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Doing business in Indonesia (part 5)

Dining out
Indonesians often conduct business over breakfast, sometimes as early as 6:30 am, after dawn prayers but before it gets too hot. Lunch meetings are rare and it is the business dinner that provides the venue for most socializing and relationship development.

It is courteous to your Islamic Indonesian host to avoid  ordering or drinking alcohol during your stay. It is quite appropriate to drink and invite Chinese business persons to drink, but on no account should you offer any to a Muslim. Some Indonesians may drink alcohol privately in their homes. Follow the lead of your host. If you are the host you should invite your guest to begin eating, because traditional Indonesians will wait for your invitation. It is polite to leave just a small amount in your glass or on your plate when you are finished otherwise your host will think they have not provided enough for you.

At large gatherings there may be welcoming speeches and you are expected to reciprocate. Stick to motherhood phrases in simple English such as expressing how pleased you and your company associates are at the event or visiting the country, thanks to the host, looking forward to further contact, etc. Don't crack jokes as they will not be understood.

It is not usual for a woman to attend evening events alone. She should be escorted. Be prepared if you are male to receive invitations to massage parlors as part of the hospitality. You should decline politely (if you wish !). 

A home visit
Most senior government and business people have some familiarity with Western dining customs. It is courteous to remove your shoes before entering a home. Although not required, you can take some small gift, often for the home or the spouse such as flowers, fruits, cakes or a souvenir from your country. Guests generally rise when the host or hostess enters the room. A guest should not drink until invited to do so. To be polite, wait until your host invites you to drink a couple of times. You may eat the meal with a spoon and fork, or with your fingers. It is polite to sample any food or drink offered to you. When you are finished eating, place the fork under the spoon with the fork facing down. When eating with your fingers in the traditional manner, use only your right hand. It is respectful not to eat or drink in public during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Giving gifts
Gift giving and graft may be difficult so separate, as gift giving is a normal part of Indonesian life, in both social and business situations. In order to win contracts, gifts need to be presented often, although they are not usually given at a first meeting. Senior company officials who want a "commission" will have their requirement communicated by their juniors to your local partner or agent rather than to you directly. Some claim that in government areas this bribery is essential to prevent documents and permits being left unsigned or being lost.

Indonesian counterparts will often hint about or even suggests what they would like to receive before serious negotiation starts or an agreement is signed. If  the hint is not clear, you should ask whether there are any "additions" they would like to make to the contract. Do not offer money gifts but leave that to your agent, whose fee can be increased to cover "extra expenses" that have to be paid. If you are requested personally to provide something as a commission or a goodwill gesture, be diplomatic, discreet and non judgemental.

Do not give alcohol and spirits as gifts to Muslims. Gifts for all ethnic groups can include designer wear ties and athletic shoes, silk scarves, hand bags, sunglasses, etc. For more prestigious gift consider small household appliances, top level international design wear. Avery acceptable gift for a senior person in a large transaction is an air ticket to your country to facilitate a fact finding visit to your company. They are of course unlikely to go anywhere near your company location unless you are a sand excavating company at a beach resort or a golf course design group.

If you are offered  a gift, put on a humble and deferential air, and do not open it with others present.

What to wear and Language
Men should wear a suit and tie for formal meetings and a shirt and tie for a less formal events. As Indonesia is an Islamic culture, women should dress modestly and cover their arms and legs. Shorts are definitely not to be worn by a woman; even trousers are considered too casual by some. A dress or suit is appropriate. Make up and perfume should be used conservatively. The evening attire for men is often batik shirts and dark pants.

"Bahasa Indonesia", is the common language among the many subcultures of a variant of Malay. English is generally taught as a third language (after the main ethnic language and "Bahasa Indonesia"). Most business people speak Indonesian, Chinese and or English. As Indonesian is based on Malay, many of the words and phrases are the same as those given for Malaysia.

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