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Cross cultural differences: Indonesia

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  1. Introduction
  2. Selamatan: A ritual meal
  3. Culture's sense of time
  4. Business etiquette
  5. Indonesian concept of 'gensi', or appearance
  6. The concepts of 'Asal Bapak Senang' and 'individual responsibility'
  7. Employee motivation
  8. Behavior tips
  9. Communication tips
  10. General information
  11. Funny tips

With a population of almost 200 million people on 13,667 islands, Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago located between the continents of Asia and Australia, and between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Only 35% of the population live in urban areas, but there are more than 30 cities with a population of more than 100,000. In addition, five cities have a population of over one million, all located in Java. To truly understand the socio-political culture in Indonesia, one needs to understand Java. Although the population has a significant Malay heritage, it has one of the most diverse populations in the world. The Sudanese in western Java make up 16% of its population. Javanese make up 40% of its population. The Madurese make up 4% of Indonesia. The Chinese represent 3%. Indonesia is also diverse with over 300 distinct cultures residing within its borders. With each culture comes a unique language or dialect.

[...] From Face to Shame Perhaps one of the most talked about, but least understood, aspects of doing business and of every day life in Indonesia is the cultural concept of "Loss of Face" and the effect that it has in office, in business and also in every day life relationships. Loss of face is more than simple embarrassment. The concept in Indonesian culture is called "malu". While malu is literally translated as embarrassment or shyness, in the business context it also means loss of face or social shame. [...]

[...] Being placed in uncomfortable situations often results in a laugh or smile with Indonesians at all levels of society, and when not used to it, it can be quite confusing as it may be perceived as laughing at you with indifference. Business etiquette In Indonesian business, there are a few specific rules that foreign professionals should be sure to know about and follow. Perhaps the most important of these is the giving of refreshments in meetings. Traditional Indonesian society considers the giving of refreshments to guests a very important display of respect and politeness. [...]

[...] Status comes from the position. When one has a senior, powerful position, one gains the accoutrements of power. These include company cars and hand phones, golf club memberships, nice houses and vacations, and, of course, money. These indicators of wealth come from the position, not from the performance. Indonesian employees are motivated by the appearance of increasing status. Western ideas of connecting performance to salary are not well understood. If an Indonesian employee has enough money to cover present expenses and desires, offering more money solely based on future performance will not usually affect motivation. [...]

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