Indonesia: Gift Giving – Part 1


Selecting and presenting an appropriate business gift

General Guidelines

During the first meeting, presenting your Indonesian counterparts with small gifts is one of the best ways to display your interest and sincerity in establishing a long-term business relationship. On this occasion, the gifts should be modest but thoughtful, such as tokens representative of your country or that feature your company logo.

You are also expected to give gifts to celebrate an occasion, when you return from a trip, when you are invited to an Indonesian home, when a visitor comes to tour your office or workplace, and to thank someone for providing you with a service.

Gifts of food are always appreciated by Indonesians, but avoid bringing food gifts with you to a dinner party [unless it has been agreed upon beforehand]. To bring food may imply that your host cannot provide enough. Instead, send food as a thank-you gift afterwards. Candy or fruit baskets are good choices.

Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is not a part of Indonesian culture. This action implies that the recipient is greedy and impatient. Moreover, if the gift turns out to be a poor choice, ‘loss of face’ will result. Instead, the recipient will briefly say ‘thank-you’, set aside the gift, and then open it only after your departure. You will also be expected to follow this ritual when you receive a gift.

Western advertising has popularized flowers as gifts.

Remember that personal gifts from a man to a woman can be misinterpreted as having a romantic intent. Consequently, Indonesian business protocol requires that a businessman say that his wife sent the gift.

At Chinese New Year, it is customary to present a gift of money in a red envelope to children and nongovernmental service personnel you deal with on a regular basis. The gift is called a ‘hong bao.’ Ensure that you give only new bills in even numbers and even amounts. Many employers give each employee a ‘hong bao’ equivalent to one month’s salary. All Indonesians receive one month’s salary at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. This is a national labor law.

Appreciated Gifts

With the exception of dinner parties, food can be a welcome gift. Moreover, when visiting an area of Indonesia where a delicacy is available, it’s expected that you bring samples back for your friends. When selecting a gift of food for an observant Muslim, however, meat products must be ‘halal’, which is the Muslim designation of permitted foods.

In Indonesia, songbirds are prized pets. In fact, tapes and CDs of the music of champion songbirds are popular here, and make good gifts for those with affection for birds.

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