We’ve been engaged by international companies to conduct research to understand their customers in Indonesia. Compared to our experiences conducting research overseas, doing one in Indonesia is quite unique.

These are key differences that you need to be aware of if you are coming from overseas and planning to conduct user research in Indonesia.

1. Research your research location

Addresses in Indonesia can be very difficult to find. The numbers along the same road are not sequential, e.g., number 15 after house number 27. Sometimes, their homes are located in a small alley that can only be access through another alley.

So if you are doing field research or visits to the customer’s homes, do your homework by finding out their addresses and exact home locations first beforehand. You don’t want to lose your time finding the address or getting lost during the actual research.

2. Start with Bahasa Indonesia

Depending on your target participants, they may be fluent and comfortable with having the session in English. However, don’t ask directly if they are comfortable with English. Some people don’t want to admit that they are not comfortable with English, and will try hard to converse in English. As a result, they may not be able to express their thoughts and feeling more openly and accurately (due to the lack of vocabulary), and this may affect the quality of the research.

The best is to start speaking in Bahasa Indonesia, then slowly probing a question or two to see how the participant responds. Usually, if the participants are fluent in English, they will reply you in English. Based on this, you can then decide whether you want to continue the session in Bahasa Indonesia or in English.

3. Read in between the lines

The Indonesian culture of being polite and trying to please others (which is more prominent in some areas such as Java) means that you have to be more careful in interpreting what they say. Having local user researcher helps, as they would have the cultural and local context to understand what the participant really means. Another way to spot this is to rephrase the question differently, and spot for inconsistencies.

We know that users are very tolerant and blame themselves when they don’t understand how to use the system. This is even more in Indonesia. Sometimes, we find that phrasing the question in a negative sentence help to encourage them to feel more comfortable about sharing their frustrations more openly.

4. Asking personal questions

The people in Indonesia are generally quite open to share their personal stories. Asking their age, marital status, religion, which can be very sensitive elsewhere is actually quite common here, as long as you ask them politely. One of our interviewees even told use his password willingly without us asking.

5. Drinks and snacks!

Expect to have lots of drinks and snacks during the research. When you do home visit, the respondent / host will show their kind gestures by serving you something to eat / drink. When you do usability testing, the host of the venue or recruiter will also provide the respondents, researcher and observers plenty of snacks and drinks. It’s really something nice to break the ice before every session!

On final note, Indonesians are very friendly and thus easy to engage and have conversation with. The tricky bit is to understand the local culture and context so you can get more accurate insights.