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indonesia_culture

What Your Business Needs to Know About Indonesian Diversity

Cultural diversity is a staple of Indonesian life. Various religious, ethnic, and regional populations make it a model for international relations.

 

Suppliers in Indonesia come in all shapes and sizes. The difficulty is knowing what you’re getting into. International businesses aren’t often aware of the depth of cultural differences in Indonesia.

 

Without knowing the specifics, businesses investing from abroad could offend a potential business partner. More than that, knowing Indonesian culture shows interest in your suppliers. A genuine interest will help establish a relationship with your supplier beyond a transaction.

 

Without knowing the specifics, businesses investing from abroad could offend a potential business partner. More than that, knowing Indonesian culture shows interest in your suppliers. A genuine interest will help establish a relationship with your supplier beyond a transaction.

 

While we can’t cover the full depth of the Indonesian culture, we’ve created a go-to resource for business owners who need the essentials for an upcoming business meeting.

 

To help that along, we’ve tackled two major areas of diversity to be aware of when doing business in Indonesia.

 

 

Ethnicities

With over 17,000 islands making up its expansive geography, Indonesia hosts various ethnic groups. As Indonesia is one of the most highly populated places in the world, these groups aren’t remote or small. They represent millions of people who expand across large regions of Indonesia.

 

 

Javanese

The Javanese people make up the largest ethnic group in Indonesia. They represent 40% of the nation’s population. This includes more than three subgroups and many religious denominations. Located in the central and eastern parts of Java, the Javanese are one of the oldest civilizations in Indonesia.

 

Many of the cultural and business practices of Indonesia are traced back to Javanese value systems. The high value placed on family and group mentality is related most commonly to the Javanese. Though, it has been adopted across the country.

 

 

Sundanese

Sundanese people live in the Western part of Java, where they represent over 75% of the population. Sundanese people take pride in a rich history that dates back to the fifth century AD. As a result, the land that they have established remains an issue of contention.

 

Sundanese people tried to establish their own territory after gaining independence in 1945, called Sunda-land. Now fully integrated into “West Java,” it is one of the country’s richest provinces, with many natural resources sprouting as the result of volcanic activity in the region.

 

This has made Sunda-land a vital area for resource extraction and has caught the eye of many international businesses.

 

Batak

This one’s a bit more confusing. The Batak actually make up a diverse ethnic population. Often called a “term of convenience,” Batak refers to at least five distinct ethnic groups in Indonesia. Each has their own language and cultural practices.

 

It’s generally agreed that the Batak were termed so by pre-colonial Malay people. The Dutch followed suit by adopting the term.

 

An awareness of this cultural fact can further relationship development drastically. By knowing the historical woes of a people, you show genuine interest and empathy.

 

An awareness of this cultural fact can further relationship development drastically. By knowing the historical woes of a people, you show genuine interest and empathy.

 

 

 

Religions

Indonesia’s cultural diversity extends into the beliefs of its people. The government is known for its openness on this front, recognizing six official religions. Talk about promoting tolerance.

 

When traveling to the islands, being aware of religious difference won’t just make you seem genuine. It will help you identify possible soft spots and prevent conflict in negotiations.

 

Islam

Indonesia is home to the largest Islamic population in the world. Making up almost 90% of the nation’s population, 225 million Indonesians identify as Muslim. It’s important to know the general outline of Islamic culture if you’re doing business in Indonesia.

 

Observing Muslims pray five times a day. Don’t be surprised if negotiations are stalled for this to take place. Generally, practicing Muslims will schedule their day around these times. But, mistakes can happen. As well, be sure not to bring any culturally-insensitive gifts to a meeting. More information on this can be found in our “Gift-Giving in Indonesia” etiquette guide.

 

Hinduism

Around 2% of the Indonesian population identify as Hindus. Though this seems low, Hinduism is still the third-most practised religion in Indonesia. Bali, a major island in the region, is home to most of the country’s Hindus. 83.5% of the island’s population practices the religion.

 

Low living and operational costs have increased interest in Bali. But, business operations can be spotty. The Indonesian government recognizes both public and observed Hindu holidays, which make up the majority of work days off in the country. Being aware of these holidays and their significance will show interest. Plus, you won’t be caught off-guard if a negotiation gets moved or your stay is cut short.

 

Christianity

Only 10% of Indonesia’s population is Christian. Unlike Hinduism, Christians span the islands. Major populations can be found in North Sumatra and Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo. Indonesian Christianity has its own specifics that US businesses may not know.

 

When Indonesians say “Christianity,” they mean Protestantism. Protestants make up the majority of Indonesian Christians, with Catholicism coming behind that. But, Catholicism is considered an entirely separate religion in Indonesia, not a sect of the whole as in Western cultures.

 

When Indonesians say “Christianity,” they mean Protestantism. Protestants make up the majority of Indonesian Christians, with Catholicism coming behind that.

 

Religious relations are fairly cordial, though Islamic and Christian feuds have been reported. Generally, all Indonesians take pride in their nation, and want to do everything they can to make Indonesia great.

 

All this diversity can be scary for the prospective US business. But even this brief list can take your business negotiations to the next level. It will make your business partners feel valued and respected.

 

With Veem, these negotiations get even easier. Veem is a global payments solution that helps you transfer funds internationally. Our multi-rail system finds the best route for your funds. Get the fastest, most secure, and cost-effective transfers with our global payments network. We connect you to your supplier with no banks involved. Take your payments to the next level. Start the process and send payments with just a click.

 

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