April 16, 2015

Relocating to Indonesia: What You Need to Know

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Relocating to Indonesia: What You Need to Know

Indonesia is one of Southeast Asia’s largest economies and has enjoyed rapid development in recent decades. The most frequent relocation destination for expatriates is the capital city of Jakarta. Our latest Emerging Market Watch on Indonesia discusses the key challenges that international assignees may face when living and working there.

Spread across a chain of thousands of islands, Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. For those relocating there, the country offers the world’s largest Buddhist site at Borobudur, the temples of Prambanan, and the beautiful beaches of Bali. Watch the Cartus On the Ground video on Indonesia to find out more about this emerging market destination.

Relocation Challenges for International Assignees


Demand for good, high-quality expatriate housing is great, especially for properties located near international schools. Landlords expect rental payments to be paid in advance, regardless of the length of the lease. With this in mind, organizations will need to ensure that assignees have the entire rental payment ready.

Where to Live in Jakarta? For couples or assignees relocating on their own, Central Jakarta has a number of apartment buildings that provide upscale city living. For relocating families, Pondok Indah is near international schools and offers large properties. East Jakarta, Mentang, Kebayoran Baru, and Kemang also have good housing options, close to amenities. Outside of the city, Karawang has popular expatriate neighborhoods and is located 32 miles east of Jakarta.


Road congestion can be the biggest challenge for assignees relocating to Jakarta, and traffic should be your main consideration when choosing a house and school. Consider providing assignees with a car and driver for the duration of their assignment, as road and driving conditions can be hazardous. We also recommend that assignees allow an extra hour when travelling to meetings, as congestion can be unpredictable in the city.

Cultural Issues

The national motto of Indonesia is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which means Unity in Diversity, and in the workplace, a sense of belonging to a group is essential. Here, we’ve outlined some “Top Tips” for doing business in Indonesia, as highlighted by our Cartus Intercultural and Language Solutions team:

√  Communication style is indirect. Evading a question is a way of saying no. Smiling, meanwhile, can hide embarrassment, shyness, or disapproval and does not always mean someone is happy.

√  Often, Western directness is perceived as rudeness, so remember that in most Asian countries, saving face is essential; do not raise your voice or criticize individuals publicly.

√  Meetings at restaurants are seen as a good way of building relationships with business associates. Only discuss business if your Indonesian counterpart brings up the subject.

√  There is strict protocol about who keeps whom waiting in meetings. The more senior the person, the longer they can keep the other party waiting. A junior person is never late for a meeting with someone senior, and foreign nationals will be expected to be on time for everybody.

√  Observe Muslim sensibilities about the use of the left hand. Don’t use it to shake hands, eat, or pass things to other people, including business cards.

√  Despite their reserved manner, Indonesians do not shy away from hard bargaining, so expect long discussions when negotiations begin.

View our Resource Page and On the Ground video series for additional information on moving to other Emerging Market locations.

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