Everything you need to know about employment and office culture in the Big Durian
Navigating your way through a new company culture may seem daunting, especially when you have just moved to a country and culture that is entirely new to you! Lucky for you, we’ve put together some insights on typical business etiquette here in the Big Durian. Whether you’re just curious about working conditions in Jakarta, or already have a sweet job lined up, here are the things to consider. We break it down with everything from office hours to office camaraderie so you’ll hit it off with your colleagues no time.
Pssttt… Moving to Jakarta as a freelancer? Check out these awesome co-working spaces to set up shop.
Office hours are generally 9AM to 6PM or 8AM to 5PM with an hour-long lunch break, but this really depends on the nature of your field of work and company. Depending on your work place environment, it is also still very common that the employees do not leave before their supervisor.
While it may not feel like the typical island life here in the Big Durian, Jakartans are very much on island time. With the state of the city’s completely unpredictable traffic, and lack of reliable public transport, it is not uncommon to wait 30 min or more for a meeting to start. If you precede yourself with a warning call or text message about your lateness, it is generally well received and understood. But if you are meeting with upper managements of an organization, it’s best not to test your luck. Give yourself an extra half hour to travel and you’ll probably arrive right on time.
It also may be good to note that not all meetings happen during said office hours. Client meetings may very well turn into dinner meetings and after hours networking events, so be prepared.
Generally business casual is a good and safe choice for daily office wear. In more creative fields, the attire is even more laidback, and jeans and hoodies are acceptable. Yes, hoodies, as the air conditioning is usually on full blast and it can get quite chilly.
Casual Fridays are also practiced here in Indonesia and better yet many offices have an assigned “Batik” day where everyone wears batik. Because Batik is the official dress in Indonesia, it is even considered formal wear. As a male, a long sleeve, untucked, Batik shirt is the equivalent to a suit. Definitely play it by ear, but it is normal to show up to a state event in a long-sleeve batik, nice trousers and dress shoes.
Workers are legally provided with 12 days of paid leave a year. Normally, an employee may not take leave before the end of their probation period (around 3-12 months depending on your contract). The good news is, because of all the official religions here in Indonesia, every religious holiday is a government mandated holiday, meaning lots of extra days off for workers. There are generally 21 days of public holidays including about 5 days of paid leave for the Lebaran or Idul Fitri break where most Indonesians travel back to their hometowns to spend time with their families. Many offices end up giving their employees a week or more off.
You may notice soon after settling into the city that most of the times when you are filling out official forms you will be asked to tick a religion box whether or not you have one. Indonesians are officially required by state to have one of the six recognized religions (Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Confucianism), however, do not be alarmed as Indonesians are incredibly tolerant and pride themselves in working harmoniously with people of other faiths. It is very normal for someone to ask you about your religion while striking up small talk even in the office setting.
A lot of professional communication is done via web or messaging apps – very rarely do you get a phone call nowadays. The majority of workers in Indonesia own a smartphone, so using WhatsApp and Line are completely acceptable ways of communicating between co-workers and clients alike. The work culture still prefers having important meetings in person, and again with the traffic, it is pretty common for deadlines and projects to get pushed back.
With all these unpredictable complications that can happen at the workplace due to things like traffic and spotty Internet service, workers are expected to have a very flexible schedule and positive attitude. Because of this it may also be hard to get a straight answer from anyone because it is hard to know for certain when things will get done.
Camaraderie & Happy Hour
If you go anywhere, you will notice the sound of laughter echoes everywhere. Indonesians are highly jovial people and love a good laugh. There is always innocent bantering happening amongst co-workers. You will do yourself a huge favor by taking a few courses in Bahasa Indonesia. While most Indonesians speak some English, their conversational language between themselves is still Bahasa Indonesia and they automatically revert back to it. You’ll gain quick friends and pick up a lot more of the humor by doing so.
Because of the majorly Islamic population and high prices of alcohol, drinking is not that common among co-workers. Many young Indonesians do drink in moderation, but realistically, unless you go to a bar near your office, you’ll probably miss happy hour stuck in traffic anyway.
Depending on your job duties, if you’re required to travel around the city a lot for work companies will provide employees with a car (sometimes with a driver), a travel stipend or reimbursements for cabs, petrol and toll. Otherwise, many Indonesians use the Transjakarta busway system, Kopajas (those precarious Tazmanian devils masked as busses), the city train, ojeks or ride their own motorbikes. Compared to New York, Paris or Singapore, taxis are incredibly cheap but for many workers they are still prohibitively expensive. That said, we suggest you take the Blue Bird taxis or even Uber around if you don’t have your own car or driver as they are the safest, and most reliable forms of transportation. And if traffic is really bad, grab a GoJek, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.
Getting working papers in Indonesia is no easy feat and it is equally as costly. Companies often hire agents who take care of the long and tedious process of applying for a KITAS. Spouses and families are eligible for dependent KITAS but are not eligible to work with this type of visa. Also, if you are caught doing a job different from what your visa states, you and the business sponsoring you may incur heavy fines.
If you’re doing business in Indonesia, but aren’t working for a local company, it is possible to obtain a year long business visa that allows you to conduct meetings but does not entitle you to work for a local company directly. It allows you entry in to Indonesia for 2 months at a time, for one year.
There are many people who simply come into Indonesia with a tourist visa but the Indonesian government is very strict and will deny you entry into the country if they feel you are suspiciously entering the country on a tourist visa. We don’t recommend this route as deportation can be very costly and to re-enter Indonesia, the fine is upwards of US$20,000.
Companies do provide basic health insurance to their employees but it may be better to seek private health insurance depending on your package as the most common scheme only allows your claim to be equivalent to one month’s salary. There are great hospitals and doctors in Indonesian but keep in mind that many Indonesians still travel to Singapore for more complicated treatments and surgeries.
Share your tips and experiences of working in the Big Durian by writing to us in the comment section below!