Cultural do’s and don’ts in Indonesia

Setting up business requires investment in personal relationships. Trust and personal contact are key to establish successful business relationships. Personal visits are important to Indonesians. Moreover, dealing with someone face-to-face is way more effective than telephone calls or mails. So take your time to build a strong business relationship and show up in person whenever possible. During the first meetings with potential business partners, don’t get right down to business; it is more about getting to know each other. It is a prelude towards exploring business opportunities later on. Time is needed to develop business relationships. So be patient and refrain from hurrying. Negotiations might be lengthier than you are used to. Indonesians love to bargain and being hurried may cause offence. When negotiating avoid any pressure tactics or being confrontational. Indonesians rarely disagree in public. Indonesia is constitutionally a secular state. Although regional differences, Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country. Therefore get acquainted with the major Muslim holidays and practices.
  • Shake hands and give a slight nod when meeting for the first time. Most Indonesians apply only very light pressure when shaking hands. After the first meeting, a slight bow or nod of the head is sufficient. Shake an Indonesian woman’s hand only if she initiates the greeting.
  • Be punctual for any (business) meeting. Call if you are delayed. It is common for Indonesians to arrive late. Nevertheless,  do not make any comment about the meeting having started late.
  • Indonesians want very much to please. An untruthful answer may be given so as not to disappoint anyone.
  • Business dialogues usually start at the top of a company and then move down to the operating level to discuss more practical and technical matters. Later on, discussions will return once again to the top level of the organisation.
  • The exchange of business cards is common when being introduced. Please present and receive the card slowly and with much interest. Cards in English are acceptable.