Foreigners need to know about the Indonesian culture before moving to Indonesia, buying property there, or investing in real estate. Knowing the Indonesian culture, norms, values, and Indonesian etiquette, you will avoid uncomfortable situations and ensure better harmony.
Especially when investing in real estate in Indonesia, it’s crucial to be aware of the business culture. This awareness, but also knowing about Indonesian personality traits, will ensure that you remain a welcome guest, and you can get more out of negotiations.
1. Respect for hierarchy and authority
Indonesian culture values respect for elders, authority figures, and social hierarchy. It’s essential to respect the order and authority in Indonesia, even when it sometimes doesn’t feel right. Be aware that people of high status must maintain face. It’s important to always talk respectfully about high-status people. If you express criticism, it can be seen as disrespect towards Indonesia. It’s better to avoid such situations by not criticizing critical public figures.
2. Learn the language (Bahasa Indonesia)
Indonesia has more than 700 different languages. Bahasa Indonesia is the official language spoken on all islands in the archipelago. It’s recommended to learn the Indonesian language yourself. This way, you show respect towards the people and the country, which all Indonesians appreciate. Speaking Bahasa Indonesia also has practical advantages. For example, Indonesians are more likely to help you when you approach them in Indonesian when you have problems or need help.
Here are some simple Indonesian words:
- Thank you – Terimah kasih
- You’re welcome – Sama sama
- Good morning – Selamat pagi
- Good afternoon – Selamat sore
- Good night – Selamat malam
3. The Indonesian view of time
Especially in Western countries, time is essential. With appointments, you are expected at the appointed time. If you don’t, many Western people see this as disrespectful. Indonesian people have a different view of time, as it’s more flexible.
Arriving late for an appointment is called jam karet in Indonesian and means ‘elastic time’. It’s essential to realize it’s normal for Indonesians to be loose with time. It’s part of the Indonesian culture that the other party will be a little late when you make an appointment. Try not to make an issue of this because Indonesian people have a different view of time, so it’s not a sign of disrespect.
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4. Be indirect when communicating
Maintaining harmony is important in Indonesian culture. That also means that many Indonesians are indirect to appear polite. You will discover that Indonesians sometimes struggle to express their opinions, especially when it might hurt someone. It’s essential to be aware that others are indirect, and they expect you to be indirect to them as well. You do this, for example, by not criticizing Indonesians when they do something wrong but by calmly pointing it out and smiling kindly. Also, be careful with (sarcastic) jokes; they are sometimes misunderstood and can fall wrong.
5. Be respectful towards religion
Religion plays a vital role in the Indonesian culture. Most Indonesians are Muslim, and God is always number one to them. Besides Islam, you will also find other religions within Indonesia. For example, local people in Bali are mainly Hindu.
Always be respectful toward Indonesian culture and the religion people follow. Western norms and values are sometimes not appreciated in Indonesia. Examples include free sex, homosexuality, alcohol, drugs, and loose clothing. Although it sometimes feels unfair when the culture goes against Western norms and values, respecting Indonesian norms and values is important. Avoid criticizing religion and culture, as this can cause many problems.
6. Important habits and traditions in Indonesian culture
There are more critical do’s and don’ts when it comes to norms and values in Indonesian culture:
- Foreigners: Foreigners are called bule in the Indonesian language. This word is not meant negatively and is certainly not racist. Indonesians often use it because they are happy to see foreigners in their country.
- Holding hands: It’s normal when people of the same gender hold hands when they walk together. Holding hands is a sign of friendship and has nothing to do with sexual preference.
- Personal space: Indonesians have little sense of personal space, and there is no word for ‘privacy’ in the Indonesian language. Be aware that this is a thing in Indonesian culture.
- Smoking: Most people in Indonesia smoke excessively, even in public spaces. There is a lack of consciousness of the health issues from smoking.
- Staring at foreigners: Especially in places where fewer foreigners come, you will see that most Indonesians stare at you, which isn’t something impolite. Just smile back and ignore it when someone is staring at you.
- Shaking hands: Using your left hand for shaking or touching food is impolite, as it’s the hand for toilet duties, so it’s unclean. Not using your left hand is an essential Indonesian food culture etiquette. Try to excuse yourself for using your left hand if you don’t have any other option.
- Burping in public: Burping isn’t seen as impolite and can even signify appreciation for a good meal. Don’t be surprised when people burp inside a restaurant.
7. Indonesian business culture
Are you buying real estate as an investment? Or do you have to go to Indonesia for a business meeting? Besides learning about the basics of Indonesian culture, it’s also wise to know more about the business culture in Indonesia:
- Be on time: Always ensure you arrive on time, but remember that the other person will be late. So be flexible and prepared, and don’t get angry when someone is late.
- Dress nicely: A suit is not necessary, but make sure to dress nicely. It is appreciated if you wear batik (Indonesian clothing).
- Shaking hands: It is common in Indonesia to shake hands for business meetings.
- Accepting and giving a business card: Use both hands when accepting a business card to show respect. Do not immediately put the card away, but look at it first and compliment it. Use both hands when handing over your business card.
- Ask for confirmation: Because Indonesian people tend to be indirect, it’s sometimes difficult to determine what they mean. Ask for confirmation neatly and be indirect yourself.
- Don’t interrupt: Refrain from interrupting Indonesians when talking; they will never do this themselves.
- Negotiating: It’s normal to negotiate the price in Indonesia.
- Always make sure there is a good atmosphere. Don’t be aggressive, but always stay polite and keep smiling.
- Hierarchy is fundamental in Indonesia: Always be respectful to others, especially when they hold a high position or are older. In addition, do not criticize governments or political players, as this disrespects Indonesia.
- Try to speak Bahasa Indonesia: Can’t you speak the Indonesian language? Then, learning some words and phrases, such as greetings, is advisable. Using Bahasa Indonesia is much appreciated and beneficial when you enter a negotiation.
- Importance of family: Family is highly valued in Indonesia and is central to most social and business interactions. It can be wise to show genuine interest in the family of your Indonesian interlocutor.
- Property laws and regulations: Before buying property in Indonesia, it’s crucial to understand the country’s property laws and regulations, including restrictions on foreign property ownership. It’s advisable to seek professional legal advice.
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Indonesian culture differs significantly from Western culture. Awareness of these differences is essential, especially when buying real estate in Indonesia. In Indonesian society, respect for social hierarchy, modest dressing, collectivism, hospitality, the importance of family, religious diversity, and understanding property laws are vital aspects to consider. It is important to respect elders and authority, dress modestly, embrace collectivist values, appreciate hospitality, prioritize family relationships, respect religious beliefs, and seek legal counsel to understand property regulations in Indonesia.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you show respect in Indonesian culture?
Showing respect is important in Indonesian culture. There are different ways to show respect in Indonesia, especially towards elders, where it is considered fundamental. In daily occurrences, it is customary to shake hands or give a slight bow when greeting each other. In addition, like many Asian countries, Indonesians tend to be indirect to appear polite. Be careful not to be too sharp with your words.
What are some cultural practices in Indonesia?
A common practice in Indonesian culture is to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, which is uncommon in most Western countries. Family is a priority in Indonesian culture, and children must respect and care for their parents as they age; it is not uncommon to see adults still living with their parents.
What are the cultural beliefs and values in Indonesia?
Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, but there are also significant populations of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and other religions. Religion plays a vital role in daily life, and Indonesians celebrate religious festivals throughout the country.