Learn more
"Yes, but" means no - more on business cultural differences
Getting back to the subject of cultural differences, let's try to outline the most important features of the Indonesia business culture - useful while performing your daily internship duties but not only:

1. Dress code:

-High heat and humidity require packing enough clothing to always appear clean & fresh. You may have to change your clothes several times a day (and shower) to maintain this look.

-Women should wear long-sleeve blouses and skirts that cover the knee and are limited to clothing colors that are muted or dark. Leave brightly colored clothing for beach party.

-Men generally wear dark slacks, long sleeve and light colored shirt, and tie (no jacket). However in a very casual business office a short sleeve shirt and no tie would be appropriate.

-Jeans may be worn for very casual, but never shorts for men or women. Even though the climate is warm and humid, proper attire even for very casual appearance will always dictate your choice of clothing.

-Do not put your hands into your pockets when talking with someone.

2. Meeting and greeting:

-Shake hands and give a slight nod when meeting for the first time. After the first meeting, a handshake is not necessary; a slight bow or nod of the head is sufficient. Shake an Indonesian woman's hand only if she initiates the greeting.

-Greetings are not to be rushed. They carry importance and formality. Patience is a necessity when doing business in Indonesia. Business dealings are usually slow, long and frustrating. Business relationships must be allowed to develop over time. Several visits are generally necessary to complete a contract.

-Keep both feet on the floor when sitting. Do not cross your legs, especially not with an ankle over the knee. Sitting with good posture (rigid) and both feet on the floor is a sign of respect. Don’t allow the bottom of your feet to face or point at another person.

-To Indonesians, insisting on a written contract is a breech of trust, though many understand a Westerner’s need for such documents. A contract should be viewed as a guideline rather than a statement of duties and responsibilities.

3. Communication and behaviour

-Indonesians abhor confrontation due to the potential loss of face. To be polite, they may tell you what they think you want to hear. If you offend them, they will mask their feelings and maintain a veil of civility. If an Indonesian begins to avoid you or acts coldly towards you, there is a serious problem.

-Indonesians are used to an overcrowded society; they tend to ignore inadvertent invasions of space. Allowing for personal space is a sign of respect. Approval is sometimes shown with a pat on the shoulder, but American-style backslapping is considered offensive.

-Be on time for any meetings. The meetings traditionally start late, and your Indonesian business associates will probably arrive late. However, you are expected on time, and should never make any comment about the meeting starting late or any person arriving late.

-Indonesians are indirect communicators. This means they do not always say what they mean. It is up to the listener to read between the lines or pay attention to gestures and body language to get the real message.

-Jam Karet (rubber time) describes the Indonesian approach to time. Things are not rushed as the attitude is that everything has its time and place. Time does not bring money, good relations and harmony do.

Hope you can find those tips useful during your time in Indonesia and for your future professional career. Of course, the list is much longer and every some time we come back to this vital subject but generally lots of respect, understanding and observation are the basics through your internship. And something to help you understand the "mister, photo" requests - taking photographs is a way of honoring someone in Indonesia :)
Whant to offer a internship? Let us know!
Our internships have been featured at the following universities: