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Introduction Indonesia is a very unique country; we are a new nation but our history is steeped in cultural legacies, some good, others bad. Due to our disposition and history, which is quite unique in Indonesia, particularly in Java, we have a natural tendency to absorb the best from other cultures, and reject through natural selection, those that don’t suit our needs. So in many ways cross-cultural culture management is second nature to us. Indonesia, and it’s cultures, has the ability to absorb other cultures and religions. We have absorbed Hindu, Buddhist , Islamic and other cultures from the very islands that constitute Indonesia.
Indonesia has been under the yoke of Dutch colonization for 350 years and three years under the Japanese during World War II which led to our independence. We are accustomed with Western Culture whether forced or absorbed.
Cross cultural understanding is the ability of people for business people, diplomats and visitors to recognize, understand and correctly respond to people, incidents or situations where misunderstandings might arise due to cultural differences.
There are four Ls of cultural competence. Be able to look and listen, learn, and live with the people you are working with. You need to be aware of the cultural differences, be able to absorb them, and apply them in every decision you make.
There’s a famous Indonesia proverb, which I’m sure you are all aware of serves as an example of cultural awareness[AS1] . When pointing a finger at someone, remember 3 fingers are pointing at you. It’s a proverb I’m fond of for many reasons. But it also doubles up as a mirror.
When we visit other countries and cultures, we are always putting up a mirror and trying to see ourselves in it. Often we blame others when the problem is in ourselves.
Why is cultural competence important? Considering others from your own point of view does nothing to build respect, or trust. Without respect and trust how can you do business with each other? More importantly, how can you keep doing business with each other?
I have over the years met many interesting Australians who in my capacity I have been responsible in helping them work as volunteers in local companies. Roles I performed included screening applicants and helping them get their visas and setting up small businesses for them. You wouldn’t believe the cultural hurdles I had to jump. I am not only had to cater to the needs of these volunteers, but also I had to act as a kind of cultural translator. And it was in those times that I was able to think more about my culture. And[AS2] the idea to write a book about my experience, and helping other’s who I hope won’t need to make the same mistakes as myself and my colleagues have.
I have traveled extensively in my country in the capacity as cultural guide for foreigners and Indonesians and I have first hand knowledge on the diversity of our archipelago. I want to repay the debt to my country and all the great foreigners I have met in the capacity as Director of Volunteers abroad. This book will be instructive on how to navigate the culture waters that are teeming with nuances, shifts of views, and swirling ideas that might at first might be hard to get your head around.
A case in point are the as Korowai people of West Papua. Often what attracts us to study their way of life is the perception of people like ourselves, but at a lower level. We feel that we are civilized and therefore at a higher level than they are, even regard them as backward.
The Korowai people understand this, and resent it. When we arrived, unannounced, we were greeted with arrows. We had with us a cultural advisor and translator. He negotiated with them. He was able to explain our intentions to the people of the tribe. It was crucial he that. Our necks were on the line.
Once our intentions were explained to them, we were able to live with them and document their ways. This was culture interpretation. Our translator is[AS3] one of the members of the tribe, but who had lived outside West Papua. He was from a wider world, he understood two cultures, and he was able to bridge them. He interpreted more than language.
In that one week, I was able to learn about their culture. I came back to Jakarta questioning my own, looking to merge the best, so that as humans we can grow spiritually.
To begin to do business, you need a cultural interpreter with integrity, an interpreter you can trust to build trust. He has to be able to anticipate concerns, and address them, honestly and clearly. To do this, he must know how the people he is talking will be able to trust him to rearrange what you have said in a meaningful way.
A quote from an Aboriginal man in Australia tends to sum up my feelings f cross cultural sensitivities and some of the pitfalls of misunderstanding:
“Dealing with white fellow law is like playing football when the other team and umpire are applying basketball rules. Not only has the goal post moved, but there’s not even a goal post anymore.”
That’s the kind of misunderstanding you must avoid if you are going to do business with each other. Each must understand the goalposts. You must be able to see it if the other person does see the goalposts in the same place that you see them.
Misunderstandings can be avoided with understanding and an open mind. The pitfalls of not understanding culture can be avoided with a little bit of common sense.. In some countries, culture considerations need to be taken aboard, if you don’t want to offend someone. In Thailand, it’s considered rude to touch someone on the head. And it’s also a criminal offense to speak about the Royal Family. Though the country appears free and a great tourist destination, many Thais are in jail for commenting on the Royal Family. Here in Indonesia, religion is our sensitive nerve. Over the years, Jakarta has seen a spate of bombings of western hotels, and in Bali, a night club was the target of tourists.
The Islam clerics have a lot of political clout here in politics. The idea of a secular government is to avoid religious interference with governance. But only recently, Lady Gaga’s Monster tour was canceled, due to the imams’ considering her music ‘immoral.’
Alternatively, in Indonesia, if you point your feet at someone, that is also considered insulting, as it’s the lowest, and hence the dirtiest part of the body. In Indonesia, we shake with the right hand. Never with the left. That is considered very rude. The left hand is for handling dirty materials, according to our Islamic believes.
My friend, an Australian, told me he was recently shaking with his left hand at a recent karaoke party with his Indonesian guests. It was a birthday party. They were close friends, so there was no outward offending emotions. “But you must be careful Thomas,” I explained. “Because the left hand is used for picking up dirty things.” The Indonesians were reluctant to shake his hand at first, but out of good humor they obliged him, explained my friend.
It’s my opinion that culture needs to be embraced and cultivated. Who doesn’t like to taste the cuisines of the world. The added bonus of studying culture is to not only to savor the local dishes but to live and see through eyes of other cultures. I believe this strengthens understanding and equips us with better skills in dealing with people. Over the next few chapters I will be honest in explain who Indonesians are, and our aspirations as a nation. I will also highlight the differences we have, and how though we might consist of many cultures and languages, that there is a unifying factor that keeps Indonesia united.
[AS1]I am sure all of you aware about serves an example of cultural awareness
[AS2]Pake then, conjunction ga boleh ada di awal kalimat
[AS3]Kalo ceritanya udah lewat harusnya pake was walaupun faktanya present
There are three Ls of cultural competence. Be able to look and listen, learn, and live with the people you are working with. You need to be aware of the cultural differences, be able to absorb them, and apply them in every decision you make.
I have been a guest speaker on Cross Culture Management Trainings and Opinion Management seminars, from local to international seminars. Due to my experience on the subject I will be offering my services to future conferences. I welcome any enquiries, both from the public and private sector, to discuss my services and how we can raise culture awareness in the Business sector.
Goals : To make them understand on other cultures for the benefit of your company
Objectives : 1. To understand in other to have cultural knowledge, awareness and culture sensitivy
2. To understand How to implement cross culture awareness in the company daily management
Topic : 1. Theory
2. Case study on Japanese Culture