Indonesian Insights – A Guide to Indonesian Work Culture

This island comprised of many islands sits in the South Pacific. In the more than 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia, those working in the country might find that the country’s demographic is similar to other countries in the Asia market, consisting of people who come from a range of languages and cultures. More than just a sunny seaside escape for foreign tourists, those looking to make money can through many of its emerging industries.

Working in Indonesia requires some knowhow, as those traveling to the country will find language is not the only barrier to working in the country. In addition to finding suitable office space and making the requisite business connections, businesses have to traverse obtaining the requisite licensing and permits. Then, there is the issue of learning and understanding the various cultural nuances that can make working in the country much easier.

Keep reading to learn how you can get to grips with Indonesian work culture and start building successful relationships in this exciting market.


Because you could essentially find yourself working on any one of the inhabited islands, finding workspace can be more than troublesome. One solution is to work remotely through the virtual office format, which affords you all of the benefits of an office without the actual space. The virtual office, in essence, can serve as a temporary office until you are more comfortable with the country’s terrain or until you can find suitable office space.

Depending on the fit out you choose, some leasing agents can serve almost as a liaison to your business; helping you navigate the many rules associated with operating in the country. These agents can help direct you in terms of obtaining the correct permits and licenses needed to work in the country. For the most part, those looking to open a business in the country will find the process of cutting through the bureaucracy much easier with someone who can walk them through the process.

Daily Business Culture

Indonesian business culture is similar to other cultures that make up the Asia market. Many of the business relationships are based on close friend and family relationships, and while nepotism is looked down on in other parts of the world, it is a common, approved practice in the Indonesian business community. For the most part, friendships develop before partnerships do. Those who do not know a single soul in the country might benefit from co-working spaces, which typically connect businesses to the greater community through social engagement.

Business culture is a hierarchical one where subordinates are very obedient to their managers. Furthermore, saving face is a part of the cultural terrain, and managers and their subordinates do not engage in the type of office behavior that is disrespectful or denigrates employees. Instead of the confrontational style typical of many cultures, Indonesian professionals approach these conversations with humility and respect for the individual by not accusing or criticizing the offending person, especially in front of others.

While the country is comprised of several languages, English, Chinese, Japanese, and an amalgam of other languages are spoken. Furthermore, while the business culture is comfortable with doing business on an international stage, the belief system is one that is centered on supernatural forces impacting daily life, and this extends to business as well.

Working In Paradise

While the country is inviting for diversion, the business culture is very serious, and one that can be easily handled with planning. For the most part, understanding even these small nuances can prepare you for making strides in the country. Regardless of the nationality or the language, understanding the business culture speaks volumes about your approach to business.

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