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Doing Business in Indonesia (with description)

Flag of Indonesia
Formal Meetings: Behaving with restraint and politeness is particularly important in a business context. Indonesians regard a personal relationship as a necessary precursor to a business relationship. Therefore, you must establish that you are worthwhile before you can a business deal can be made.

Relationships take time and effort and you must show reciprocal generosity to your hosts. Polite Javanese will often perch on the very edge of their seats and look at the floor at meetings, to show their respect for 'superiors'. It's a good idea to try to follow the way they sit and avoid sprawling or flinging out your arms. In particular, it is considered offensive to sit with your legs stretched out so that the soles of your feet face other people.

Try to avoid holding eye contact too strongly during business meeting. Others may think you are glaring.

A Typical Meeting: Most meetings begin with an exchange of business cards and an explanation of who people are and their positions. Indonesians feel uncomfortable if they don't know your status and thus how to address you and how to behave towards you.

Choose a spokesperson to introduce your group. The spokesperson should spend a few minutes introducing each person individually - their names, their status (Director, Manager etc.), their field, their current projects.

Each person should make him/herself known by standing and making a slight bow. The spokesman may then make a short formal address, speaking about what you as a group representing an institution has to offer specifically this group. This will allow Indonesians to assess whether or not they will be able to help you. Only then, make your case for what kind of help you seek.

At the beginning or end of the meeting a formal presentation of a gift to the head of the Indonesian group is appropriate. Most favoured gifts are ones that can be 'put on display' such as plaques, ties, coasters, badges, testimonials

An informal session may follow, with private or group discussions over a light meal, to allow personal relations to develop. Generally, Indonesians will spend quite a long time chatting about families, children, mutual friends etc. before proceeding on to anything serious. They do not like to start any serious discussions until they feel quite comfortable.

Indonesian will have a carefully planned agenda for the meeting and it is considered rude to leave early or cut the agenda short due to lack of time. Their agenda may consist of attending a meal, touring the institution or being presented with a cultural programme of music and dance.

Punctuality: Time is flexible in Indonesia and many Indonesians do not have the same sense of time as in the West. While you should always be punctual, don't be surprised if someone arrives late, or if a meeting begins late, or if a short meeting stretches out for several more hours than you had originally planned.