Mastering Cross-Cultural Business Etiquette

2 min read –

Which hand should you use when giving your business card in a) Indonesia? b) India? c) China?

Understanding cultural nuances is crucial in business.

While a misstep in handing over a business card may not make or break a deal, it can leave a bad lasting impression.

In Indonesia, your customer won’t mind if you don’t know that

– Beef Rendang is from Padang (Sumatra island)
– Gudeg is a food specialty from Yogyakarta (Java island).

But, giving something using your left hand is a major blunder.

I learned this the hard way in Jakarta in 1999.

I handed over a brochure to a customer using my left hand.

I still remember his face. Not happy.

In Indonesia, the left hand is considered unclean and is not to be used if possible.

Cultural differences abound. So when is it crucial to care and when is it less important?

How can we best prepare without delving into the extensive work of Geert Hofstede?

Geert Hofstede (1928-2020) was a Dutch social psychologist.

He founded comparative intercultural research.

The Hofstede matrix helps managers understand stakeholder behaviors in multicultural business environments.

The initial Hofstede model, introduced in 1980, featured 4 dimensions:

➡ Power distance: acceptance of leadership
➡ Individualism: feeling independent or loyal to groups
➡ Avoidance of Uncertainty – anxiety in front of the unknown
➡ Masculinity (tough competition, success) – Feminity (caring for others and quality of life)

Please do not throw any gender stones at the 4th dimension, that was 1980!

In 2001, Hofstede added a 5th dimension: Relation to Time.
For example, time is linear in Europe, and circular in Asia.

In 2010, a 6th dimension emerged: Indulgence.

In an indulgent culture, doing what your impulses want, is good. In a restrained culture, the feeling that life and duty are hard is normal.

To explore Hofstede’s work further, visit the official website : https://geerthofstede.com

For comprehensive reports and cross-cultural management training, check:

➡ TMA World
➡ Or The Culture Factor Group

(no affiliation with CINTASIA  ).

For free tips, use the country comparator from The Culture Factor Group.

This tool allows you to select countries and view scores for the 6 Hofstede dimensions.

As seen in the attached graph comparing Indonesia and France.

Consider reading “Kiss Bow or Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison.

A bestselling book offering advice on 60 countries, covering :

– Best practices
– Business protocol
– Country’s background
– Value system, cognitive style

Our strongest advice is to seek help from a professional local company in your cross-cultural journey.

The accumulation of small positive cultural impressions on your customers will increase your chances of success.

For Indonesia, you can rely on our bicultural team at CINTASIA

Contact us at bonjour@cintasia.com

PS: The answer to the initial question in this article is:

a & b = right hand or 2 hands, never with the left hand.

c = better with 2 hands