Food Etiquette in South Africa: a largely Westernised affair

Of their 3 meals a day, most South Africans enjoy their main meal at night. Lunches are generally far lighter, except for the business lunch which may be a full 3-course affair, depending on the occasion. On weekends, however, you may encounter large parties in cafes around mid-morning, as ‘brunch' becomes increasingly popular for laid-back Saturdays and Sundays.

Lunch hour is the normal 13h00-14h00, but may stretch to before and beyond on a business date.  Restaurants generally take bookings in the evenings from 19h00 on.  And on that note, it's a good idea to call ahead and make a reservation, especially at the more popular establishments, which can be booked weeks ahead in peak holiday season.

South African food etiquette is mostly Westernised, with some of its own oddities.  For instance, it's ok to eat pasta twirling it onto a fork with aid of a spoon, and lobster with your hands. The popular braai (barbeque) is another occasion where you can use your hands. In rural areas, traditional stew and mealie pap are also eaten with the hands - use your right hand only and roll the pap into a ball with your fingers, then dip it into the stew and eat.

Most restaurants supply bread rolls as you wait for your meals - these should be broken and buttered a piece at a time.

At fine dining restaurants, dress a little more formally towards a ‘smart-casual' look.  Most other eateries, however, are extremely informal, and in the many family-friendly establishments South African food and general etiquette is relaxed.

If you are invited to dine at the home of South Africans or share a braai with them, it is good etiquette to take a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers, or a small gift as a token of appreciation.