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Cross Cutural Understanding: Indonesians and Expatriates Working Together

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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One of the biggest challenges of working in a foreign country is learning how to operate in a different cultural setting. Business may be business the whole world over, but the way it is conducted differs widely.

Expats have heard (and told) numerous stories about cultural snafus, missed appointments, differences in management style causing problems at the office, lost orders or down time on production lines due to serious miscommunications, labor problems between foreign management and local staff and many other problems. Many of these problems could have been averted or lessened had the expatriate manager and the local counterparts and colleagues been better prepared for the differences in work patterns that they would encounter.

How do you know how to approach people, how to set appointments, how to determine what various actions mean in a different culture, how to close a deal Indonesian style, how to deal with jam karet (rubber time), and a multitude of other questions?

Fortunately there are “seasoned veterans” who can help you find the answers to these questions. They may be people in your company, people that you meet in a business association, friends you make in social situations or paid consultants.

Just as you go to great lengths to find out what you need to bring with you in your household shipment, it would be wise to spend a significant amount of time, prior to your arrival, learning how Indonesians conduct their business affairs. Every hour you invest in gaining this knowledge will result in significant time savings and lessened frustrations as you learn to prevent or lessen miscommunications and problems before they occur. Don't be hesitant to ask questions of those who have years of experience in Indonesia. Most people are eager to share some advice! However, if you don't ask, you'll never receive their helpful tips.

Your company has invested a lot in you by sending you to Indonesia, not only monetarily, but also with the plan that your presence will benefit the company in many ways. Make the most of that investment, for yourself and your company by learning the cultural norms of Doing Business in Indonesia!

Learn from the cross-cultural experiences of others:

The Appearance of Understanding
Bapakism 2
Conflict Resolution Strategies
Customs unfair, unrighteous, illogical, and cruel

Do as I say, not as I do: Annual Performance
Appraisal and Evaluation in Indonesia

Email's Influence
Employee Motivation
Equality in the Workplace
Etiquette at Work
The Fasting Month
Foundations of Teamwork
From Face to Shame
Harmony's End-Politics in the Workplace
Home, Again
How Safe is my Worksite?

Is it Language or Culture?
Lessons Learned
Levels of Intercultural Contact
Loss of Face
The Meaning of Words
Meetings and Expectations
Mirrors of Perception
New Beginnings
Open the Relationship
Outward Bound
Scheduling Meetings
Sense of Time
Speed of Negotiations
The Indonesian Big Five:

Part I: Bapakisme
Part II: Conflicts of Nature
Part III: Of Face And Time

To Be or To Do
Two Steps Forward
Yes and No

See also: Indonesian Cultural Habits and Idiosyncrasies: Tips for cross-cultural interaction

These articles were generously contributed by George B. Whitfield, III when he was a Technical Advisor with Executive Orientation Services.

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