Doing Business in Indonesia
Business in Indonesia is conducted either in English or Bahasa Indonesian. If you are
doing business in a larger city or with multinational corporations, English will more
likely be used. It is however wise to bring an interpreter. Businesses located in more
rural areas will find it difficult to conduct business in English.
Initial introductions in Indonesian business are formal. Handshakes are generally
exchanged before and after business meetings, but the grip is generally softer than
those used in the Western world. Greetings are occasionally accompanied by a slight
If you are being introduced to several people, it is customary to introduce yourself to
the eldest member of the group. It is acceptable to shake hands with women.
Negotiations can be quite lengthy as Indonesians like to give enough time to carefully
consider the business proposal. They do not like rush when conducting business.
Often it takes several meetings before coming to an agreement with your Indonesian
counterparts. Initial meetings generally serve to make acquaintances.
Business Etiquette (Do’s and Don’ts)
Have your business cards printed in English. If you know if you are working
with Chinese Indonesians, it is polite to have the reverse side printed in Chinese. If
you are working with ethnic Indonesians it is necessary to have the reverse side
translated into Bahasa Indonesian.
Have all academic qualifications and titles printed on the card. When handing
your card, offer it using the right hand or both hands.
Arrive on time to meetings, but as a general rule, do not expect your Indonesian
counterparts to do so. For Indonesians, time management is not a priority and little
effort is put into planning ahead.
Address your Indonesian business colleagues with the appropriate professional
title. When introducing yourself or handing a business card, include your title, as
people with more qualifications are held in higher regard.
Don't forget to take into consideration that Muslims pray five times a day when
scheduling business meetings with your Indonesian counterparts. Prayers usually
last fifteen minutes and time should be allocated for them.
Don't be afraid to recap what you have discussed in your meeting. It may be
necessary to explain yourself in a different way. Indonesians will never indicate if
they do not understand something so it is wise to summarise in order avoid any
Don't offer alcohol, leather, certain animal products or knives as gifts to your