What you should know before negotiating
Sucking in air through your teeth is one way to signal a definite answer of ‘no.’ In Indonesian business culture, this sound is used to indicate that there is a serious problem, even if on the surface, what is being said sounds positive.
If you can tell that the respondent is deliberately ignoring your question, this is often another way of indicating a ‘no’ answer.
There is often reluctance among Indonesians to admit that they don’t know the answer to a question. In fact, they will sometimes give the wrong directions as a face-saving measure!
Don’t assume that a smile is an indication of amusement or approval. Frequently, smiling is used to mask embarrassment, shyness, nervousness, disapproval, and other feelings of distress. This is why you will sometimes observe Indonesians smiling or laughing during inappropriately somber or tense moments.
Female business travelers are likely to find acceptance, since a significant proportion of Indonesian women already work as professionals. Still, visiting businesswomen are advised to act and dress conservatively and professionally at all times.
In Indonesian business culture, displays of overly aggressive, domineering behavior in women will not be well received. Although women in business are expected to be just as competent as men, they must calmly assert their influence and authority in a firm, restrained manner.
In Indonesia, the position of women is quite different from other Muslim countries: they can vote, have full civil rights, and on many islands, hold leadership positions. Moreover, Indonesian women have never been veiled or secluded.
Women should also be sure to include spouses when extending any invitations for social functions to Indonesian businessmen.
Bribery is common at most levels of society and is known as ‘facilitating payments.’
Indonesian business is hierarchical and decision-making lies with senior management. Be sure you are meeting with higher-ranking individuals, especially in the deal’s final stages.
A deal is never complete until all the paperwork is signed. Since Indonesians [especially the Chinese] often consult astrologers, the signing may be delayed until a ‘lucky’ day arrives.
In Indonesia, the decision-making process is slow and deliberate. If you attempt to rush or put pressure of any kind on the decision, you will only risk alienating your Indonesian counterparts. A very low-keyed and thoughtful approach to business will help you maintain harmony with the Indonesian side.
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