Updated last year

Located at the Southernmost tip of Africa, South Africa is a popular destination for expatriation. Nicknamed the “Rainbow Nation,” it holds a great historical heritage along with a magnificent blend of cultures following the English and Dutch occupation periods. By moving there, you will discover a friendly and hospitable population which is still deeply attached to its traditions and values in its everyday life despite the modern nature of the country.


South Africa is world famous for its multicultural population which includes several ethnic groups as well as people from other origins. Thus the Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele, Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, San, Khoi and Métis live relatively harmoniously along with the Caucasian, Asian and other expatriate communities. The Coloured population come from a combination of ethnic backgrounds including African, Caucasian, Khoi, San, Griqua, Chinese and Malay. Caucasian South Africans are predominantly descendants of Dutch, German, French Huguenots, English and other European settlers. Culturally and linguistically, they are divided into the Afrikaners, who speak Afrikaans, and English-speaking groups. A major part of the South African Asian population is Indian in origin. You will also find many African expats from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Urban living

Generally, whether they live in the city, suburbs, or townships, people are rather united and friendly towards one another. They will not hesitate to greet one another in the street. In poorer communities, education is often free or very cheap. This helps to prevent social ills. Soweto, for instance, is a perfect picture of education along with tolerance and etiquette. More affluent areas offer a choice between cheaper government schools or more expensive private schools. The varied communities are more sociable or less so, depending on how open or isolated their dwellings are. For example, large, expensive properties are usually fenced and impenetrable, while smaller houses or apartment blocks offer opportunities for neighbours to have a chat over the fence.

Daily routines

South Africa seems to have inherited several Anglo-Saxon habits. For instance, breakfast often consists of eggs and bacon, but porridge is also popular. Lunch is light while dinner is served around 6 pm. In short, the pace of life is South Africa is quite similar to that of many European countries, especially in terms of waking up, having dinner and going to bed early. Summer is marked by many festivals and sporting events, particularly in Cape Town, which is popular with tourists.

South African culture

Despite all efforts to abolish apartheid and racial segregation, this tendency still prevails with some South Africans. On the whole, the youth seems to be more open minded, tolerant and welcoming towards foreign cultures, although this usually differs from one region to another. Basically, South Africans cover the full spectrum of tolerance and open-mindedness. Try to get to know many, and hopefully you’ll enjoy like-minded company.

Wherever you have settled in South Africa, you will come across people who will not hesitate to ask how you are. However, kissing on the cheek is not quite common in South Africa as in the case of many Western countries.

Cuisine and eating habits

The South African cuisine, on the one hand, is inspired by a variety of African cultures and, on the other hand by Dutch, British and Asian cuisines. Meat is very popular with most and South African consume a fair amount of beef, mutton and chicken. They have a unique sausage that is made from beef or mutton and spiced with coriander seeds. The Afrikaans name, boerewors, is used for this. Ostrich and other game has become popular recently and fish and sea food is consumed along the coast.

Other favourites are: pap (made from maize meal and similar to Italian polenta), a large variety of fresh vegetables. The Malay heritage contributes a dish called ‘boboti’, which is made of minced meat and slightly spicy.


The South African calendar is marked by several festivals. As from January 2, all communities get together in Cape Town on the occasion of the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival. Similar to Shrove Tuesday, this festival lasts for a whole month.

In Summer, Southern beaches are overcrowded due to the lower temeperatures in the North. The Marula Festival, which lasts from February to March, celebrates the marula harvest season.

March symbolizes the beginning of autumn. Cape Town and Johannesburg hosts several festivals dedicated to the special bond between man and nature: fruits, climate, colors, fauna and flora.

Newton is famous for its Joy of Jazz Festival while Soweto hosts the Arts Live Festival, the Soweto Festival and the Soweto Wine Festival, among others. In summer, as from November, other music festivals are held all around the country.

 Useful links:

SA-venues' events in South Africa w
Southafrica.info's A-Z of South African culture
South Africa's Ministry of Arts and Culture

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.