Hierarchy also plays its part in the meeting situation and it is important that the right amount of deference is paid to the senior people present.
An Indonesian delegation will often enter the room in a hierarchical fashion, the most prominent members entering first. The conduct of meetings can sometimes seem very formal to some western business people who have a naturally more informal approach. Try to maintain an upright, alert body posture and avoid slouching in the seat, crossing legs or pointing the soles of feet at anybody.
Business cards are essential items as they give the information necessary to decide who the senior people are present at the meeting. Cards will be exchanged at the beginning of meetings. Take their card with your left hand and, after studying it carefully, place it in your card wallet or on the desk in front of you. (Your business card should be of high quality and contain as much information as possible, including your title, corporate position and educational qualifications.)
Initial meetings can often be dominated by seemingly inconsequential, small talk which has little if anything to do with core business matter. These introductory sessions can be an essential part of the all-important relationship-building process and should not be rushed or viewed as inconsequential. It is during these sessions that the whole basis for future co-operation is made.
Time is elastic in Indonesia – in fact, it is referred to as rubber time. Do not be surprised if meetings start late or finish late. Time is not important – the relationship is the key issue.
The issue of gift-giving in Indonesia is somewhat contentious as the country has, for years, had a reputation for large-scale corruption reaching from the highest levels of government down to petty bureaucrats and department managers within corporations.
Whilst it is true that such corruption exists, it is also true that the giving of small gifts to help develop and maintain business relationships is also an indigenous Indonesian custom. Gifts are not usually exchanged during first meetings but can be offered at subsequent events. To avoid any hint of corruption, give small, corporate gifts.
Gifts should always be wrapped and will rarely be opened in front of the giver. Avoid giving any form of alcoholic gift to any Muslim colleagues or clients. If offered a gift, accept reluctantly and with humility.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Indonesia only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.