Southern Africans are generally fairly relaxed in their dealings with foreign travellers and good manners and acting politely and modestly are key to avoiding offence. It is, however, worth keeping a few general guidelines in mind.

  • Greetings Greetings are always important. Even if you're in a hurry, greet people you meet, ask how they are, how their day is going, and so on.
  • Elders Treat elders and those in positions of authority with deference and respect.
  • Gifts When receiving a gift, it's polite in many areas to accept it with both hands, sometimes with a slight bow.
  • Shaking Hands There are numerous local varieties of the humble handshake. Learning the local version is a fast-track to making friends. A two-hand handshake (ie your left hand on your elbow while you shake) is preferable to a Western-style handshake.
  • Public Displays of Affection These are rarely a good idea and frowned upon by locals.