One of the best tips I can share with you is to learn Indonesian etiquette. Showing politeness and respect in Indonesia will show locals that you care enough to take the time to bridge the cultural gap. Even if you forget or get something wrong, at least you tried.
Greet and Meet
- A Shaking of hands, look them in the eye, and a quick nod will suffice for the first meet.. Once you know each other, a hi-5 is cool.
- If you’re a man meeting a woman, only shake if she initiates. Greet people with Selamat Pagi, (morning), Selamat Siang, (late morning)Selamat sori(late afternoon), or Selamat Malam (late evening)which means peace. It’s good to say it slowly and sincerely.
Body Language is Important
- locals become more affectionate to Foreigners as time passes.
- Indonesians tend to ignore your space.
- Men rarely show affection publicly although you will see it more in Bali with foreigners or mixed couples.
- Do not touch anyone’s head, even children. In Hinduism, it is where the spirit lives.
- When sitting don’t cross your legs and don’t point your feet at anyone.
- Pointing at a person is a sign of disrespect.
- Pretend your left-hand doesn’t exist in Indonesia, it used for wiping your behind. In other words, don’t pass, touch, receive, point, eat, or even touch food with it.
- When Indonesians pat you on the shoulder, you’ve been accepted my friend. Welcome to the family.
Wining & Dining
- Social events will always start 30 minutes later than the actual time.
- Let the Indonesian businessmen and women start the conversation. They’re King and Queen of the castle.
- Use a fork in the left hand and the spoon in the right. Additionally, your right hand is more common in Indonesia.
- Muslims do not drink liquor or eat pork. Balinese Hindus are the opposite, they will eat pork and drink cocktails.
- Never reject Indonesians hospitality including food They will take it as an insult.
- It is considered an honor when invited to an Indonesian’s home.
- A host is always last to sit down and begin their meal
- The eldest or the guest of honors will usually begin the meal.
- If you invite people out to dinner, you are expected to pay the bill.
- A scribbling gesture on the palm of your hand is a polite way to ask for the bill but doesn’t always work.
The Corporate World
- Although Indonesians almost always arrive late, foreigners are expected to be punctual.
- Bring lots of business cards.
- It’s always good to have a first meeting with the owner, or top CE of the company.
- Indonesians really take their time when initiating any type of business compared to more aggressive types. After a while it is okay to excuse yourself.
- Patience is a requirement while conducting any type of business in Indonesia.
- Avoid disagreement and never argue with an Indonesian business man or woman.
- Always have a face to face meeting. Emails, and phone calls are not considered personal touches.
- Never try to force an Indonesian to sign a contract, it’s a sign of mistrust. This is where patience comes in handy.
- Indonesians will avoid telling you any type of bad news.
- Avoid pressuring, any type of confrontation, or disagreeing in public. Follow these rules and you will have more success in negotiation.
Dress for the Occasion
- Men should wear a suit and jacket for the first business meeting if corporate If it is a more casual meeting then I would suggest jeans or slacks coupled with a polo shirt or short sleeve collared shirt.
- In Bali, a short sleeve batik shirt and jeans are acceptable at churches and temples, although you will see people come in with shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops. Better to wear tennis shoes or dress shoes.
- Women should wear skirts below the knees and blouses (never sleeveless) or longer dresses. Avoid mini-skirts and wearing bikinis everywhere (Muslim areas)
Extra Helpful Do’s & Don’ts
- Taking photographs is a way of honoring someone. Indonesians may ask to take your picture.
- Don’t assume tomorrow means tomorrow. Tomorrow may mean sometime in the future. Set specific dates and times for arrangements.
- Always respect all government workers and civil servants.