Meals, Clothing Code & Gifts

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim culture, so conservative dress is key in many situations

The safest option for a visiting businessman in Jakarta is to wear a suit jacket and tie, and remove them if it seems appropriate.

A suit and tie are essential, however, during formal meetings with high-ranking government officials.

A tie is not appropriate in some operations outside of the urban areas such as the oil/gas/mining sectors.

Because of the extreme heat and humidity, business dress in Indonesia is often casual.

If an invitation specifies ‘lounge suit’, this actually only applies to Indonesian men. Western men should wear a standard Western business suit.

Many Indonesian men wear an open-necked, long-sleeved batik shirt to the office;

Women must be sensitive to Muslim beliefs, and, consequently, wear blouses that cover at least their upper arms. Skirts should be knee length or longer.

For women, standard business attire includes dresses or blouse and skirt combinations with sleeves and hems that are conservative in length.

Respectability, even in casual dress, is preferred. Generally, shorts should only be worn in the urban areas and tourist destinations.

Jeans are acceptable casual wear especially by the younger Indonesian generation.

You are expected to give gifts to celebrate an occasion, when you return from a trip.

Gifts of food are always appreciated by Indonesians, but avoid bringing food gifts with you to a dinner party

Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is not a part of Indonesian culture.

Western advertising has popularized flowers as gifts.

Remember that personal gifts from a man to a woman can be misinterpreted as having a romantic intent.

With the exception of dinner parties, food can be a welcome gift.

In Indonesia, songbirds are prized pets. In fact, tapes and CDs of the music of champion songbirds are popular.

Accept social invitations of any kind; these occasions are an important part of doing business here.

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.

Respond, in writing, to any invitations you receive.

The person who extends the invitation is responsible for paying the bill.

There is a prevailing belief in Indonesia that the office is the only place to discuss business.

The guest of honor is usually seated next to the host.

You should demonstrate respect for the guest of honor by waiting until he or she has ordered before you do so.

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.

Seasonings–many of which are hot and spicy–are an essential part of Indonesian cooking.

When invited to a social event, Indonesians try to ascertain who will be the most important guests.

Do not send invitations printed on white, black or blue paper to Indonesian Chinese, as these colors are associated with sadness.

Make the effort to invite several Indonesians of the same ethnic group.

Indonesians find buffets more comfortable than sit-down dinners with assigned places.

Remember that observant Muslims do not drink alcohol or consume pork products.

Show tremendous respect toward your guest of honor. He or she is the last to arrive and the first to go through the buffet line

Generally, greetings among all Indonesians are conducted with stateliness and formality, in a slow, deliberate manner.

Handshakes are the standard greeting

It is often inappropriate to touch a woman wearing the Islamic headdress

The traditional Hindu greeting involves a slight bow with the palms of the hands together, as if praying.

With the exception of handshakes, there is no public contact between the sexes in Indonesia.

Hugging and kissing, even between husbands and wives, are frowned upon in public.

Among both Muslims and Hindus, the left hand is considered unclean, and whenever possible, should not be used in giving or receiving

Women should be aware of Muslim sensitivities and clothes should not be too revealing.

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