Comparison Essay Sample: South African Culture and Singapore Culture

Published: 2019-10-16
Comparison Essay Sample: South African Culture and Singapore Culture
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Business Society
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1938 words
17 min read

Home Country Rationale

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The home country in this report will be Singapore which will be mainly compared to South Africa as the host country. To understand the rich culture set up of South Africa the focus will be on the countrys individualism culture, gender roles, communication, religion, behavior and manners, power distance, dressing culture, indulgence, and secular celebrations. All these areas need to be understood by anyone who seeks to work or conduct business in the country. Singapore holds some cultures that may make it difficult for foreign workers to do well in the country. However learning about the culture can make life in Singapore much easier. The idea that most people in Singapore lack problem solving skills and must be told what to do is an old culture that does not exist and therefore as a foreigner one must be open minded when dealing with people in Singapore and must not assume. The Singaporeans detect arrogance easily and therefor one must not go to the country feeling superior because they come from U.S or U.K or any other country for this matter. People in Singapore appreciate expats and know that they are only in the country for some time. A company that comes into the country with the aim of improving the lives of the people always leaves a legacy.

Cultural Analysis of South Africa


Individualism refers to the dimension of culture that shows the extent of interdependence in a given society amongst its members. The significant question, in this case, is how the members refer to themselves; if they refer to themselves as I or We. Initially, the South African culture promoted collectiveness where communities lived in one homestead as one. However, at the moment there is a high preference for a loose social framework in which people are expected to take care of their immediate families and themselves only. This means that offenses can cause low self-esteem and guilt. In most cases, employment is a contract between the employer and employee based on benefits with promotions being offered according to merits. When dealing with management of employees, the rule is to focus on management of individuals and not a group of employees.

Gender Roles

Just like many other African cultures, South Africa sees the dominance of men in the society. Starting from homes to working places, men are seen to be dominant over women. As much as modern times and global humanitarian requirements and lobbies seek for equality, there is still visible evidence of men being seen as superior. A house that is led by a woman without a man is considered to be incomplete. However, there is progress in giving women high positions in offices and traditional gatherings which have been significantly influenced by modernism and western influence. Closely related to the issue of gender role is masculinity. A masculine culture refers to a society that is driven by success, achievement, and competition (Morrison & Conaway, 2006). Success is measured by a persons ability to be the best in whatever they do. The system begins with schools and goes on to the working stage in life. South Africa is defined by a masculine culture where people live to work and be the best in what they do. Managers, therefore, need to be aware of assertiveness and being decisive. Managers should put more emphasis on equity, performance, and competition.


In South Africa, the most common way of greeting is through handshakes. However, the style of handshakes differs from one community to another. When they address people, they prefer to use titles and surnames. According to the South African culture, it is necessary to book appointments starting at 9 a.m. if there are business oriented. When interacting with people, the South Africans are very casual, and as far as deals are concerned, it is important that deals are not rushed. There is no specific way of exchanging business cards, and, therefore, exchange can happen without worrying about protocol. To ensure satisfaction and success in dealing with the South Africans, it is necessary to ensure at the end of the day everyone wins, because they prefer a win-win situation.

Behavior and Manners

Naturally, the South Africans are people who are polite and circumspect when speaking. However, that is in the rural part of the country. In the modern towns, such courtesies maybe experience or may not exist. There are mixed South African with some appearing calm and is reserved preferring good-natured humor when interacting. However, the South Africans who are born and raised in the country are more direct and encounter people sharply. They do not hold back their opinions and thoughts towards the people they meet. As much as most may show the aggressive and rude nature of residents in the major cities, they are helpful, sympathetic and always aim at avoiding verbal exchange with people they interact with. In a business set up, however, giving of gifts is not considered a business norm and in case one gives a gift, they must not use the left hand in hanging over the present instead one must use either hands or the right hand. The business meeting can be conducted over lunch or dinner in a respectable and friendly hotel.

Power Distance

Power distance is a dimension that looks at the fact that in a society not everyone is equal. The South African set up has people who accept a hierarchical order where everyone in the society has their place and do not need any justification. In an organization set up, centralization is prevalent in South Africa. The subordinate staff expects to be directed and instructed on what to do with the ideal boss being a benevolent autocrat.


The South African community is usually a deeply religious community that sees a majority of the citizens being involved in religious activities amongst different groups. A significant portion of South Africans is Christians with a small fraction consisting of Jews, Hindus, and Muslim minorities. The largest Christian denomination in the country is the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church, which is attended by most whites and some Afrikaans. The other contributing denominations include the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians. The South African observe the most important birth rites according to Christianity, which includes birth, initiations, marriages and funeral ceremonies.

Dressing culture

South Africa has developed from its known traditional ways to a more western-like culture regarding dressing. However, the rural South African population still embraces their dressing style with most citizens dressing in their traditional outfits both men and women. When it comes to the urban cities, however, young men and women have adopted the western culture putting on colored outfits ranging from jeans to khaki, t-shirts, and suits. In a business set up, both men and women wear fitting suits. Women can put on trouser suits or skirt suits. The skirt is expected to be knee length or below the knee but some women can wear a skirt that is slightly above the knee height. The overall appearance, however, must be decent and well groomed.

Comparison between South African Business Culture and Singapore Culture

Business Language

According to the South African government, there are 11 official languages which include English, Zulu, Venda, and Afrikaans. While planning to conduct business in South Africa, one should not worry about using English because most people that are involved in international trade use the language. However, most have an adamant accent. Even though most South Africans prefer to use simple English words when conducting business, it must not be mistaken for lack of commitment, illiteracy or irresponsibility. Compared to South Africa, Singapore has fewer languages that are commonly used and recognized (4). The languages include Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. In the case of a business or political cause, the word commonly used is English with both nonverbal and verbal communication playing an important role

Diplomatic Approach

Most South Africans prefer a diplomatic approach while Singaporean business people prefer to be subtle, implicit and indirect in their negotiations. Similarly to South Africans, Singapore business people prefer slow pace and avoid confrontations when conducting business.

Dress Code

When it comes to dressing code in South Africa, it depends on the company an individual works for. However, a suit is the formal dressing option for men. However, it is allowed when a man puts on pants and a jacket accompanied by a tie. As much as one wants to appear stylish, they must ensure their dressing is conservative. As far as women are concerned, a business suit is allowed, however, it must not be too tight and revealing. The dress code in Singapore is different regarding strictness. When attending a meeting, the dress code must include dark trousers, long sleeve shirt that are light colored and a tie. One is not advised to put on a jacket because of the hot weather. Women are expected to wear loose blouses with pants or skirts and are only required to put on suits in formal offices (Yan, 2014).

Business etiquette

Regarding addresses and communication, meetings in South Africa can be more relaxed and slightly at ease. Use of humor is allowed when conducting business, but caution must be practiced primarily with the extent and frequency of humor used. In Singapore, humor is not mostly used and if used must be short and unplanned since humor can be associated with lack of professionalism. Use of handshakes when meeting business partners is allowed in South Africa, but women may just nod and, therefore, it is appropriate to wait for a female associate to extend their hands for a handshake. On the other hand, old associates and women in Singapore strictly nod and smile when introduced.

Formal Greetings

The business meetings in South Africa are slightly informal compared to Singapore business meeting where protocol must be observed (Borzel&Hamann, 2013). Maintain an eye contact when talking to an associate is important in South Africa as it is a gesture of attentiveness. In the Singapore business meeting however when dealing with an older associate, it is rude to stare at them straight in the eye. Therefore, frequent glances are appropriate. Exchange of business cards in South Africa is not familiar but in case an individual wants to give out a card it is best to wait until the meeting comes to an end. When given a card it means that the party encourages further communication. Whatever the circumstance, when given a car it must be handled with care. Unlike the South African approach, in Singapore issuance of business cards is a traditional practice that must be handled carefully. Cards are given after initial introduction and must be received by both hands. Treating the cards with respect shows how one values the business relationship (Guirdham, 2009).


Sometimes in business meetings gifts can be exchanged, in South Africa gifts are not considered to bribe and, if given a gift one must appreciate and accept it otherwise the giver might take offense. When given a gift they should be opened immediately. On the contrary gifts in Singapore may be declined three times before acceptance to show that the receiver is not greedy. The gifts cannot be opened when received. Some ethnic groups such as the Malays should not be given alcohol as a gift while business people in Singapore from Indian ethnic background should not be given leather products.


According to Martin & Chaney (2009), indulgence is a dimension of culture that looks at the extent to which individuals try to control their desires and impulses. Indulgence deals with socialization with others and human beings are social beings so without indul...

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