I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?
The family is very important to Indonesians. The Javanese, the ethnic Indonesian with the most population, have a saying that goes like this: "Mangan ora mangan asal ngumpul" which means: having food or having no food, the most important thing is that we are together.
Hence, when meeting an Indonesian, of course, the family will be the most important topic to discuss, such as how many children they have and what their ages are. This will also give you a chance to compliment them about how young they look to be parents. When meeting Indonesians who travel or have been educated abroad, you can also ask them about their experiences. Ask Indonesians about their origin. Which part of Indonesia do they come from? After having lived in Indonesia for a little while, you will be able recognize family names from certain areas or you will be able to recognize names from certain regions, such as Supomo, Soeprapto etc. Names beginning with "Su, Soe" and ending with an "o" are usually Javanese. Take a chance and ask them, "Are you from Central/East Java?"
Things to avoid discussing:
-Age, as in many cultures, it is impolite to bluntly ask about their age.
-Religion, Politics and human rights, unless somebody else started the discussion and the discussion is kept calm and controlled, it is not recommended to start discussions about these two very sensitive topics.
-Be sensitive to their international travel experiences, allow Indonesians to tell about their experiences and do not overwhelm them with one of your own. Among lower middle class Indonesians, domestic travel is usually in response to death in the family and rarely for pleasure. The expatriate that has been in the country for two to three years may have seen more of the country than most of his Indonesian counterparts and friends.
Things that might surprise you:
- Even if it was the first time that they met you, Indonesian might startle you by asking "personal questions" such as whether you were married, and if not, whether you were then engaged to be married? They will ask you about your family, where you work, what your occupation is, where you were educated and so on. Please just answer all these questions casually as you do not have to answer them in details. Indonesians often feel uneasy when they meet you for the first time. They do not know who you are and so they do not know "how to place you". Should I treat this person as an equal (i.e. the same age and/or social status) or should I treat her/her differently? They will usually err on the safe side by treating you as if you were "older and/or having a higher social status" and then slowly adjusting their behaviour after they get to know you better. The Indonesian society is a very hierarchical society, hence knowing where to place somebody is very important.
- If you were married, they might ask you casually what kind of birth control you are using. This topic occurs very often in social conversations since the government has been working very hard to socialize it since the 70’s to control the increase in the population. As you know, Indonesia is the 4th most populated country in the world.
Family is the first topic to be discussed, with the question of your marital status always being posed first. They ask about children, their age, etc. It is always safe to ask these questions in return and often it is necessary to go through this ritual of polite, light conversation (even in business) before getting to the topic or purpose of the meeting.
Religion is also a common topic. All Indonesians identify with a religion, there are very few declared atheists, and they assume that Westerners are Christian. It is better to just declare yourself as a Christian (if you are an atheist), rather than asserting otherwise.
Where you are from is always asked and it is polite to ask this in return, particularly if you know the country a bit and can discuss their area of origin. Many Indonesians have moved around and are from other parts of the country originally.
When addressing people for the first time, be polite, respectful, always use the formal terms, i.e. bapak for a man, ibu for a woman before their proper names. When meeting, Indonesians touch their heart in greeting, often after the handshake. It feels a bit awkward and pretentious to do this at first, but you get into the habit rather quickly and it is a respectful gesture when meeting officials.
Topics not to discuss: in the past politics was a delicate subject, but in the new Indonesia it has become more of a topic of discussion. Also, when I was in Indonesia, there was often a perception that Westerners are experts in their field so I was often posed questions regarding my work and profession - sometimes with high expectations as to my level of expertise. I never felt shy about admitting my limitations, however Indonesians can be hesitant to admit they are unaware of something. The best example of this is just in asking for directions, no one will admit to not knowing something and you can be sent in all kinds of directions before realizing that you were just sent along on your way.
One final question that you will be posed constantly is "mau ke mana" where are you going? This can get a little annoying and you can feel that it is a little too personal to be asked this by your neighbor or your shop clerk etc. It is just a polite phrase for which they are not really expecting a long explanation of your plans. I often replied "jalan jalan saja" which means I am just walking.
What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?
In North America (Canada and the US): Social space ranges from 4 to 10 feet and is used for communication among business associates, as well as to separate strangers using public areas such as beaches and bus stops. Personal space ranges from 2 to 4 feet and is used among friends and family members, and to separate people waiting in lines at teller machines for example.
The North American personal space equates the Indonesian social space. When having business meetings with your Indonesian counterpart, you might find yourself backing away trying to regain your social space, while your Indonesian counterpart moves closer to you to maintain his / her social space.
Direct eye contact should be avoided. You can probably look at the person on the chin or you can also look them in the eye for very short periods of time as they will feel very uncomfortable to have direct eye contact constantly while having a conversation with you. But do use your judgement. If you know that the person grew up in Jakarta and has been educated abroad, it should be okay.
Touching someone when speaking to them is reserved for friends and acquaintances of the same sex. You should refrain from doing so when speaking to someone of the opposite sex and professional associates.
Gestures to avoid:
- Never give or receive something by the left hand. It is considered impolite. You should give and receive things with your right hand. In the rural areas in Java, giving and receiving with both hands, with the body slightly downward is perfect.
-Do not put your hands on your hips while talking to someone. As in the "wayang show", that kind of position is for somebody who is ready to physically fight.
-Do not put your legs on the table, while you are sitting down on the chair, when there are people around. The local people do not like this ’cowboy style’ of sitting down. While in North America this shows that the person is in a relaxed position, in Indonesia, it means arrogance and being impolite.
The acceptable distance when speaking to someone is similar to that in Canada; I didn’t feel that my personal space was invaded.
Eye contact can be viewed as aggressive behaviour; often Indonesians do not look you in the eye when they are talking to you. They get more comfortable with it as they get to know you.
It is acceptable when speaking to someone to touch them on the arm etc., but never touch or pat a child’s head as people do in Canada. It is an insult. Do not point with your fingers. Often people use their thumb to point. Do not show the bottoms of your feet to people, this can be hard to avoid as often you are sitting on the floor and to be polite you always remove your shoes before you walk into someone’s home. Showing the bottom of your feet is the equivalent of giving someone the finger and you often see the gesture of someone raising their leg to flash the sole of their foot at someone else, particularly on roadsides.
Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?
As Muslim and Easterners, Indonesians are supposed to behave and dressed modestly. As in many Asian and Muslim countries, showing affection in public and showing a lot of skin are to be avoided. The same is true of being openly impatient and angry, or shouting and raising your voice. The Indonesian culture is a very high context culture (in other words, social relations are accorded a great deal of importance). You really have to read between the lines. We have many ways of showing our displeasure without having to shout or raise our voice. Shouting, showing that you are impatient and raising your voice could be considered as being uneducated and/or not well raised (a literal translation from "kurang ajar").
It is not easy to know whether you have offended right away. Sometimes you might see that the expression on their face change but a lot of times you are really in the dark. You will know when they start to avoid meeting you or they become very quiet. Indonesians avoid confrontation at all costs, as it is again considered ill mannered or uneducated to confront someone in public. In some cases, you will never ever know whether you have offended someone as she/he will remain polite and hide her/his feelings from you. The Javanese are very good at this.
Aggressive behaviour, showing frustration is not well regarded, being emotional, crying etc... will certainly make others very uncomfortable.
What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?
Indonesia is a tropical country; the best thing to wear is any clothing made of cotton. Batik clothing is the best. You can easily find something for yourself once you get there unless you wear a very large size. Clothing is available in many different types of fabric for both informal and formal wear. Just remember to dress modestly, especially if you live in the rural area: do not show a lot of skin or wear anything that is too tight.
You can easily and safely address everybody by Ibu (Mrs. and Ms.), usually shorten to Bu and Bapak (Mr.) usually shorten to Pak. Coworkers address each other Mbak/Mas (older sister/older brother in Javanese) instead of the formal Bu/Pak.
As you are a foreigner you are expected to be punctual and always present unless you are really ill. The local people might behave differently, especially if they are of a higher social status than you are, or if they are your boss. Then they will then have the privilege of being on "jam karet", which literally means ’Rubber Time’ (to stretch the time or be late). Indonesians work from Monday to Friday. Be aware though that Indonesians, especially public servants are only working half days on Fridays, as the men have to go to the mosque. Deadlines are very flexible in Indonesia. It would be a good idea not to tell everybody about the "real deadline". Give them a deadline before your "real deadline".
How you dress for work depends where you work, but usually what Canadians consider casual formal. Be clean and wear ironed clothes. Men and women shouldn’t wear shorts to work. Dress pants and jeans (depending) are acceptable for men with short-sleeved shirts. Women should where skirts or long pants (peddle pushers are acceptable). It also differs depending on where you are based. In Muslim areas, women should not wear tank tops or sleeveless tops; your arms need to be covered. However in Bali, it is acceptable to wear sleeveless tops.
Be respectful when addressing colleagues and supervisors. Often formal names are not used; they can be very long! Everyone has a shortened form of their name and that is usually how they are introduced to you.
In terms of punctuality, you will need to learn this as you go. In my office, punctuality was not prized. I set my own working hours based on computer availability and depending on the level of work at the moment. In other similar offices, however, people had to be at work on time and punctuality was respected. This can be a point of frustration. Deadlines seem rather flexible, but this always seems to be determined by someone else. It takes a bit of time to learn the pace and rhythm of an office. I approached it by applying my Western work ethic, and found I had to adjust my expectations of my colleagues in terms of completing projects according to my time lines. You have to be flexible, get to know your colleagues and the pace of work, and have realistic goals.
One major point of frustration in the office was ensuring that I was told of plans. For instance, everyone else seemed to know when a staff meeting was scheduled, but they always neglected to tell me, so events and meetings often came as a surprise. In order to be prepared, I always had to ask my colleagues of any scheduled events on a regular basis.
What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?
Education, experience, age and leadership play an important role in a superior. She or he is expected to play the role of the leader, educator and protector both professionally and personally, like the role of parents. Open mindedness is considered as a bonus in a superior.
It is recommended no to be too friendly or too close to your subordinates. You should be friendly and close to them but remember to set an imaginary boundary and show it by letting them know (privately please) that certain behaviour and or joking with you is unacceptable. You can also let them know by being "cold" toward those that cross that boundary.
Foreigners are often treated as experts regardless of their education or experience. The qualities most regarded though are an ability to be flexible and adapt to the conditions while not trying to impose Western work values and expectations. Being open-minded and flexible and being able to adapt quickly to various situations while contributing to the work is what will win them over.
I would say that patience, flexibility, an easy-going personality (not being a doormat but being friendly) are qualities of a respected superior. People in positions of authority need to show strong leadership and may have to delicately push staff to get things done.
In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?
Ideas are usually generated by the superior or made to look as if they were generated by the superior to "save face". Wait before you present any ideas to your supervisor. Give her/him time. It would be a good idea to make it look as if your supervisor "inspired you", that you did not get the idea by yourself. The highest in rank will preside over a typical office meeting. Depending on how she/he was brought up, where she/grew up (in which part of Indonesia), whether she/he was educated overseas, the meeting will be held either democratically or not. Sometimes opinions, feedback and recommendations are sought for by the person residing over the meeting. Sometimes it is not sought at all. And if you have any suggestions, opinions and recommendations, you are expected to give them in private.
In my work environment we had a team and worked in brainstorming sessions to generate ideas, which were later presented to focus groups for feedback and the ideas refined by the team. I found that teamwork is often encouraged and followed, particularly at this stage of work. It is important to discuss ideas and plans with your supervisor. You have to keep in mind that you are working in a foreign environment and you don’t know all the nuances of language and culture, therefore it is best to get as much feedback and input on your work to help guide you in this context.
Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?
In Indonesia the husband is the head of the family. He is the main breadwinner and is responsible for his family. In the urban area many wives work outside of the home and could be more successful than her husband, but she will still respect him as the head of the family, she would give him credit for her success by "allowing her to have a career", "understanding from time to time she has to work overtime or go abroad by herself" etc.. In the family, decisions are made together but the husband still has the last word when it comes to really big decisions. The relationship between husband & wife might affect the workplace if the wife has to be sent out of town for a meeting, seminar or conference. The husband might not let her go for valid or non valid reasons and surprisingly to foreigners; she will usually respect his wishes.
Religion is the most important thing for an Indonesian. It is illegal not to have a religion and a person’s religion is stated in her/his ID card beside all the normal information that an ID card usually include: address, date of birth. However, there are people who are called "ID card Muslims, Christians" etc. These are people who are not particularly religious as they do not observe their religious practices, but when asked would say that she/he is a Muslim, Christian etc. according to their family’s belief and what is stated on their ID card.
The daily life and activities of an Indonesian are scheduled according to her/his religion; especially for Muslims who pray 5 times a day. During the normal office hour, until 4 or 5 o’clock, you will see Muslims pray twice: the second and the third prayer of the day. That is why in every office, a room is provided for this purpose. Please be sensitive to this need of your colleagues in the workplace. The men will also need to go to the mosque on Fridays to do the second prayer.
An Indonesian has to know where to place you as soon as you meet them. Class is very important and it is evaluated according to your age, education, civil status, work, family, house, car etc. How everybody is treated depends on all of the above information of a person. An elderly person is very respected. They are to be listened to. Indonesians avoid arguing with someone older than them. They also bow a little bit when speaking to them.
Since material things are a symbol of how successful you are in Indonesia, Indonesians tend to wear brand name clothing and accessories from head to toe.
Although Indonesia consists of many people coming from different areas of the country from east to west, most Indonesians are Javanese. Hence Javanese (Bahasa Jawa) is used a lot in the workplace among coworkers. The Javanese custom/culture also dominates the workplace.
Since Javanese is the more dominant culture, in the workplace or at home (household staff), Canadians have to keep in mind that Javanese are more sensitive people and their language/ is more high context than any other Indonesians who come from other areas in Indonesia. They will not be straight forward when they want to convey something to you. When supervising a project, it is recommended to closely monitor your subordinates, ask them about the progress of the project regularly, just in case they have any problems or need help etc. because Javanese are very polite people. It is very hard for them to ask for help and to be the bearer of "bad news".
Indonesia is a patriarchal society through and through. In my work environment I was respected because I was a foreigner and was thought to bring a certain expertise to the work. Also, I was a little older than many of my colleagues and there is an automatic respect for older women. However, it is evident that women in Indonesian culture are second to men. In the work place, however, in my organization, the executive director was a woman and she was very clearly the boss.
Individuals identify strongly with their religion and the attitude is such that everyone belongs to some religious grouping—Muslim, Hindu or Christian. Whether or not they are devout practitioners is not relevant, the identity is still quite strong. It is just assumed that westerners are Christian. In the work place there is a lot of respect for religious duty and time is given for individuals to practice their religion of choice. Thus, the Christians in our office were off at Christmas while the Muslims and Hindus worked, but the Muslims were off at Ramadan while the Hindus and Christians worked. The Hindus have quite a demanding religious calendar and, being in Bali where the majority are Hindu, the office accommodated their needs completely.
Class in Indonesia is identified through religion and both the Muslim and Hindu religions have hierarchical caste systems. This can pose issues in the workplace, particularly in terms of hierarchy in job descriptions versus social standing. Although it didn’t bear on my work personally, it was pointed out to me who was of which class and I was able to observe that people from higher classes were more likely to have positions of authority in the work place.
There are thousands of ethnic identities in Indonesia and people identify quite strongly with their roots. In some areas of the country the conflicts between ethnic groups are more pronounced and, as we have seen in the news of recent years, quite brutal and violent. In Bali, the Balinese identify with their Balinese heritage above being Indonesian, as do the Javanese, the Sudanese, etc. I think this is the norm for most groups regardless of the region or province of origin.
During the Suharto years there was a government program of forced migration for population control, which some say was an attempt to force Javanese dominance on the rest of the country. This program has largely contributed to a lot of the ethnic tensions throughout the country.
Also, because of the economic disparities between regions and provinces there is a lot of domestic migration as people try to go to where the jobs are (mainly Bali and Jakarta). In Bali, it is not uncommon to hear contemptuous comments about the Javanese (as there are so many that have come for work) and if there is a theft in the office, for example, the Javanese will be the first to be blamed.
How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?
It is very important to establish personal relationship in the workplace and especially with a client before getting to business. As Indonesians have been exploited for many years by colonial powers that came to Indonesia to get what they lacked and needed badly in their country, Indonesians are very suspicious of foreigners who come to do business with them. In Indonesia business is only done with friends, not with strangers.
Try to find out via your secretary or the official’s secretary a little bit about this person and her/his family. Conversation about the family is always welcome. You can also ask them for suggestions about what to explore while working/living in Indonesia. Make sure you address them appropriately by asking her/his secretary what she/he prefers to be addressed as. Before "real business" is done, friendship has to be established first. It generally takes a few days to a week or two to establish this relationship and this after at least a few meals at restaurants, another outing with each others’ family, if possible, or a few rounds of golfing.
It is important to establish personal relationships before getting to business. Indonesians tend to be timid and shy and the more comfortable they are with you the better the working relationship. As mentioned above, there is often a ritual of getting to know more about each other personally, even in formal business settings, before getting down to business. Foreign women will be respected as experts in their field. It is best to develop working relationships with equals in terms of office hierarchy. Age determines the level of respect you will be granted as well.
Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship
It is common to give and expect special privileges among friends. Naturally a colleague or employee would expect that from you if you have a personal relationship friendship with her/him.
As a Canadian, I can imagine that you would feel uncomfortable when being asked for a special favour by a colleague or subordinate given your personal relationship or friendship. There are however circumstances where you can grant such privileges or considerations. For example, when the person recommended to be hired by her/him is really qualified to do the job. You should also grant a pay increase when a pay increase is really deserved. Sometimes managers overlook a pay increase or promotion and when you are reminded to consider it, please be fair. Your friend might not be asking you for a pay increase or promotion for her/him self. But she/he might merely be reminding you of a colleague (who had asked her/him to remind you) who really deserved to get it and was overdue for it but was overlooked.
When having a personal relationship or friendship with a colleague, be fair with her/him. Giving her/him special treatments will only create resentment in the workplace. On the other hand, just because you have a personal relationship or friendship with her/him does not mean that you have to treat her/him more harshly, just to show that you are being fair.
I think like anywhere, good working conditions, being treated well, loyalty and commitment to the work and respect for the employees go far in inspiring people to work well.
I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?
Going to the supervisor is better than asking a mutual colleague for assistance. You should ask your supervisor to intervene. She/he will then try to solve it discreetly. This way nobody will be embarrassed.
For Javanese, maintaining harmony and showing respect is very important. You have to take care not to cause any "loss of face" to either yourself or your colleagues. The concept of "saving face", to show respect and maintaining harmony in the workplace is very important. Showing your anger, raising your voice to anybody in the workplace in front of others will cause loss of face to both yourself and the person you are being angry at. If this happens, your Indonesian colleagues will lose their respect for you and the person you shouted at will not be able to bear the "loss of face" you caused for him/her. Chances are she/he will resign immediately after this incident. Conflicts should therefore be dealt with in private.
Javanese is a high context language, thus coworkers tends to relate this way by trying to avoid confrontations, by always trying to save a co-workers face, by giving hints instead of saying something outright. They will beat around the bush instead of being straightforward because that is the polite way of behaviour according to the Javanese culture. As a manager/colleague you have to be very sensitive interpreting every single word and body language on a daily basis which you think might be very stressful but you will get used to it and it will then become second nature.
You will know that a colleague is having problems with you when she/he avoids you or act cold towards you. You have to be very sensitive and aware of subtle messages all the time because it is not very easy to tell as Indonesians are very polite people.
Depends on your status and the status of the colleague. If you have a problem with someone lower in the hierarchy then it is ok to talk to them, but not aggressively, and certainly never in front of other staff. Take them aside and discuss your problem in a friendly manner. If it is someone equal or higher in status than you, this can become more delicate. If you feel comfortable with this person and have a basic personal relationship, it would be good to have a conversation and they would likely appreciate it if you made the first move since they will not likely bring it up.
If the situation is drastic, between a colleague, it would be useful to ask another colleague to help mediate or to ask your superior to intervene. If you are having problems with a superior, then it might be useful to ask other external resources for advice on how to proceed. People who have a good professional working relationship with the superior, such as their supervisor or external consultants, funding agency representatives, etc.
They won’t talk to you if they are having problems with you.
What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?
Encourage them by giving compliments, by having a good relationship, by "saving their face when needed, by respecting them and by treating them well. As in many other cultures Indonesian, like to be treated fair and for example, given promotions, credits etc. when due. In essence, managers are expected to fill the role of parents, protecting and guiding their subordinates. Loyalty will come by itself if they feel that you are a good parent.
I was not in a position of authority to grant special privileges so it is difficult to answer this question.
To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.
Books: Culture Shock, a Guide to Customs and Etiquette, Indonesia by Cathie Draine and Barbara Hall, & The Year of Living Dangerously by C.J. Koch.
The Year of Living Dangerously, with Mel Gibson, is the only western film I know of that takes place in Indonesia. This movie takes place during Suharto’s rise to power in 1966.
In Ottawa, Chahaya Malaysia is a restaurant that serves Indonesian-type dishes. Otherwise, I have recently seen frozen Indonesian dishes at Loblaws—Gado Gado, Nasi Goreng (but I haven’t tried them to taste their authenticity!)
The best place to research is on the Internet. The English-language daily The Jakarta Post has a good site: the Jakaratapost.com and Latitudes Magazine: www.latitudesmagazine.com for arts and culture magazine looking at all of Indonesia; Tempo (politics, current events etc.). Inside Indonesia—Australian based magazine on Indonesian politics and culture. It might be worthwhile contacting or checking the McGill University website as they have (or at least used to have) a very strong Islamic studies exchange program with Gadja Mada Univeristy in Yogyakarta. They may have on campus resources for Indonesian students.
Books: The Redundancy of Courage (Timothy Mo) a well-written novel which explains the history of East Timor.
Music: The Dedung Music of Indonesia is the traditional Gamelan music you hear everywhere—lovely!, Return to Yoga (CD)
Traditional dishes: Any kind of fish and seafood is delicious, meat satays with peanut sauce, tempe—a fried tofu, fried bananas, fresh fruit juices on every street corner, nasi and mie goren—fried rice and fried noodles available at road side stands everywhere!
When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?
Indonesians are usually very friendly and helpful. They would be happy to show you around and experience the local culture. Be sensitive though when asking a married friend because he/she might not have the luxury of time to do that.
The local newspaper should also give you information on what is going on in town at the moment, for example the English newspaper: Jakarta Post.
In Jakarta, you might like to visit a few of the many cafes and restaurants in the Kemang or local street stall restaurants (’warung’) in the Pecenongan.
When you get to speak Bahasa Indonesia more fluently, drop by and try the services of the local beauty salons. This a chance for you to experience some services that are not available in beauty salons in Canada such as "cream bath"; the local herbal hair treatment which includes massage from head to shoulder or toes, while listening on the conversations of the locals. You can visit these beauty salons even without being able to speak a word in Bahasa Indonesia too, of course. But you will miss out on the latest gossip.
Local English language newspapers and magazines are quite useful in terms of being brought up to speed on culture, arts, politics etc.
Taking a language course with a reputable school is the best point of entry to learn both the language and the context of the country. These courses tend to provide many cultural dos and don’ts as well as a good primary insight into the social context.
Friends and colleagues appreciate the efforts you make in learning the language and the culture and are likely to be keen in helping you along. As your relationship grows, you will be invited to family events, such as marriages and other family and religious ceremonies; they will guide you on how to dress, act etc.
Often, friends and colleagues will ask for your assistance in return to help with their English.
Who are this country's national heroes?
Indonesians have so many national heroes it is hard to mention only a few but I will pick 2 that I think have contributed a lot to Indonesia and are very much admired by Indonesian up to this day: Kartini and Soekarno:
Kartini was a Javanese princess who fought for the freedom of Indonesian women. Women had to marry at a very young age in their teens and often as the second, third or fourth wife. Kartini fought for a better life for women. Her birthday is celebrated on April 21 every year.
Soekarno was the first president of Indonesia. He declared Indonesia’s Independence Day together with his vice president Muhammad Hatta on August 17, 1945. Indonesia has been occupied and used by many nations, the Dutch, the Japanese, the English, the Portuguese and the Spaniards before its independence. Soekarno was a very much-admired president, a person with a very strong charisma and convictions. He passed away a few decades ago, but is still very much loved and admired by many Indonesians, young and old.
President Sukarno is considered the father of Indonesia. He was overthrown in a coup by Suharto (see The Year Of Living Dangerously!). Iwan Fals was a popular musician and Affandi a painter, who is probably the most highly regarded artist of his time. Religious leaders (particularly Muslim leaders) are powerful, charismatic figures in this majority Muslim nation: Amin Rais and former president Abdurrahman Wahid, for example.
Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?
I cannot think of any shared historical events between Indonesia and Canada.
Not really, or not that I know of. I am not even sure that the APEC scandal made much news in Indonesia. Perhaps Canada’s support to East Timorese independence could have an impact in some circles, but I really can’t say.
What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?
Indonesians are very friendly and love to make friends. To Indonesians who have been to Canada, Canadians are generally seen as "cold" when we first meet them and it takes a while before they warm up to new people, which can be very discouraging.
In the workplace, as supervisors, Canadians might be considered as being "too democratic". In Indonesia you might have to give your subordinates more directions and guidance, more like a parent. You should also follow up on projects closely and on a regular basis.
Often there are misconceptions about typical behaviours, as in many countries. Indonesia is a hot, tropical place and it is certain that the pace of life is more relaxed. It can be perceived by foreigners that locals are lazy or slow, but it is the responsibility of the foreigner to adjust to local rhythms rather than impose western expectations and judgements.
Your cultural interpreter was born in Melbourne, Australia where her father was stationed at the time at the Indonesian Embassy. The older of two children, she is a mix of Javanese (Central Java) and Sundanese (West Java) and was brought up speaking Bahasa Indonesia. The time she lived in Indonesia she lived in Jakarta, the capital of the country. She has also lived in Sweden, Burma, the Philippines and Australia and has a great interest in comparing cultures. Your cultural interpreter studied Economics at Carleton University and immigrated to Canada in 1990 to live with her husband. She is currently working with FLIO/CFSL at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Your cultural interpreter was born in Montreal, and raised in Aylmer, Quebec. She studied accounting at CEGEP, Mass Communications at Carleton University and Print Journalism at Algonquin College. She then went to work in Indonesia through CUSO. A former journalist, she has travelled extensively throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America. Her hobbies include writing and while in Indonesia she was a regular contributor of articles for tourist magazines. She also has a long history working with the non-government sector in various fields, including the arts, social work, the environment and development. She is currently working with Development and Peace as a program officer for Asia. Your Cultural Interpreter is a French Canadian.
Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.
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