African person not to look you in the eye when having a conversation. This must be seen as sign of respect and not that of arrogance.

As businessmen, show respect for the women and always treat them in a businesslike, professional manner. Avoid outbursts of chauvinism. Do not make suggestive jokes and comments.

Cellphone Etiquette

Cellphones have become part of our lives and are an essential business tool. Using your cellphone incorrectly and at the wrong times will show disrespect to the people in your presence. This etiquette is not unique to South Africa but rather a sign of common courtesy in all countries. Take note of the following cellphone etiquette:

Always switch off your phone in the following situations:

Business meetings

Meal with clients

Meal with friends


Seminars and Conferences





If you are forced to take a call in a public area, keep your voice down and the conversation short. Do not disturb the surrounding people. They do not need to hear your conversation. If possible, rather move away to an area where you can be private.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to take an emergency call, keep it short and to the point. This is not the time to share a joke or discuss the family. Tell the caller you are in a meeting, get the urgent message from them, and end the call. It is then polite to apologise for the interruption and continue the meeting at hand.

When in the company of people and your cell phone rings, excuse yourself and move away to a private area to take the call.

Respond to messages left on your answering service as soon as possible.

Use hands-free equipment when driving. Otherwise do not take the call. You should never take your hands off the steering wheel to make or take a call on your cell phone.

When you call someone on his cell phone, ask whether it is convenient for that person to talk.