Welcome to Yogyakarta


Welcome to Yogyakarta

April 17, 2017


Yogyakarta is a melting pot city in Indonesia. You can easily see all kinds of cultural entities from all places in Indonesia, even the world, in every corner of the street. These people come to and bring their own tradition and culture to Yogyakarta. This element shapes a layer of tolerance and understanding between the people and enriches the culture of Yogyakarta. The people in Yogyakarta are well-known for their warmth and hospitality. You will never feel lonely as people here will greet you with smiles and make sure that you are going to love their city as much as they do.   However, you will need to be careful when dealing with people from Yogyakarta when it comes to business. Though well known for its melting-pot culture, the majorities in Yogyakarta are Javanese and Muslims. Javanese has a strong tradition and culture to be maintained. While Muslims are people who always do things in accordance with the guidance of the teachings and beliefs. So, how is it to deal with people from Yogyakarta? Certainly, a cross-cultural understanding will be very important. If you’re going to work with people from Yogyakarta, you will need to get to know them. Here are some work ethics and cultures in Yogyakarta that will be useful for your information.    


Nice and Friendly

  Yogyakarta people are very nice and friendly. You will never meet people as caring as them in any part of the world. Javanese people has a philosophy that good people are those who can be useful and helpful for everyone. If you get lost in the city, there will be many people to guide and help you to your destination.   This habit also applies at work. Your staff or business partner will gladly help if you need anything from them. People will not only take care of their own job, because in this city, people are always caring for others. They will not mind to help anyone who need help, and they have the kindest and the most sincere smile as they help you.  

Creative, Flexible, and Very Understanding

  People in Yogyakarta will not be mad if things don’t go as it is planned as they are very patient and understanding. Their heart are always prepared to understand any unexpected reasons as people believe that everything is actually destined by God, any unexpected or unfortunate event are always reasonable and acceptable. It can also be seen when you make any mistakes, they can easily forgive you as Javanese people are taught to not hold a grudge.   At work, Javanese are also very patient and detail. They love to do every work in detail. They are meticulous in terms of arts and creative works. There are many artists in Yogyakarta, and people can appreciate artistic works very well in this city.   Flexibility can be found not only in their attitude and works, but also in terms of time. Westerners often expect business partner to be punctual. However, it is common for Indonesians to arrive late. When westerners use phrases like “time is money” and promptness is a valued cultural trait. In contrast, many Indonesians see time as elastic. You will need to keep in mind that the Javanese culture is based on a collective principle, where a solution eitherif it is a contractual relation or any business deal must meet the agreement of everybody involved. You can’t be in rush when dealing with Javanese regarding a contract, it can be considered as rude and impolite.  

Yes is not Always A ‘Yes’

  Javanese people are incredibly friendly and polite about everything. People will hardly say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ for anything. The word ‘No’ means openly showing their disagreement. The local culture is based on the principle of harmony and consensus and thus a clear “No” to something would contradict those principles.   There will also be many times when people can say ‘yes’ but it means as ‘no’, just because they feel it’s impolite to refuse an offer, especially refuse food or drink. As the majority of the people in Yogyakarta are Javanese, this perspective regarding politeness is quite unique and it is shaped as a culture in this city.   When talking to Javanese business partners you may get the feeling that everything you say is absolutely right and everybody agrees to your ideas and proposals, just because they want to be polite. Be aware that there are different levels of “Yes”. Those levels range from: “Yes, I hear you talking” or “Yes, I understand what you have said” or finally, “Yes, I agree with you”. Until the final “Yes, we can do that!” Do not take the first “Yes” as an overall agreement.  

Asking No Question and Avoiding Eye Contact

  In a formal meeting, you will see that Javanese will rarely ask any question. It is not because they understand completely or because they know nothing and don’t know what to ask. This is because Javanese doesn’t want to burden you with their questions. They will think that it’s more polite to seek any answer privately than if they need to blow it up in public.   When a Javanese avoid an eye contact with you while talking, it’s not because they are afraid or lying or rude. It’s the other way around, as in tradition, it’s not polite to see a stranger or people in higher position in the eye. When somebody does that, probably because they think you have higher position (for example, as their boss) or if they think you both are not close enough so it’s not polite to stare someone.  

Asking Private Information

  When people ask questions such as ‘where do you live?’ or ‘are you married’ or ‘do you have children’, ‘how old are you’? Don’t worry. They don’t mean to invade your privacy, be nosy or stalk on you. It is just how they start a small talk and act polite as it’s in Javanese tradition to keep a good social life with people in their neighborhood.   At work, their neighborhood is everybody in office. So it’s polite and perfectly safe if you give information regarding your private information to Javanese as it means that you accept their polite request to consider you as their acquaintance. This also helps to build social network as safety and help, in this city, are not guaranteed by police but rather by relationships among the people around you.  

Social Hierarchies

  Hierarchical relationships are very important to Indonesians, as is respect for age, status and power. In group introductions, always greet the eldest or most senior person first. Javanese people, especially in Yogyakarta have the perspective that the older you are, the more people respect you, regardless of skills, or anything. As this is the Javanese culture to always respect older people.   Besides, a leader is seen as ‘father’ or ‘mother’. Therefore, normally in the office, employee would respect their leader, however, they also expect the leader to respect them back. As a ‘father’ or ‘mother’, it’s not justifiable to mock or insult anyone publicly as it will be creating social embarrassment. Having a good reputation is everything for Javanese people, therefore insult people publicly in the office would really ruin them. If you’re not satisfied with the job, it should be addressed privately.   Just like most of other cities in Indonesia, the majority in Yogyakarta are Muslims. Therefore, if you have business partners who are Muslims, you should pay attention to these three things: Fasting Month, Five Times Prayer and Friday Prayer. What are they?  

Ramadhan Fasting Month

  Ramadan, the fasting month, is an event of great importance to the Indonesian and the world’s Muslim community. Being one of the five pillars of Islam, observance of the fasting month is the priority in the devout Muslim’s life during this month. Fasting involves a change in the daily routine of the Muslim faithful and represents an expression of their deep belief in God. The fasting regimen is strict because no eating, drinking or smoking is allowed after the first prayer in the morning before the sun rises, until the opening of the fast in the evening when the sun sets. It will last for a month.   Business people often note a loss of work efficiency during Ramadan Fasting Month. Restaurants and entertainment establishments may appear closed or have reduced hours. Indonesians don’t usually impose their fasting on non-Muslims, and usually business should be able to continue on as it normally would. However, a polite, tolerant respect for those who are fasting is always appreciated.  

Five Times Prayer and Friday Prayer

  It is common for Muslims to pray five times a day, the first just before sunrise and last around two hours after sunset, each prayer taking about five to ten minutes.   In a normal workday (9am to 5pm), Muslims generally pray twice at work, at lunch time (1pm) and late afternoon (4pm). Before prayer, Muslims must wash their faces, hands and feet with clean water. Worship may be performed in any quiet, dry, clean place. As this will take about five to ten minutes, tolerant respect by giving time for Muslim partners to perform this five times prayer is always appreciated. Friday prayer is important thing as Friday is the day for congregational worship, in Bahasa Indonesia it’s called Sholat Jum’at. The Friday prayer is strictly for male muslims only. Prayer takes place at a mosque during the noon time prayer and includes an address or sermon, and lasts a total of 45–60 minutes. A Muslim employee can usually attend Friday prayers in an extended lunch break. Work time may be made up by either coming in earlier, staying late, or another agreed arrangement.     Overall, those points above are some information about work culture in Yogyakarta that needs to be understood and considered when you are going to do business with people in this city. Business may be business the whole world over, but the way it is conducted differs widely. By understanding the local culture, hopefully, the business will also become smooth and easier.