The people of South Africa
The population of South Africa derives from a variety of ethnographic sources. This is why South Africa is sometimes described as a diverse nation, and has been nicknamed the “Rainbow Nation”. This is borne out by the relatively large number of official languages (eleven), and the cosmopolitan spread of cultures to be found within the country’s borders.
Below are some facts about the population of South Africa:
- Total population 49 million (as estimated in 2009)
- Languages English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, isiNdebele, Siswati, Sesotho, Setswana, Sepedi, Tshivenda, Xitsonga
- Religions Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, traditional African systems
The customary method of greeting in South Africa is a firm shake of the hand. However, there is more than one way of shaking hands in South Africa, so be prepared to receive some instruction on the various different ways.
South Africa is sometimes described as a diverse nation, and has been nicknamed the “Rainbow Nation”
It is usual, when applying for a job, not to contact the prospective employer once an interview has taken place, unless it is to send a letter or e-mail of thanks. If your application has been successful you will be contacted in due course.
It is illegal to smoke inside public venues, including public conveyances such as trains and buses. South Africa is consistently and methodically clamping down on smoking and soon it will not be possible to smoke in any building at all.
Never refer to someone on the basis of what you may perceive as their “ethnic background”. South Africa’s divisive past has made this a particularly sensitive issue. You will also be very surprised to find that you are often incorrect in your assumption.
It is customary to provide a tip of 10% in restaurants. Sometimes, in the case of large groups, this is included in the bill as “gratuity”, so be sure to read the menu closely. Of course, if you are sufficiently impressed with the service, you may tip more, or less, if you are not.
Cuisine and entertainment
The classic South African meal is the braai (meat barbecue or grill). Be prepared for invitations to braais, especially on the weekend.
Meat forms a staple in South Africa, along with fish (hake and snoek) and maize. However, there is a wide variety of foodstuffs on offer, most of them cultivated locally. Or, if you enjoy dining out, there is no shortage of establishments in the larger urban centres, catering to every taste and occasion.
Due to the diverse origins of the local culture, a wide variety of cuisine is found in South Africa. In Cape Town, one finds traditional Cape Malay cooking, while in Durban the Indian influence has resulted in a unique cuisine there. Some of the most popular dishes are listed below.
- Pap (“porridge”) – it is made to many different recipes but the basic concept of cooked maize remains the same throughout
- Boerewors (literally, “farmer’s sausage”)
- Biltong (cured meat, usually beef, but sometimes also venison)
- Bobotie (a spicy mince dish)
- Bunny chow – a favourite in Durban, consisting of a hollow half-loaf of bread packed with a rich and very spicy meat or vegetarian filling
- Bredie (a kind of meat stew)
The legal drinking age in South Africa is 18. Some of the most popular drinks are listed below:
- Rooibos tea – locally grown, it is drunk all over the world
- Umqombothi – a traditional African beer, usually drunk on special occasions
- Wine – of many descriptions, generally of a high quality, locally made and exported
After hours, there is plenty to do in South Africa. In the large urban centres, there is a long selection of night spots and watering holes, along with restaurants and theatres. There is a cinema in practically every town.
Live music is not perhaps as common as in Europe or the USA, but it is still to be found. It helps to ask around, and international acts turn up in South Africa on occasion. Every year, Cape Town hosts an international jazz festival.
Sport is very important in South Africa. The country is the current holder of the rugby World Cup, which South Africa hosted (and won) in 1995. Besides rugby, soccer is also popular, especially since the country hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In addition, cricket is played all over the country, and the cricket World Cup was hosted in 2003.
As stated previously, South Africa is culturally diverse. The oldest culture dates back approximately 30 000 years and is that of the so-called KhoiSan group. Although they are now the smallest minority grouping in the country, traces of their rock art can still be found in caves in the area in which they used to hunt and live. There are also the indigenous African tribes, whose lifestyle was severely disrupted by European colonisation and the former apartheid regime. In fact, present-day South Africa resembles an industrialising nation more than anything else, and so the customs and lifestyle of bygone times are found mainly in the deepest rural retreats, in isolation from the melting pot of the big urban areas.
South African art and cultural traditions can be regarded as being recently emerging from in a recovery period, after suffering the suppression of apartheid. There are numerous art studios, galleries and cultural centres throughout the country, so be sure to visit them.
Below are some more information pages on South Africa.