Things you have to know about Indonesian Business Etiquette – Part 2


In our previous article, we talked about some aspects of the Indonesian culture and how it affects people’s behaviour and local business etiquette. We particularly saw the greeting and introduction features of the Indonesian Business Etiquette. We will now share with you further information about Indonesian Business etiquette from giving gifts  to business meetings protocols …


Indonesia, world biggest Archipel …



A quick reminder about Indonesian country facts. Indonesia is the home of over 250 million people living across 17,000 islands. Not only it is the biggest Muslim community in the world, it also one of the most populated countries in South East Asia. Speaking of Islam, according to, about 88% of the Indonesian population is Muslim while the remaining are either Catholics, Hinduist, Buddhist and other indigenous religions.

The capital is Jakarta and the biggest cities in terms of population are Surabaya, Bandung, Meda, Smerang and Makassar. Java, which also includes Bali and all of the cities mentioned earlier, is by far the most popular region in Indonesia due to its wide range of activities going from beaches to temples. Indonesia became an independent country in 1946 after receiving several waves of invasions from the : Hindus, Muslims, Japanese and Sutch.  The national official language is Bahasa also called Indonesian even though it is estimated that over 700 languages across the country. Consequently, Indonesian history and cultural background strongly impact the way they do business.


Giving a gift





Just like in China, many corruption scandals (or not yet scandals) happened in Indonesia because of the high consuming society. However, giving a professional small gift is still part of Indonesian traditional customs and will surely help your business relations to develop.

You will have to get some information about your Indonesian business partner before choosing your gift. In fact, depending on his religion, some gifts may be avoided. For example, if your Indonesian business partner is Muslim, you had better not give him anything “haram” which is the contrary of “halal”. What does it mean? Well, to make it simple just avoid giving alcohol and pork products (ham, sausages, salami and any derived pork products like Gelatin candies which are usually made with pork). If the person is of Chinese origin, by respect, he will refuse the gift before accepting it. It is also better to avoid giving anything that cuts such as a knife, scissors, as it represents the cut of a relationship. For Hindus, avoid giving anything in leather as some animals are considered as sacred.

On a general note, wrap your gift with good quality paper and colors which will appeal to your partner depending on his origin. If he is of Chinese ethnicity go for gold and red. If he is muslim, you can choose any color. and finally, if he is from an Indian ethnicity, go for yellow, red or green. In addition, Indonesian, regardless of their religion, will use their right hand to receive the gift and won’t open it in your presence.What if you receive a gift? Just like Chinese people, refuse at first and accept it with full humility.

Conducting  a business meeting with your Indonesian partners


business meeting 2


Another thing to do know is that Indonesian are time flexible. It means that they will usually arrive late. Their main focus is developing a genuine relationship with their business partner so don’t expect to rush the business contract negotiation or project because of time, it may just hinder your relationship with your Indonesian partner. It is called in Indonesian “Jam Karet” which can be translated to rubber time. They take their time and relationship as well as harmony are the most important not money.Indonesians prefer face to face meetings instead of phones or emails. This may be mainly due to the need of creating a real relationship with their business partner. Small talk and non-project related discussions are a must during the first meetings with your Indonesian partner.

If you have to undertake some business negotiations start from the top of the ladder and go down to operations. As it is more formal in Indonesia, it is also important to have a first meeting with the highest in the company’s organization chart (in charge of the project of course). For the contract, avoid insisting for a business contract as it may seem that you don’t believe in them enough. Just explain, that you want to have a kind of plan to follow through and not because of issues that may occur.

Having a business lunch with your Indonesian partner?




If you are invited, you won’t have to pay the bill as the host is the one inviting you. He will usually eat and sit last during the meal. It also important to wait for them to allow you to eat. As the guest of honor, you may be asked to begin first. If not, the most senior person will be the one to start.

In terms of utensils, you will either have a fork in your left hand plus a spoon in your right hand or directly eat with your hands. If you use your hands to eat, only use the right one as the left one is considered as being unhygienic. Even when you have to pass on the food, always use your right hand. Finally, it is best to wait for your Indonesian business partner to start talking business before you do and if you can try to invite them for dinner before you go without going overboard either.

Additional tips for women and outside-of-work situations




  • Avoid chewing gum or yawning loudly in public
  • Since most Indonesians are Muslims, some may have to pray 5 times a day. Thus, try to check the timetable online ( for example), to avoid planning a meeting at that time if possible.
  • Tomorrow just means future. So don’t forget to schedule a specific time instead

If you are a businesswoman dealing with an Indonesian male, it is better to:

  • Start yourself the handshake
  • When inviting for a dinner, ask the wife out as well
  • Wear conservative clothes

Further reading:

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