Food etiquette

South African food etiquette is largely westernised

Food etiquette in South Africa is mostly westernised, with some of its own idiosyncrasies.  For instance, it's acceptable 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 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.


  • What traditional food is served in South Africa?
  • South Africa boasts excellent fresh produce, meat, fruit, wines and seafood. Types of dishes served include sosaties (a type of kebab), bobotie (curried mince), crayfish, biltong (seasoned dried meat), and potjiekos (a casserole cooked for hours in a three-legged iron pot). Also try some traditional African and Afro-fusion dishes. Our local beers, Cape wines, brandies and liqueurs are renowned the world over. The traditional beer -umqombothi - is a home-brewed sorghum beer sold in many African townships.