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Type and Culture: What Enneagram Type is South Africa?

During my nearly 3 weeks in South Africa, immersed with people there who know the Enneagram, I asked multiple people and groups, “What Enneagram type is South Africa?” In response, I received a consistent and universal answer: “I don’t know.”

Although this has happened in a few other countries ­(namely, Korea and Italy), after some thought and careful discussion, people have generally been able to reach some sort of insightful consensus. Not so in South Africa, even though people there are certainly smart and Enneagram-savvy. The discussions, and there were many that occurred, but never got past comments like, “Well, a little of this and a little of that.” Even when people tried to figure it out using the “process of elimination” method: not a 5 because… not a 6 because… there was still no consensus. I would also add that there was less interest in discussing this topic than I have found in other countries.

Why no clear or obvious type?  Why less interest in discussing this topic than I’ve experienced in other countries? These questions perplexed me so much that I began to wonder if the answer was beneath the cultural surface: the meta-arrangements within their society. I will try to say this in a way that is clear enough, but also in a manner that doesn’t get me in too much trouble!

I think South Africa may not be just one enneatype. It may be three types – all on the central triangle of the Enneagram: Nine, Six, and Three. Although South Africa is composed of multiple “identity groups,” the three primary ones are Black (the majority), Afrikaans (the first white people who came there, of Dutch descent, and who have their own language), and Whites (the term they use to refer to non-Afrikaans whites, usually people of Irish-English descent). I’ll some share local jokes I heard, only as examples of the respective cultures. As a disclaimer, these are not my jokes (nor do I agree with them), but I use them because humor often reflects aspects of culture.

Black culture: Enneagram Nine
Relaxed, easy-going, extremely friendly, not-time-sensitive, not prone to anxiety
Local joke: “Blacks don’t understand why Whites are always so anxious; Blacks just take a nap under a tree when they feel distressed.”

Afrikaans culture: Enneagram Six
Extreme loyalty to their group, held together by faith and duty, earthy
Local joke: “The Afrikaans complain so frequently that when they are doing well, they just say, ‘I’m doin’ fine; nothin’ to complain about.’”

White culture: Enneagram Three
Competitive, ambitious, forward, asserting
Local joke 1: “When White men peak early in the corporate world and then have little to brag about at social events, they turn to individual competitive sports (cycling is a good example) in which they train, measure success extensively, and then have something to broadcast at social events.”
Local joke 2: “When White women get married, they expect platinum rings because it is more costly than gold. So they should be called ‘platinum diggers’ and not ”gold diggers.'”

In summary, the idea of South Africa being three Enneagram types is a really speculative. But as I thought about it and shared this possibility with people there, the response was that there might be some truth in this: 9, 6, 3. But no one wanted to talk about it very much!  Usually when people don’t want to talk about something, it’s because there’s something underneath that needs discussing but is being avoided.

I wondered if the Enneagram symbol could be reflecting some still unresolved and sensitive social dynamics in that country.

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10 years ago

Hi, I am a South African living in the UK and found the reflections above really interesting and very much in line with what I have always thought… I would add that the Afrikaans culture has little of the “risk averse” element of the phobic 6 worldview… the community-orientation and warm hospitality (social subtype?) focus is the more prominent feature in my experience. In the UK I have experienced far more of the more phobic and anxiety-driven patterns of social/political organisation. A famous saying here in the UK is “it does what it says on the tin”, which is so… Read more »

Rob Taylor
Rob Taylor
10 years ago

I’m delighted that you enjoyed your very short stay in our country and thank you for your interesting observations in the article What Enneagram type is South Africa?

Could one reason we have difficulty in “typing” SA be that we are considering SA as integrated and mature?

As we travel this long road to maturiy as a country, many South Africans are discovering that our true wealth lies in the rich diversity of our peoples, not in creating the archetypical South African.

9 years ago

Today for the firat time I reflected on countries and the Enneagram.
My ex-boyfriend a type 7, escaped Germany, a type 6 and Portugal a type 4!
Got me wondering about my escape.
I am a type 6, that is now going to Germany for a week to get in touch with myself. I live in Portugal but I ran away from South Africa my triangle 3, 6, 9. Sounds correct!

Mariska Roberts
Mariska Roberts
2 years ago

This was so interesting,

I had a discussion with my husband and if we had to type South Africa it would have to be and Enneagram 7. South Africans always have
something to laugh about, (
no matter the seriousness of the situation and they don’t take themselves too seriously and love social contact. South Africans at their worst can
also be rebellious, not great at finishing what they started etc 😋

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