Relationships With the Republic of Indonesia

Translations: Japanese Bahasa Chinese

We are excited about the business and legal interactions with the Republic of Indonesia and can help navigate through the morass of regulations, restrictions and especially religious and cultural pathways that lead to successful and enjoyable business ventures.

Because of this we thought it of interest to our potential customers to provide a brief historical synopsis and perspective of what one could expect. We hope you enjoy this reading of this mini adventure about this enchanting part of our world. After all, "The World is A Global Village"

Indonesia has not traditionally been the easiest place in the world in which to do business. In fact at one time the 'World Competitiveness Scoreboard' currently ranked Indonesia at 45, only two places ahead of Russia (47), and in stark contrast to countries such as Australia (13), Singapore (2) and the US (1). Clearly, in that context Indonesia was found unattractive primarily because of misunderstood traditional cultures, bureaucracy, legal uncertainties and social instability which engendered false impressions of being a rather hostile place for trade and business.

All that has passed, however, as Indonesia is currently undergoing a radical transition towards becoming a more modern and efficient economy. Nonetheless, given a proper understanding of cultural, social and legal-regulatory environments, business and investment in most parts of Indonesia is relatively safe and profitable.

Many promising changes are underway in Indonesia - notwithstanding the difficulties of some having experienced by their unawareness of the various sections of Indonesian society - and there is today good reason to be hopeful of Indonesia's emergence to becoming both an attractive investment destination, and a profitable market for Western products not to mention arguably the world's best tourist destination. This essay seeks to give an overview of those elements that are important when undertaking business in Indonesia, including the social and cultural landscape, recent developments regards 'governance', law and legal certainty, business structures, and labor issues. Much emphasis is given to the issue of culture, more specifically, the perceptions, outlooks and beliefs that affect human interaction.

In the past, perhaps, Western business understanding of 'culture' has been relegated to the realm of manners or etiquette, of simplistic 'do's and don'ts'. However, cultural misunderstanding or miscommunication is generally far more likely to occur at the level of perception and outlook, rather than etiquette. This is not to suggest that etiquette is unimportant, but merely to attempt to shift emphasis from those external or visible cultural expressions to those expressions that are not immediately obvious, in particular as this affects communication.

The Western businessperson in Indonesia must try to remain conscious of the possibility of 'difference' when interacting with Indonesians. Of all the nations of East Asia, Indonesia arguably remains the most strongly traditional in terms of its cultural characteristics and outlooks.

In the bustle of Jakarta's traffic, tall buildings and gleaming shopping centers it is all too easy to think of Indonesia as a modern nation, albeit poor, with outlooks and aspirations that more-or-less match those of the West. However, beneath these thin modernist veneers beats the sound of a number of 'different drummers'. Even apparently 'Westernised' Indonesians, including those with a solid Western tertiary education, cannot break free from those patterns, values, attitudes and outlooks formed out of the substratum of their indigenous culture.

Westerners often forget that they too are products of culture. Although far fewer Westerners than in the past profess Christianity, nevertheless Judeo-Christian and protestant humanist values and attitudes permeate the very essence of Western culture. Many Westerners may subconsciously consider these values to be universal in nature, standing above and perhaps even subordinating traditionalist values and outlooks. But whatever our convictions, when communicating with those who may not share a similar worldview, the possibility must be left open that what we believe to be self-evident and right may not be shared by everyone.

Java: social and cultural landscape Politically, culturally, and geographically, Java sits at the center of the Indonesian nation. Without Java, there could not be an Indonesia. The 'Javanese' ethnic group occupies the majority of the island of Java. Other major ethno-linguistic groups in Java include Sundanese (West Java), Betawi (from the area around Jakarta) and Madurese.

Although Java represents only 7% of Indonesia's total landmass, ethnic Javanese comprise about 45% of Indonesia's total population. Javanese attitudes and worldviews totally permeate the Indonesian bureaucracy, government and military, hence the great importance of understanding the Javanese perspective when referring to Indonesia. The great majority of Javanese could be said to be very sympathetic to mystical dimensions of human existence. The typical Javanese worldview is based on the essential unity of all existence, in which life itself is a kind of 'religious' experience existing in harmony with a universal order.

This worldview emphasizes inner tranquility, harmony and stability, acceptance, the subordination of the individual to society, and the subordination of society to the universe. Inter-personal relations are carefully regulated by customs and etiquette to preserve this ordered state. These, of course, are the high ideals of Javanese culture that may not always be realized in actual life, as contemporary events in Java frequently demonstrate. In every culture, there is often a distance between ideal behavior and realty. Nevertheless, the concept of harmony in the Javanese community is a core concept, notwithstanding outbursts of uncontrolled emotion that may occasionally be displayed.

Javanese society and culture is by no means singular or homogenous; it is a complex amalgam of differing tendencies and apparently opposing worldviews. This must be kept in mind when attempting to generalize about 'Javanese culture'; it is not unitary, but rather comprises a composite of influences, both modern and traditional, religious and secular/nationalist.