GIFT GIVING IN INDONESIA*
- Gift Giving Etiquette
BUSINESS GIFT GIVING /
PERSONAL GIFT GIVING
At Chinese New Year, it is customary to present a gift of money in
a red envelope to children and nongovernmental service personnel you deal
with on a regular basis. The gift is called a “hong bao.” Ensure that you
give only new bills in even numbers and even amounts. Many employers give
each employee a “hong bao” equivalent to one month's salary.
- During 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.
On this occasion, the gifts should be modest but thoughtful, such as
tokens representative of your country or that feature your company logo.
- You are also expected to give gifts to celebrate an
occasion, when you return from a trip, when you are invited to an
Indonesian home, when a visitor comes to tour your office or workplace,
and to thank someone for providing you with a service.
- Gifts of food are always appreciated by Indonesian
Chinese, but avoid bringing food gifts with you to a dinner party [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
afterwards. Candy or fruit baskets are good choices.
- Indonesian Chinese will customarily refuse a gift
three times before accepting, 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. When you receive a gift, you will also be expected to follow
the same routine.
- Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is not a
part of Indonesian culture. This action implies that the recipient is
greedy and impatient. Moreover, if the gift turns out to be a poor choice,
“loss of face” will result. Instead, the recipient will briefly say
“thank-you”, set aside the gift, and then open it only after your
departure. You will also be expected to follow this ritual when you
receive a gift.
- Western advertising has popularized flowers as
gifts. Make sure you give an even number of flowers because an odd number
is considered an omen of bad luck.
- Remember that personal gifts from a man to a woman
can be misinterpreted as having a romantic intent. Consequently,
Indonesian business protocol requires that a businessman say that his wife
sent the gift.
- Modest but thoughtful gifts, such as
tokens representative of your country or that feature your company logo
can be appropriate, especially during first meetings.
- With the exception of dinner parties,
food can be a welcome gift on most occasions. Moreover, when visiting an
area of Indonesia where a delicacy is available, it's expected that you
bring samples back for your friends. When selecting a gift of food for an
observant Muslim, however, meat products must be “halal”, which is the
Muslim equivalent of kosher.
- In Indonesia, songbirds are prized
pets. Moreover, tapes and CDs of the music of champion songbirds are
popular here, and make good gifts for those with affection for birds.
Gifts to Avoid
- Avoid bringing gifts of food with you to a dinner
party unless it has been agreed upon beforehand. To bring food may imply
that the hospitality is inadequate--a terrible insult to an Indonesian
host. Your safest option is to send food as a thank-you gift afterwards.
Candy or fruit baskets are good choices.
Gifts to Avoid Giving to Indonesian Chinese
- Refrain from giving gifts of knives, scissors, or
other cutting tools to the Chinese, since they suggest the severing of a
friendship or other close bond.
- The following items are associated with funerals and
should be avoided:straw sandals, clocks, handkerchiefs, gifts or wrapping
paper in white, black, or blue
Gifts to Avoid Giving to an Observant
- alcohol, perfumes containing alcohol,
pork, pigskin products, personal items such as underwear, knives, toy dogs
or gifts that picture dogs, images of nude or partially clad women [even
in paintings or sculptures with artistic merit]
Gifts to Avoid Giving to an Observant
- Be sensitive that observant Hindus do
not eat beef or use cattle products. Consequently, leather items of any
kind should not be considered as gifts.
*IndonesiaBusiness Etiquette - Gift Giving.
Executive Planet. 30 July 2004
Above: The flag of