Indonesia: Prosperous Entertaining – Part 1


Entertaining for business success

Accept social invitations of any kind; these occasions are an important part of doing business here. If you must decline, give a plausible excuse so that you do not cause the invitee to ‘lose face’ and so that you remain on the preferred guest list in the future.

In the early stages of your visit, you may not receive many social invitations. Nevertheless, remain patient and allow your Indonesian counterparts to initiate these necessary first invitations. It’s also useful to remember that there is a prevailing belief that you cannot properly host a gathering until you have been a guest at an Indonesian event.

Many Indonesians have negative images of business travelers and tourists. Social encounters, however, are the best opportunities for you to dispel any preconceived ideas.

Respond, in writing, to any invitations you receive.

The person who extends the invitation is responsible for paying the bill. If you receive invitations during your stay, be sure to reciprocate before returning home.

There is a prevailing belief in Indonesia that the office is the only place to discuss business. Therefore, refrain from discussing business in a social situation, unless your Indonesian companions bring up the subject.

The guest of honor is usually seated next to the host [if the honoree is a male] or hostess [if the honoree is a female].

You should demonstrate respect for the guest of honor by waiting until he or she has ordered before you do so. Additionally, wait until he has served himself and has taken the first sip of his beverage before you proceed with the meal. This is very important. If you are the host, be sure that you invite your guest to begin.

Forks and spoons are the main utensils; knives are rarely, if ever, a part of the Indonesian dining experience.

Eat and pass dishes with the right hand only, since the left hand is considered unclean. This rule applies even if you are left-handed. The left hand may be used only when there is no other realistic alternative.

You will be presented with a wide array of food originating from Indonesia’s numerous regions. Make an effort to sample everything, if for no other reason than as a sign of respect to Indonesian culture.

Seasonings–many of which are hot and spicy–are an essential part of Indonesian cooking. Consequently, ensure that you have plenty of water on hand. Indonesians think that most westerners cannot tolerate spicy food. They will ask if it is too hot and then laugh at your response.

Rice will be served at every meal, often combined with a variety of meats and vegetables. Indonesians often believe that Westerners cannot eat rice and will be surprised when you do.

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