Indonesians are known for their hospitality. Do not reject their hospitality, as it will be viewed as a personal rejection. Never refuse food or drink but never finish either completely. Compliments about the food are appreciated. It is a special honor to be invited to an Indonesian’s home. Social events generally start late. 

Indonesians usually arrive thirty minutes after the stated time. Any business discussions at social events should be initiated by Indonesians.


Most Indonesians are Muslim and consume no liquor or pork. If you receive invitations during your stay, be sure to reciprocate before returning home. A lavish dinner may be criticized; be generous and hospitable, but don’t overdo it. The quest of honor is usually seated next to the host and begins the meal; this is a distinct honor. Wait until the host has ordered before you do so. If you are asked to begin the meal, you should refuse twice and then begin. Additionally, wait until he has served himself and has taken the first sip of his beverage before you proceed with the meal.

This is very important. If you are the host, be sure that you invite your guest to begin. The person who invites is expected to pay the bill in a restaurant. Request the bill by making a scribbling gesture on the palm of your hand.


If you are invited, you must attend as a sign of respect for those who invited you and your relationship with them. Even if you haven’t known them for a long time. Not attending might insult those involved in the wedding and will probably cause some trouble in your relationship.


Home invitations are rare but If you are invited to an Indonesian home, you should consider it a rare honor. If invited to a home, you are expected to arrive 10 to 20 minutes late. Upon arrival, discreetly check to see if your host or hostess is wearing shoes. If not, be sure to remove your own shoes. It is appropriate to bring a gift with you. While any small token gift will be appreciated, such as candy or something representative of your country, avoid giving alcohol if your hosts are Muslim. Avoid bringing food gifts with you unless it has been agreed upon beforehand. To bring food may imply that your host cannot provide enough. Instead, send food as a thank-you gift afterward. Candy or fruit baskets are good choices.

Wait for the host to invite you to begin eating or drinking. The guest of honor or senior person begins the meal; this is a distinct honor. If you are asked to begin the meal, you should refuse twice and then begin. The host is always the last to sit and eat. Men are generally served first. You will be presented with a wide array of food originating from Indonesia’s numerous regions. Make an effort to sample everything, if for no other reason than as a sign of respect for the Indonesian culture. Compliments about the food are appreciated.


Business gifts are generally not exchanged. At the first meeting, presenting your Indonesian counterparts with small gifts is one of the best ways to display your interest and sincerity in establishing a long-term business relationship.

The gifts should be modest but thoughtful, such as tokens representative of your country or that feature your company logo.

Receive a gift appreciatively. It is impolite to refuse a gift. Gifts are not opened in the giver’s presence except at a ceremony, where the gift is opened in front of an assembled group.

Always offer gifts with the right hand only, or better yet with both hands. The receiver might politely “refuse” the gift in the first instance by saying “ah, you don’t have to go through such troubles”, and it is considered a polite gesture. It means completely no offense as it is done in such an appreciative and humble tone.

Your reply is “not a trouble at all”. Indonesian Chinese will customarily refuse a gift three times before accepting it since they believe that following this ritual prevents them from appearing greedy. In turn, continue to insist; when the recipients finally accept, say that you are pleased that they have done so.

A small token of appreciation may be given to secretaries. Gifts to colleagues should be given after most business has been concluded. Please check with your Indonesian friends or colleagues on what to give and not to give.

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