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Asia

Postcard from Jakarta, Indonesia

Trainer Thorsten Karg is in a quandary: what's the right thing to wear to a workshop?

I'm usually not plagued with the "What should I wear?" question when I'm running a workshop. Still, I know that if I'm not dressed accordingly I might offend certain groups or discredit myself as a trainer. I never assumed it would make people laugh.

At "Train the Trainer" seminars I conduct, the upcoming trainers sometimes ask how they should dress when they're on the job. Formally or casually? Should they wear bright or muted colors? I usually advise them to dress in a way that's suitable to the environment they're working in. At a recent workshop in Jakarta, though, I learned how not to dress.

On the first day of the workshop the participants all wore dark blue shirts and blouses. They said this was a uniform they were required to wear at work. I nodded, but told them as far as I was concerned they could wear what they liked for the duration of the workshop.

A question of style?

On Day Two I was extremely pleased to find they'd traded their dull blue uniforms for vibrant Indonesian batik blouses and shirts. The room was awash in color and the participants had obviously dressed the way they liked.

The next morning I searched my hotel closet for equally colorful clothes. I ended up choosing green pants and a blue polo shirt - a little daring, I thought as I checked myself in the mirror, but if the participants were going to dress so brightly, I as the trainer would as well.

I entered the classroom and what did I see? Fifteen young Indonesian journalists all dressed in humorless white shirts and black pants. Gone were any hints of individualism - except for my own, of course, standing there like a color-clad clown.

When I asked my colleagues why they had suddenly changed their minds, they began to laugh. The blue shirts, they explained, the vibrant batik shirts and the black and white outfits were the uniforms they had to wear at work. The change of clothes was mandatory - blue shirts for Mondays, batik for Tuesdays, black and white for Wednesdays, and then it was back to blue and batik for Thursdays and Fridays. As for the batik uniforms, each of the 28 regional stations had their own pattern. That explained why the participants had dressed so differently the day before.

The young journalists were equally surprised to learn that media professionals in Germany don't have to wear uniforms. In Indonesia every media organization provides staff with mandatory uniforms as part of the organization's "corporate identity".

That might be unusual for Europeans. But at least it prevents individual employees from standing there looking like a clown.


Thorsten Karg is a full-time DW Akademie trainer and project manager. His focus is on radio and online journalism as well as "train the trainer" workshops for upcoming media trainers. As a member of DW Akademie's Eurasia team Karg's projects are based in Southeast Asia and primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia. Prior to joining DW Akademie in 2002 Karg worked for many years as a radio and online journalist.

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