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10 Indonesia Business Cultures You Must Know

by Raka Zahira Farhani

Just like business cultures in other countries, Indonesia also has its own general characteristics. The following article explains the most common Indonesia business cultures. It includes attire, hierarchy system and other common rules. This article can help in understanding Indonesia business cultures and how it differs from other countries.

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1. Hierarchy System

There is a noticeable hierarchy system in most of Indonesia’s business environment. Those in higher positions or have greater status are called with titles of Sir and Ma’am before their names. It is seen as a display of respect. On the other hand, those who are in lesser positions must follow their requests with no questions. Also, workers would rather stay quiet instead of correcting their bosses when they may have made a mistake. They try to avoid confrontational situations because they may cause disruptions at work place. Other than that, a peaceful working place is more favorable.

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2. Longer Time for Negotiation

When making a business deal or negotiating a business matter, Indonesians take a lot of time. It may even requires many meetings. They think things through and wait for the right time. They are not particularly straight forward with their decision. The most important thing is to let things flow with no pressure. When rushed, Indonesians see it as a sign of danger. They might even become frightened since they are not given the space they need to come to a conclusion. There are many things they take into account for a business. They might even ask for other people’s advice which could cause longer time for a negotiation to end.

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3. Business Meeting Hours

It is preferable for a meeting to start at the scheduled time. However it is not surprising for most business meeting hours in Indonesia to start late. A possible reason for this is probably because of the ‘flexible time’ culture. Most Indonesians take their time and do not feel the need to rush. Since the seniors have more power, they are usually tolerated for coming late into a meeting.

The same thing does not always apply to the younger workers. Also important to be noted, if there are many Muslim workers then meeting hours should be scheduled accordingly. It is better to avoid meeting hours that could disrupt their prayers’ time.

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4. Entering a Meeting Room

There is also an unwritten rule on the order of entering a meeting room. It is seen as a very respectful manner to allow those in higher positions to enter the room first. After they have entered the room, the others can follow. It is rude for a worker who is not of high importance to enter first because they do not have the status to do so. They must follow their leaders. In short, people enter a meeting room based on ranks.

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5. ‘Yes’ Means Many Things

As said before, most Indonesians tend to avoid conflicts. During a business discussion, they may even try to avoid disagreements. They do it by seemingly agreeing on some things but in reality, they may have different opinions. In result, they tend to say ‘yes’ on a lot of things they actually do not agree. They do not openly voice their their true opinions. They prefer to keep some things to themselves because maintaining peace is the main priority.

This specific trait may confused or even agitate some foreigners. But keep in mind, that not everyone in Indonesia conduct business like this. Some may even do it because they have a good intention. They may value relations or even friendship above conflicts. An open disagreement could lead to a fractured relation. Most Indonesians value relationship between one another more than a business profit.

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6. Friendship in Business

Indonesians prefer to form a friendship first with their business partners before proceeding further. They may ask personal and private questions to get to know their business parter’s life more intensely. If they feel that they have found a good person then the business continue. Indonesians believe that a good business also needs a good business partner. Without fully knowing the whole background of the partner, then a trustworthy bond cannot form. In the future, it may affect the business negatively. Therefore, they would rather spend their time knowing their partner before fully jumping into any business matters.

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7. Consensus is Important

Consensus is a a value that Indonesians take seriously. It plays an important role in Indonesia’s social culture as well business. Every decision and steps taken for a business must be based on consensus. It does not necessarily matter if the best solution is not taken for the business. What matters most is what everybody agrees on. Indonesians sees the communal opinions as important.

Other than that, the seniors’ opinions are highly respected. In result, they also influence a consensus. There is a higher chance that the people will hear and follow through on what the seniors say. The reason for this is because, seniors are experienced and believed to know better than those who are still young in the business field.

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8. Clean Reputation

In Indonesia’s business culture, a reputation represents the dignity and value of a person. If possible, a clean reputation must be maintained. A person who does not provoke fights among workers or causes conflict can be said to have a good reputation. It is also another reason why a lot of people dealing in business try to avoid confrontation. It has the potential of ruining a good business as well as relations. Another way of maintaining a reputation is by avoiding a public criticism. This is to save ‘face’. Criticisms are preferable being said privately instead of given at a public platform.

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9. Appearance in Business

For a business to be taken seriously, most workers must dress in a formal manner. The men wear shirt and tie. They might even have to wear suits. The same general rules apply to women. However, women are expected to dress appropriately. It means that their clothes must show modesty because Indonesia’s culture value modesty. On the other hand, a business corporation may have uniforms that everyone must wear.

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10. Business Cards

Handing out business cards is a great way to connect with other business partners. Exchanging cards begin before a meeting. It is better when a card is both in English and Bahasa Indonesia. Include necessary information such as corporate position ass well as educational status. When receiving a card, the polite way to accept it is to take it with the right hand. Taking it with the left hand is very rude. Place the card inside the pocket or a wallet. If already seated, the card can be put on the table.

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The explanation above could help in avoiding misunderstandings in the business field. It is best to try and follow the general culture for a smooth business relation.

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