Successful Entertaining in Indonesia

It is vital to see all business entertaining opportunities as an important ingredient in the local business mix.

If you are unable to accept an invitation for whatever reason, make your apologies meaningfully and suggest another date. The importance of these relationship-building events cannot be overemphasised.

Detailed business issues are best left to the confines of the office. Use the meal as an ideal opportunity to broaden out the topics of conversation and develop your personal relationship more fully.

It is fairly unusual to be given a knife at mealtimes as the main implements used in Indonesia are a fork and spoon. Whenever eating, passing or receiving food, use the right hand as the left hand is considered to be unclean. (This rule applies even if you are left handed.) When you have finished your meal, place your fork face down on your plate and cross your spoon over it.

Indonesian food can be very spicy but less spicy alternatives are available. Ask you host for some local advice. It is polite to leave some food on your plate as a sign that you have been well satisfied with the amount of food provided.

Remember that most Indonesians are Muslims and may not, therefore, drink alcohol. Most Indonesians though (unless very orthodox) will not object to you drinking alcohol.

A gratuity charge of 10% is added in most good restaurants in Indonesia. If this charge has not been added then leave an equivalent amount.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Indonesia

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Indonesia is complex. That is hardly surprising given the fact that the country spans thousands of islands, has over 300 languages and population of about 243 million (which is rising rapidly.) Navigating your way around Indonesia is both literally and figuratively difficult.

However, Indonesia is a country which has tremendous economic potential. The Indonesian government is working hard to try to reduce the country’s dependence on exports of (raw) commodities and to diversify into both the manufacturing and service sectors. In addition to this, vast sums are being pumped into the basic infrastructure of a nation which has suffered from some core infrastructure weaknesses for decades.

About 50% of Indonesia’s population are under the age of 28 which means that the country has a huge demographic dividend with large numbers of people about to enter the workforce. This younger generation is aspirational and consumerist in nature. It could be argued that internal demand for goods and services in Indonesia is about to explode in the next decade.

Many observers believe that, provided some form of political stability can be maintained, Indonesia represents a country with massive growth potential. If Indonesia is to achieve its potential it needs a great deal of external stimulus and support. It needs Foreign Direct Investment and it needs skills and expertise. Indonesia probably needs your goods or services and you are advised to seriously consider Indonesia as a future market if you are not already operating there.

However, Indonesia is a thoroughly Asian country with a rich and unique business culture. The Indonesian approach to business is heavily relationship focused. You need to take time to develop deep and lasting alliances and you need to really understand Indonesian business culture if you are to avoid alienating potential partners.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Indonesian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips