How to Interact with Different Cultures in Indonesia

Cross-cultural communication is key to assimilating into any new society. Understanding social norms and attitudes can ensure that a expat will fit into a working or social environment. Being able to grasp and adapt to a new environment is often the hardest part of being a foreigner in an Asian culture as it is so different to majority of Western cultures.

In today Western society, the common way of introducing an expat into a foreign society involves several steps;

  1. Preparation training for the individual and family which includes cultural awareness training, preliminary visits, language training, and practical re-enactments.
  2. Once the expat has moved from their foreign country, the employer should help to manage the housing, relocation and cultural norms. This will involve excursions around the local area of living, the office, and possible malls and food locations. If a family has moved in the working expat, this is highly relevant that children are comfortable and the partner is also catered for (International School, hobbies, Friendship/Social Groups). Spouse dissatisfaction is one of the key drivers to expat failure.
  3. After a month of the expat entering and settled in, the employer should assess whether the expat has settled in well or changes need to occur. This period of is often the hardest as culture shock and ‘home-sick’ can occur. The employer should be extra-vigilant in this period as if the expat leaves after such a short period, the long term investment is pointless.

Key Issues International Expats Face When Entering Indonesia

  1. Language Barrier
  2. Adjustment to Culture
  3. Family Unable to adjust to culture.

Ways to Reduce Dissatisfaction

  • Pre-departure language lessons and training can be seen as one of the most effective methods of expat training. This will reduce some of the initial difficulties and frustrations when initially arriving in the country. As the first month is the hardest part of cultural assimilation, a basic language understanding can help un-measurable amounts. Emotively, it will reduce basic self-frustrations, and externally people will be able to understand the basic sentences and you will not get lost or misinterpreted.
  • Watch, read, and understand the cultural norms of Asia, and compare them to the Western society of origin. Understanding cultural diversity can be one of the hardest as people do not fathom how different a global society can be. For example, in Indonesia, 84% of the population is Muslim. This is a basic number to read, but to understand how dominate this is on society can shock people. Even though this society is relativity moderate Muslim, Westerns need to adjust and assimilate into this culture.
  • All for the community to accept you into their environment before judging. With any new employee people are always slow to trust and integrate them into an environment. Don’t think that poor communication or sharing, Indonesian culture is traditional shy and withdrawn. These soft skills that Western’s are good at can be implemented and taught to Indonesian society to help with the cross-cultural communication and relationship building. is a company that will help to integrate new foreigners, expats, and locals to assimilate into culture.

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