Guidelines for business dress
Indonesia is hot and humid throughout the year. During the day, most of the lowlands have a temperature of 75 to 95 F, and humidity around 75%. Cool temperatures occur only in the mountainous regions, where business travelers do not normally visit.
Because of the intense humidity, clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton and linen are often the best choices.
The rainy season is from November through May, but sudden showers occur all year long. Consequently, many people carry an umbrella every day, which, when it is not raining, is used for protection from the sun.
Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim culture, so conservative dress is key in many situations. Err on the formal side until you know to dress otherwise. Nevertheless, you may be surprised how informal dress can sometimes be at work and in social situations.
The safest option for a visiting businessman in Jakarta is to wear a suit jacket and tie, and remove them if it seems appropriate. A suit and tie are essential, however, during formal meetings with high-ranking government officials. A tie is not appropriate in some operations outside of the urban areas such as the oil/gas/mining sectors.
Because of the extreme heat and humidity, business dress in Indonesia is often casual. Standard formal office wear for men includes dark trousers and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt and tie, without a jacket. Many businessmen wear a short-sleeved shirt without a tie.
If an invitation specifies ‘lounge suit’, this actually only applies to Indonesian men. Western men should wear a standard Western business suit.
Many Indonesian men wear an open-necked, long-sleeved batik shirt to the office; these garments are also for formal social situations such as marriages or ceremonies. Western businessmen are encouraged to wear batik to formal social situations, although a shirt and tie are also acceptable.
Women must be sensitive to Muslim beliefs, and, consequently, wear blouses that cover at least their upper arms. Skirts should be knee length or longer.
For women, standard business attire includes dresses or blouse and skirt combinations with sleeves and hems that are conservative in length. Business suits and hosiery are reserved for more formal offices, while pants and pantsuits are best avoided. Bright and vivid hues in traditional patterns are generally considered appropriate for the workplace.
Respectability, even in casual dress, is preferred. Generally, shorts should only be worn in the urban areas and tourist destinations.
Jeans are acceptable casual wear especially by the younger Indonesian generation.
Regardless of what you choose to wear, make the effort to maintain a clean, well-groomed appearance. Also, Indonesians bathe several times a day.
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