- Arrive on time but consider that your Indonesian counterpart may be late to a meeting. Try and be flexible with your time-planning to allow for this.
- Greet everyone in the room individually with a handshake. It is best to do this in order of oldest to youngest.
- Receiving Business Cards: Asian cultures can interpret the respect you show someone's business card to be indicative of the respect you will show the individual in business. Use both hands (or the right hand only) to receive a business card as the left hand is considered unclean and is used for the removal of dirt and cleaning. Do not put the card away immediately, but regard it carefully and place it in front of you on the table until everyone is seated.
- Presenting Business Cards: Use both hands or the right hand only when presenting a business card, making sure that the writing is facing the other person.
- Initial business meetings are usually reserved for acquainting people with each other and building rapport. In the first few meetings, business might not even be discussed. Avoid seeming hasty to get to the matters at hand as a good relationship is critical to doing business with Indonesians.
- The Indonesians generally take an unaggressive approach to business as they view boisterous behaviour very negatively. Rather, they speak softly and with little emotional weight. Try to echo this same style of communication. Show compassion and be personable, but do not be confrontational or let emotion get in the way of negotiations.
- Almost everything can be seen as negotiable in Indonesia, so expect some bargaining. They do not bargain aggressively and high-pressure tactics are likely to collapse negotiations. Therefore, if they have unrealistically high starting positions, allow time to gentle sway them over the course of the meeting.
- Do not interrupt an Indonesian. They will usually give you plenty of room to speak and often show a great amount of respect during conversation. If you do not do the same, they may be too intimidated to share their opinions at all.
- Expect them to defer to hearing your opinion a lot as Indonesians often ask their counterparts to speak first so that they can modify their own proposals. They show a great amount of deference by trying to say what they think you want to hear, however this can make it hard to decipher what their genuine opinions are. Though it is possible to get Indonesians to clarify what they mean, meetings still often end with a few points seeming vague.
- They may be reluctant to tell you when they cannot understand or disagree, so sometimes it can be hard to judge how successful negotiations actually are.
Personal relationships play a large role in Indonesian business culture. They see trust as key to good business and will be looking for an honest commitment to the relationship from you. Their business networks are often comprised of relatives and peers as nepotism is assumed to guarantee trust.
Indonesians generally see themselves as doing business with people, not entities. You represent yourself as an individual more than you do your company. Therefore, expect them to ask many questions about your family and personal life in an effort to get to know you. Sometimes these can come across as direct and overly-personal, but it is not intended this way and they will expect you to ask the same of them. Doing so in return will signify respect.
In Indonesian business culture, people believe that good harmony and relations are the most important components to successful business. The concept that ‘time is money’ does not translate culturally. Instead of being urgently productive, people try to maintain a fun/pleasant atmosphere as they work. Therefore, keep in mind that they may take a longer time negotiating and completing things. Do not be pushy or insistent on punctuality or speed as displays of aggression or heavy insistence can make Indonesians hesitant of doing business with you. Accept that they can be more concerned about having a smooth business negotiation than making a hard-driven profit.
- Indonesian business culture is hierarchical based on age and position. Leadership is paternalistic and the oldest person usually leads discussion.
- Despite the hierarchical structure of Indonesian business, consensus is sought from everyone before a decision is made in order to maintain harmony.
- Your Indonesian counterpart may ask for your help or advice. It’s a good idea to readily give personal favours when possible.
- On the Corruption Perception Index (2016), Indonesia ranks 90th out of 168 countries, receiving a score of 37 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.