Indonesian Business Culture Cultural Studies Essay

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Background and Introduction

If we want to start our business or want to make a business with the others in their country we have to know and study about their business culture, what things they do in business, how to approach them, what they like and dislike, the business etiquette, dos and don'ts. In here the topic is about Indonesian Business Culture so we will discuss about Indonesian.

Before we discuss about Indonesian business culture its better if we know Indonesia country first. Indonesian use bahasa Indonesia to communicate, businessman spoke English and Chinese but for travel and live you have to learn basic bahasa Indonesia.

The graph is about religion in Indonesia. Muslim dominating nearly 90%, Christian nearly 5%, Catholic nearly 3%, and the rest is Buddhism, Hindu, other.

Dos and don'ts


Introduce yourself with handshake and smile.

It's a polite introduction and they will think you're friendly and kind.

Greet and smile to the people when you meet them.

They think people who greet and smile to them is a kind people and easy to talk, friendly people and vice versa.

Be a low profile person.

When you disagree with something say it with manner and non offense words. Respect them. Indonesian don't like arrogant person.


Use left hand to gift and receive anything and eat with left hand

Indonesian use left hand to clean up after using toilet, that's why left hand is dirty.

When you use them Indonesian people think you're not polite and some people will get mad to you (Especially elders and seniors).

Touch or Pat other people's head

They believe head is sacred and you have to respect it. It's not done among the adult neither children.

Spit near people

Indonesian usually spit when they feel disgusted or when they disrespect a person (done by some not intellectual person), so avoid spitting near people. If you do that they will think you're not polite and insult them.

Open gifts when received

It will show that you are greedy and are not polite

Give Muslim gifts of alcohol or Pig. Include perfume contain alcohol, things from pig skin.

Give Hindus gifts of cow

Cow is a sacred animal in their belief and religion.

Theories learnt to analyze Indonesian business culture

Greert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions

Power Distance Index (PDI) = the extent society accept unequal power in organizations and institutions. Indonesia PDI takes the highest place in Cultural dimensions which nearly 80. High PDI means high unequal power in society

Individualism (IDV) versus Collectivism = Individual (take care of themselves and their immediate families) versus Collectivism (groups and extended families like uncles, aunts, grandparents). IDV takes last in Cultural Dimensions which nearly 10. Low IDV means Society is more Collectivism than Individualism. Indonesia prefer loyal and commit with partner in work, boss, and the others. They take care of their group and take responsibility from the group.

Masculinity (MAS) versus Femininity = man's values (competitiveness, materialism) versus woman's values (quality of life and relationship). MAS take third place in Cultural Dimensions which is about 41. This is mean Femininity or Woman's values are more than Masculinity.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) = society's tolerance about uncertainty and ambiguity. UAI takes second place in Cultural Dimensions which nearly 45. High UAI means low society's tolerance about uncertainty and ambiguity. Efforts to reduce this level are to strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations. The final goal is to control everything to avoid the unexpected.

Business Ethics in Indonesia

Business Cards

Business card normally exchanged after the first introduction(handshake and greeting)

Business card should display your title, this will help people to know your credibility and your image

Show some respect by printed one side of the business cards with Bahasa Indonesia

Always give a receive cards with right hand or two hands ( left hand hold your right wrist)

Treat business card with respect, put it in business card pocket and never put it in your back pocket.

Don't write anything in the Business cards, it not polite.

What to wear / appearance

Business attire such as suit. Using tie like formal clothes is very recommended

Women should wear dresses which cover from ankle to neck because in Indonesia the more clothes and dress you wear is better. Avoid using tight fitting clothes. At least use skirt that cover knees, and blouse to cover their upper arms.

Wear things depends on the weather, since Indonesia is tropical and the weather usually hot. Use cotton or light clothing but avoids transparent or you can see clothes.

Communication styles

Indonesian is indirect communicator's person, they do not always say what they mean and want. Pay attention to gestures and body language to understand what they mean to say.

Commonly Indonesian speaks quietly and subdued tone. Loud tone and voice may offence people or annoying.

Do not put your hands in the pockets when talking to someone, is not polite and like bossy.

Do not uses your index finger to call someone (even your subordinate or people who ranks or position lower than you). It's offensive.

Address each person using his/her title plus full name. Rank and status is important in the culture.

Use Mr., Ms, Madam, or Miss if the person don't have a title. Man addressed as Pak (Mr.) or Bapak (Sir). Lady use Ibu.

People normally called by the first name, Such as Mr. Robert, Ms. Susan, Rather than last name.


Stand up when your host/ hostess enter the room

No physical contact between men and women, just a firm handshake ( Hindus and Muslims)

Business Meeting

Indonesian don't like to make decision in rush. They will think the consideration and the other things so you have to be ready for the patience.

Indonesian doesn't like to be rushed to attend something. You have to understand why they always come not one time, is like their habit. Don't hope they will come on time. It's called rubber time or watch.

Recommendation for expatriates/ businessman working in Indonesia with Indonesians

When you want to work or start your business in Indonesia with Indonesians, the basic things you need is to learn Bahasa Indonesia, this is very important. You can work with Indonesians who spoke English or you can hire a translator. It is better if you can understand Bahasa Indonesia. You have to know what things that you must dos and don'ts. You also have to know the Business Ethic in Indonesia. Indonesia has religions and Muslims is Dominant so you have to know how to deal polite and not insult them. Muslims have fasting routine during the month of Ramadan from sun up to sun down. Eating in front them is not polite. So you have to understand them. You also have to make good impression and image so they will believe you. You have to concentrate your personal relation with your business partner in order to gain trust and they like you. You have to be prepared when Indonesians ask you about personal questions like what religions did you follow? , ask about your wife/ husband, children, also income or present job. Indonesian like to have a conversation and talk about this, they don't like to rush to business so you have to be patient about this. You have to understand that Indonesian tend to say "Yes" even they don't mean it. You have to know when they want to say no but still say yes so you don't lose your face to them.

When you are invited to your partners house, better if you attend if you can't or have different things to do you have to decline with good reasons like you have to go to somewhere far from there or they person who invited you will lost face and they worst they will dislike you (if the occasion is very important to the host). Don't ever start business conversation until the host begin to talk about it if you start discuss about this they will think that you just willing to finish the business and make deal as fast as you can. If you do that you will lose your partner and it's hard to you to make another business because Indonesian like to say things behind your back, every person will know that you like to rush into business and no one want to make a business with you. When you invited to a dinner, never eat before your host do or the host ask you to. It's not polite if you do that. Always eat, pass, and receive foods with your right hand. Always prepared for the tastes of the food you will get some very spicy and unique. When finished eating your meal cross your spoon with fork, knives are rarely used. That's all the suggestion but there still many things that you have to learn and study about the culture, etiquette and protocol before doing business in Indonesia.


Like the other country Indonesian also has many culture and things like dos and don'ts business ethics and things that you have to know and learn about before doing business in Indonesia. It is like a basic guide before doing business because it's very important. Better if you have much knowledge about Indonesian business culture and you can apply it. Indonesians will feel welcome at easy and it will make you to make your business easier.