Indonesia: Let’s Make a Deal! – Part 1


What you should know before negotiating

Taking the time to develop solid, long-term personal relationships is of vital importance when doing business here. In Indonesian business culture, relationships are based on respect and trust. Consequently, you will have to take time to establish good will, and this often involves making several trips over a period of months.

Indonesians tend to be very friendly and you should reciprocate this immediate friendliness. They are more likely to buy from people who treat them with deference and seem to genuinely like them.

Your presentation material and company literature should be translated into Bahasa Indonesia, the country’s official language. You may also want to make your presentation in a bi-lingual format. However, all official correspondence with government officials must be in Bahasa Indonesia. Use of the language is also mandated for many advertisements and publications.

Although many government officials may speak some English, they will probably prefer to hold meetings in Bahasa Indonesia. Fortunately, English-speaking translators are usually accessible.

Indonesian business culture is extremely hierarchical. If you are part of a negotiating team or other type of delegation, line up so that the most important individuals will be introduced first. Also, if you are introducing two people, state the name of the most important person first.

It’s an asset to have your business card printed in color and embossed, since Indonesian businesspeople tend to appreciate ornate cards. Most importantly, however, ensure that your card emphasizes your name and position.

Your business card should contain as much information as possible, including your business title and qualifications. Indonesians include all of this data on their card, as well as any titles of nobility.

Business cards should be exchanged immediately, after an initial handshake and greeting. Also, ensure that the card is offered with your right hand, facing the recipient.

When you receive another person’s card, make a show of carefully examining it for a few moments and then remarking upon it before putting it in your card case or on a nearby table. Be aware that accepting a business card and then immediately stuffing it into your back pocket will be perceived as disrespectful.

Meetings tend to be very formal: the Indonesian participants will enter the room based on their hierarchical position and then take a seat. You will be expected to remain standing until this ritual concludes.

Politeness is a necessary part of a successful business relationship in Indonesia. Politeness will not, however, affect the determination of Indonesian businesspeople to reach their objectives.

The meeting will usually begin with a bit of preliminary ‘small talk’, or a subsequent meeting with a period of ‘catching up.’ You should focus on business whenever the most important Indonesian brings up the subject.

The pace of business negotiations in Indonesia is slower than you may be accustomed to in the United States. There is also less of an emphasis on efficiency, punctuality, and deadlines–hence the popular concept of ‘rubber time’ that exists in Indonesia. Consequently, it is important to remain patient and accommodating in all of your dealings.

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