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 …

 

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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 Census.gov, 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

 

 

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?

 

dining2

 

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

 

CONSERVATIVE

 

  • 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 (IslamicFinder.com 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:

Things you have to know about Indonesian Business Etiquette


Are you planning to visit Indonesia not only for tourism but maybe for business? In this article, we will see some specific traits of Business etiquette in Indonesia.

General overview of Indonesia

800px-Map_Indonesian_religions

With over 250 million inhabitants spread over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is one of the most populated countries in South East Asia. In terms of population the capital, Jakarta, has over 10 million inhabitants followed by Surabaya, Bandung, Meda, Smerang and Makassar. Most of these cities are locating in Java. One of the most well-known tourist cities in Indonesia (and Java) is Bali due to its wide range of activities going from beaches to temples.

You also have to know that Indonesia is culturally diverse. Indonesia has also been through several waves of invasions: hindu, muslims, Japanese and dutch. According to US World Census, over 700 languages are spoken in Indonesia alone and there are over 300 communities. The most populous are Javanese but you have malays, Chinese etc. The official language is the Bahasa, which any indonesian usually know how to use. Regarding religion, I invite you to read our previous articles about 6 things you have to know about religions in Indonesia. In a nutshell, 9 out of 10 indonesian are muslims while others are Christians, Roman Catholic, Hindu or any other religion.

The religion of your business partner will strongly impact your relationship with this person and how you should behave to avoid any misunderstanding and faux-pas. Now that you know more about Indonesian background, we can get on to the business etiquette in Indonesia.

Let’s start with the language you should use

bahasa

The official language in Indonesia is Bahasa or more internationally known as Indonesia. Its common use started after Indonesian Independence back in 1945. As it is one of Malay’s dialect it owns several similarities with this language. However, it is important to note that there are many local dialects used (Javanese being the most popular) and that Indonesian is mainly used in public organizations and business settings.

indonesia hofstede
As you can see on this graph from Hofstede’ website and study, the Individualism factor is very low. As said on their website, for Indonesians family comes first. There is an important saying in Indonesia which goes as follows:  “You can get another wife or husband but not another mother or father”. For example, If someone wants to marry an Indonesian girl, he will have to get the parent’s approval first.In order to maintain harmony in the group, we have what we call the principle of Face. This principle can be found in several other countries such as China (Mian Zi), Japan, or South Korea for example. What does it mean? Even though it is quite difficult to define in a few words, it all comes down to reputation and shame. For Indonesian, preserving face means preserving oneself from shame, called “malu” in Indonesian. Thus, it is important to speak carefully to an Indonesian who did a mistake.
Here are some tips to do it the right way:

As a very diverse country, the national motto is “Unity in Diversity”, the main aim of the Indonesian government was to unify the country regardless of its multiculturalism. Just like China, Indonesia is more of a group-driven community. Their identity is strongly linked to their family background and frequented social groups such as family,friends and village.The importance of the community and unity

  • Don’t criticize them or even give negative feedback to the person in front of others
  • Do not shout, scream or talk aggressively to the person
  • Try to phrase your concerns in a positive way so that the person doesn’t feel “malu”
  • Note that “yes” in Indonesian (just like in Chinese) doesn’t mean “yes”. There are actually many ways to say “Yes” and some of them actually mean “No” …

Greetings

poutineindoneisa

The first step of any relationship is greeting. Several studies showed that we are judged in less than 30 secondes upon greetings and introduction. Consequently, leaving a good impression is key.

  • As you can see in the previous graph, the hierarchy is very important in Indonesia and can not be avoided. Because of that :
  • Start by greeting the highest in the hierarchy or oldest of the group
  • Don’t forget to use his title when spelling the name of your Indonesian business partner
  • Greet with a light (not firm like in Western countries) handshake along with the word “ Selamat”. If there are Muslims, “Asalam Malaykum” will be more appropriate.
  • What about your clothes? Stick with business conservative styles. If you are a woman it is better to be covered from neck to under the knees.

You can also combine your handshake with a slight bow by joining both of your hands in front of you, just like in the picture below:

greetings liverppool

Source: Liverpool FC in Indonesia – Liverpoolecho.co.uk

Exhanging business cards

071027-N-7883G-050 MURORAN, Japan (Oct. 27, 2007) - Cmdr. Dan Dusek, commanding officer of USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), exchanges business cards with Muroran Mayor Masashi Shingu during a reception held in the Japanese Steel Works reception hall. Fitzgerald will join USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 to participate in an exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in November. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kyle D. Gahlau (RELEASED)

As a good business man, you must have already thought about bringing your business cards. However, how should you hand it over? What should be on it? 

  • Give your business card with your 2 hands and never with your left hand only (As a matter of fact, the left hand can’t not be used for handshakes, eating, and greetings).
  • When receiving your Indonesian business partner business card accept it with both of your hands, look at it for a few seconds and place it in a secured and organized place to express your respect for your new relationship.
  • Also do not forget to translate your business card in Indonesian and to write your title on it

 

I hope this article will be helpful for you. In our next article, we will see the best practices when conducting meetings with Indonesian, enjoying a business lunch or dinner and some communication tips!

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