As the largest and one of the most rapidly developing economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is a haven for new business opportunities. Culturally, it has the largest Muslim population in the world though this may vary across cities – the Balinese, for example, predominantly subscribe to the Hindu faith. Set against this rich cultural backdrop, Indonesia has its own unique set of business customs and social cues that all business travellers should be mindful of to drive success. Jakarta, the country’s main business hub, is a vibrant and dynamic city that visitors should also take time out to experience.
1. Where to stay
Jakarta has most of the international hotel chains that you would be familiar with. The best part is that these hotels are conveniently located near business hubs such as Senayan in South Jakarta and Plaza Indonesia, which are in the heart of Jakarta’s commercial and business districts. The best way to know you are checking all the right boxes for your accommodation is to seek advice from your travel agency, who can recommend based on the proximity to your work areas in the city coupled with comfort and compliance to the travel policy.
2. Keep calm and embrace the macet
Macet or traffic jam will be part of your daily grind. Instead of getting frustrated, simply adopt a patient mindset and factor in extra time for commuting. You will find that Indonesians embrace graciousness in their interactions and expect business partners to do the same, so don’t let these traffic jams get to you as the frustration may show in your demeanour. Think of it as part of experiencing a new city and be sure to show compassion if your Indonesian business partner arrive late to a meeting due to the macet.
3. Hierarchy matters
Those who are more accustomed to the western style of doing business may want to be extra cautious on this. Indonesians typically value a top-down approach when it comes to decision making and organizational hierarchy is well-honoured. Simple gestures like greeting the senior executives before the junior ones can go a long way in making your hosts feel comfortable with doing business with you. When addressing your business partner, it is wise to add Pak (for men) or Ibu (for women) before their first names to show respect.
4. Dressing for success
Due to its tropical climate, Indonesians do not typically expect you to be dressed in full business suits. Business casual will usually suffice or if you want to score some extra points, batik shirts are an excellent choice for men. For ladies, over the knee length dresses/skirts and blouses with modest necklines are a safe bet.
5. Discover the city
If your schedule allows, venture out and discover what all that buzz in the city is about. For some authentic Indonesian street food, head over to the district of Mangga Besar to sample popular dishes like peanut satay and bebek goreng (fried duck). After a long day of meetings, chill out at Potato Head and unwind with one (or two) of their award-winning cocktails. If you are lucky enough to have a day off, definitely check out the area known as Kota, home to the traditional cobblestoned square of Taman Fatahillah where ancient buildings and the city’s largest museums await.