South African Culture



  • Direct: Though mannerisms vary between ethnic groups, most people exhibit distinctive African influences when they communicate. This is a direct speech style. South Africans arrive straight to the point and tend to say what they mean. A South African will make no hesitation in telling you when you are wrong or objecting on the spot. To an Australian, this can come across as overly assertive or blunt.
  • Raised Voices: Afrikaners and black South Africans (particularly females) tend to naturally adopt a louder speaking tone than what most Australians do. It is normal for black South Africans to continue conversations by shouting when situated at a distance from each other (e.g. standing across the road or across a room).


  • Physical Contact: South Africans are generally comfortable with physical affection and like to express warmth through actions such as hugging and patting each other on the back.
  • Hands: Putting your hands in your pockets can be misinterpreted by South Africans as disrespectful.
  • Expression: Black South Africans are very animated and are very communicative through their facial expressions when they speak.
  • Eye Contact: South Africans tend to maintain steady eye contact through the duration of a conversation; however, older South Africans may avert their eyes to show respect to authority.
  • Personal SpaceBlack South Africans often sit and stand very close to each other. Therefore, some may stand at proximities that a Westerner may consider to be uncomfortably close. It is likely they have not been made aware of the discomfort some people may feel with this.
  •  Gestures: Making a ‘V’ with the index finger and middle finger, in the shape of the peace sign is very rude if the palm is facing towards yourself.
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South Africa
  • Population
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Languages
    Isizulu [official] (22.7%)
    IsiZhosa [official] (16%)
    Afrikaans [official] (13.5%)
    English [official] (9.6%)
    Sepedi [official] (9.1%)
    Setswana [official] (8.0%)
    Sesotho [official] (7.6%)
    Xitsonga [official] (4.5%)
    siSwati [official] (2.5%)
    Tshivenda [official] (2.4%)
    isiNdebele [official] (2.1%)
    Other (2.1%)
    [2011 est.]
  • Religion
    Protestant Christianity (36.6%)
    Catholic Christianity (7.1%)
    Other Christianity (36%)
    No Religion (15.1%)
    Islam (1.5%)
    Other (2.3%)
    Unspecified (1.4%)
    [2001 est.]
  • Ethnicities
    Black Africans (80.2%)
    White (8.4%)
    Coloured (8.8%)
    Indian/Asian (2.5%)
    [2014 est.]
    Note: Coloured is a term used in South Africa to refer to persons of mixed race ancestry
  • Cultural Dimensions
  • Australians with South African Ancestry
    118,960 [2016 census]
South Africans in Australia
  • Population
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in South Africa.
  • Average Age
  • Gender
    Male (49.2%)
    Female (50.8%)
  • Religion
    Anglican Christianity (14.7%)
    Catholic Christianity (13.7%)
    No Religion (15.1%)
    No Religion (13.6%)
    Judaism (8.9%)
    Other (49%)
  • Ancestry
    South African (38.6%)
    English (22.5%)
    Dutch (5.4%)
    Scottish (4.9%)
    Other (28.6%)
  • Language Spoken at Home
    English (74.7%)
    Afrikaans (21.6%)
    German (0.4%)
    Other (2.7%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 97.5% speak English fluently.
  • Diaspora
    Anglican Christianity (14.7%)
    Catholic Christianity (13.7%)
    No Religion (13.6%)
    Judaism (8.9%)
    Other (49%)
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (24.2%)
    2001-2006 (24.2%)
    2007-2011 (27.2%)
Country Flag Country South Africa