As in other Asian countries “keeping face” is of fundamental importance as is respect for one’s elders. The Indonesians have a concept known as “The Bapak Syndrome”, which broadly means that, “The boss is always right and only he or she can decide.” Courtesy is paramount and you should always avoid impatience or irritation because this is frowned upon. Be friendly since such importance is attached to personal relationships.
Showing the soles of your feet to someone is also regarded as extremely rude. Backslapping is not welcomed. You should never give or receive anything from anyone with your left hand, although using both hands is acceptable. Never stand with your arms folded or hands on hips since this is seen as aggressive.
For business meetings a shirt and tie is the usual norm. Muslim customs especially for female attire need to be observed, although makeup and perfume lightly applied are acceptable.
Meetings do not always start on time and people are often late due to traffic congestion. Introductions are via a handshake or bow followed by the presentation of business cards. If you’re offered refreshments during a meeting don’t start drinking until the host has done so or invited you to do so. The key to successful negotiation is via clear communications and relationship-building. At the end of a meeting you can further smooth the way by saying thank you: “Terima kasih.”
British Embassy Jakarta
Jalan MH Thamrin 75
Regional Director for UKTI & FCO Prosperity, South East Asia
Tel: +62 21 2356 5200
Fax: +62 21 2356 5352