Etiquette

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.