Here is some advice to build good relationship with Indonesian people. If you come for short visit, local people won’t expect you to follow all good manners in Indonesia, but if you will stay longer they will appreciate if you will follow some main “rules”.
By the way in different islands can be other good manners than written here.
After you will know less or more Indonesian language, communicate with unfamiliar and elder people in formal language.
In Indonesia, when you address someone, it would consider more polite if you use these specific terms before mentioning the name: Bapak (in short – Pak) for Mr., Ibu (in short – Bu) for Mrs., Mas for young man and Mbak for Miss/ young woman.
If you disagree with someone, or if you want to express your dissatisfaction, avoid to raise your voice, and to lose your composure.
Smile and say “hello” for everyone that you pass, even if you don’t know that person (especially in Java island).
Remember to remove your shoes or sandals at the door to a house. In some shops, public places you will see as well that people removes their shoes – so just follow the locals and will be easy to know when to remove it.
Don’t wear translucent clothes, slippers, shorts, very open T-shirts, or short skirt/dress in the formal places (university, office room, immigration office and etc.). It’s impolite and disrespectful.
In Indonesia, people are more discreet than in Europe or other countries. Usually girls wear a T-shirt, rarely a low-cut or a sleeveless T-shirt. Nobody will criticize you because of your clothes; nobody will do anything but don’t feel harassed when you get stares.
One-piece swim costume better to wear in beaches where comes not a lot of tourist or just swim with shorts and T-shirt – like its common between Indonesian people. Separate swim costume can wear in touristic beaches.
Don’t act in public too intimate – kissing, hugging, excessive touching (especially in Muslim islands).
When pointing at something, people (especially Javanese) tend to use the thumb rather than an index finger.
Avoid standing with hands on hips as it can be construed as anger or a threat (especially in Java island).
Avoid touching or passing object over the top of anyone’s head as it is viewed as the most sacred body part.
If you visiting Indonesian people (especially in Java island) is polite to stay in his/her place till 9:00-10:00 pm, if this person is very close friend, relative you can stay till 11:00 pm (on Saturday, during celebrations as well you can stay till this time). If in the house lives only foreigners, local people are more flexible with visiting hours – but they will be appreciate if loud music, activities that makes noise after 10:00-11:00 pm would be reduce.
If you are guy and visiting Indonesian girl it’s much better if you stay with her outside in terrace or inside with a bit open entrance doors – it will help avoid gossips that inside something happen. As well don’t be surprised if you are foreigner girl and Indonesian guy during visit will suggest to sit outside open area, not inside the house. These things are more common in Java island.
As well Indonesians (especially kids, teenagers) when they greet and elder (a respected person in the community, a teacher, parents, grandmother, and etc.), move their offered hand to slightly touch their forehead, named “salim”. Like a foreigner you are not obligatory to do that.
And most important thing, don’t call anyone “dog” – “anjing” – because it’s lower than a human. Like in Indonesia most of the people are Muslims, “dog” counted like “dirty” wight, so if you call someone like this it means you call him “dirty unhuman”.
Information used from Javanese people sharing and internet sources, as well some pictures.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What other good manners you found out in Indonesia?
Do you have any similar good manners in your home country?
Which manners surprised you the most during your trips in Asia?
If you haven’t been before in any Asian country, maybe after you will come to Indonesia, you will have slighter (or bigger) cultural shock. The main thing – come to Indonesia with open eyes and heart, without any attitudes or negative wonder. Don’t judge Indonesian people, culture and country – just accept it how it is.
Some things that you should know before coming to Indonesia about Indonesian people lifestyle and maybe it will help you not have cultural shock.
Curiosity: Indonesians are very curious people. In the first meeting they can ask very personal questions. They do not mean to be impolite or disrespect your privacy with asking these questions, this is the way how they try to be friendly with strangers.
Staring: in Indonesia, it is not considered impolite to stare. Sometimes when you are out in public, you will feel yourself the object of staring. Adults will point you out to their children; people will stop what they are doing to watch you, etc.! The fewer foreigners in the area, the more stares you are apt to receive.
Most expats deal with the staring by just ignoring it. There is really nothing you can do about it; no matter how uncomfortable you are, it will always happen!
Meeting agreements: when you plan something with Indonesian you should know that “tomorrow” (“besok”) doesn’t have exactly the same meaning than ours. If Indonesian says “Besok kita makan bersama” – it can mean “We eat together tomorrow” or “We eat together in 2 or 3 days” and etc. depends on the context. The same with “yesterday” (“kemarin”) it can mean “yesterday”, “the day before yesterday”,”one week ago” and etc.
“Elastic Hour” (“Jam karet””): if you agreed to meet at one time and your friend comes one hour later, smiling as nothing wrong – it’s nothing wrong in Indonesia. Punctuality is not so important in Indonesia. Don’t think that your friend doesn’t respect you because he is late. Don’t be offended, rather adopt. Indonesian time, which is really relaxing.
Respect showing: to show respect to parents, elder people, teachers and etc. younger people take their hand and touch their forehead (“salim”).
Politeness: smiling is very prevalent and is often used even when people don’t like something or they don’t agree.
Laughing: if you ask someone to do something, but he cannot do it, laughing could be a way to express his embarrassment. The Javanese society is based on the concept of “rukun”, that is to say the willing to make peace and harmony the main priority in social relationships. The main point on Javanese culture is the willing to avoid all kind of clashes, or conflicts. Then, the difficulty for Javanese people to say no could be due to the willing to avoid conflicts.
Answers: if people don’t understand something or doesn’t know something, they still will show that they understand and know, like they don’t want to embarrass the other person by making them repeat the question.
Showing the way: most of the time, as often in Asia, Indonesian people are not used to read map and usually it’s hard understand when they explain how to get to any place. Better to ask several different people how to get to the place, like Indonesians even if they don’t know they want to help and say things that they think they know.
Explaining directions: only in Yogyakarta if you want to go somewhere and asking Indonesians how to get there, they will explain everything not in “ turn left”, “turn right” way but saying the main direction: North (direction to Merapi), South (direction to Parangtritis), West (direction to Kulon Progo or sunset), East (direction to Prambanan/Solo or sunrise). So try to go from Kasongan (South) to UGM university (North) by Indonesian explanation: “From the gate of Kasongan, go to the North. You will pass 5 traffic lights. On the 6th traffic light go a little bit North and turn to East then turn to North side again. On 7th traffic light – turn East. You will pass 2 traffic lights, on 3rd traffic light – turn to North and will see UGM gate”. Do you think you will manage to reach the place? :).
Beeping all the time: in the roads you will hear many beeps. Don’t worry Indonesians do that often not because you did something wrong, but because they want to inform you that they are coming
Shaman: Indonesian goes to shaman instead of doctor (when they get sick) or police (when they got robbed). It’s happening especially in villages.
Fever cure: if Indonesians have fever they do “kerok” – scratch the back and front body with metal money. To wind get out from the body, they believe that wind makes them get fever.
Indonesians wakes up very early: like most of them are Muslim, first they go to pray ~ 4:00 am (morning praying) and after that – start their daily works. Not all of them like this, but in villages it’s most common.
Walking habits: usually Indonesians don’t walk; use the vehicles even if they need to go to shop that is 5min. walk by foot.
Coughing and sneezing: it is not common for traditional and less educated people in Indonesia to carry handkerchiefs or tissues, and often they do not understand how diseases are spread. Therefore it is not unusual to see people coughing or sneezing openly without attempting to cover their mouth or nose.
Spitting: this habit is particularly common during the fasting month. Some strict Muslims refuse to swallow their own saliva while fasting, and spit saliva onto the ground or in the street. Gargling and spitting is part of the ritual cleansing before Muslim prayers.
Smoking: the vast majority of Indonesian men smoke, excessively! There are many public spaces where you will inevitably have to breathe in cigarette smoke. A law that banned smoking in transportation terminals, malls, offices, hospitals, schools, and universities, places of worship, buses, trains and playgrounds has been in effect in Jakarta since 2006, but it is not entirely enforced. Most office buildings and public areas of malls are complying; however, there will still be a smoking section in most restaurants.
Long thumbnails: sometimes you will see an Indonesian man with one or two very long nails, usually the thumbnail. This is intended as an indication of his status as a non-manual laborer or worker.
Wetness: a traditional Indonesian bathroom contains a trough of clean water, from which water is scooped up in a plastic dipper (“gayung”) and poured over the body while standing on the floor of the bathroom. After soaping up all over, more dippers full of water are splashed over oneself to rinse off. This same practice is utilized when going to the toilet, resulting in very wet toilet seats!
This is intended as an indication of his status as a non-manual laborer or worker.
Scratch the back and front body with metal money.
You can buy different tobacco by your favorite smell and taste and the seller can mix for you.
Nice word playing “don’t quit” and as well “do it”. Left unsaid is the fact that half of all smokers who follow these directions to keep smoking instead of quitting will die prematurely as a result.
A traditional Indonesian bathroom contains a trough of clean water, from which water is scooped up in a plastic dipper (“gayung”) and poured over the body while standing on the floor of the bathroom.
“Linting roko” (rolling cigarettes) – cigarettes is without filter and was mostly smoking before cigarettes factories started their production in Indonesia.
Indonesian men rank as the world’s top smokers (2012), with 2 out of 3 of them lighting up in a country where cigarettes cost pennies and tobacco advertising is everywhere.
In 2014, the Indonesian government halted the branding of cigarettes as “light” or “mild” on all smoking packages and has decided to place graphic images on the cigarette packs to show the adverse long-term effects of excessive smoking.
Using hands: mostly Indonesians use hand (“muluk”) to eat food.
Tools: you can see that people as well eating with spoon and fork, but very rare with knife. Like they believe that knife is a weapon as well, they can do everything with the hand – so why use the knife? The spoon they use in the right hand and fork in the left (or vice versa for lefthanders). The fork holds food steady while breaking off portions with the spoon, and is used to assist in loading up the spoon by pushing food into it. Most food is cut up into relatively small pieces before it is cooked, although chicken and duck are usually served on the bone, and fish is often served whole.
Indonesian use to eat fast and silently.
Place: sometimes Indonesian food is served and eaten not at a table, but on woven mats covering a low platform or the ground. This style of eating is called “lesehan” and is common in Yogyakarta and Central Java as well as West Java.
Rice: Indonesians eat rice 3 times per day (with fish, vegetables, egg and etc.). “Kalau belum makan nasi, belum makan” (if you haven’t eaten rice, you haven’t eaten), which implies that no matter what snacks you have consumed, you have not had a proper meal until you have filled your tummy with rice in some form or another. They should eat rice once per day at least to feel good.
Cold food: most often in “warungs” and “angrigans” you can get a bit warm or cold food, like food prepared earlier and nobody warm it, you just select from food what is ready and you see in front of you. It’s nothing surprised to eat cold rice, chiken, boiled vegetables or other dishes.
Burping: it is not considered impolite to burp, and can even be regarded as a sign of appreciation of a good meal, therefore Indonesians generally do not excuse themselves after burping.
Working hours: mostly small shops or eating places doesn’t have working hours. One day they can be open at one time, next day – at another. The activities (school, work and etc.) usually start at 7:00-7:30 am.
Evening time: at 6:00 pm usually is totally dark outside and after 10:00 pm (especially in the villages) is very quiet (like people goes to sleep after early waking up).
Couples living: it’s taboo and immoral if in the same place lives a couple, who is not married (especially in the villages). Even if the couple is foreigners, most of communities don’t accept them and don’t let rent a place there. The owner will ask for a wedding certificate before renting his place to a couple. There can be exceptions depending on the community leader liberality.
Hair cutting: there are special barber places only for cutting man’s hair.
Pharmacy: in some pharmacy (especially in smaller towns, villages) they can ask you to show marriage paper before selling contraception pills. Officially it’s not allowed to have sex before marriage and if you are not married it means you don’t need such pills.
Toilets: mostly in toilets there is no flushing system, so you need to use water from container. Also most places has “Turkish style” (squat) toilet, you can find sitting style as well but don’t expect that it will be everywhere :) Indonesian people do not use toilet paper, but they wash them self with water, always available in WC. Indonesian people use the left hand to wash themselves, while they keep the right hand to shake hands and to eat. If you cannot do without toilet paper, always keep with you a package of tissues.
Hot water: there is no hot water (only you can find it in hotels, rich people houses or sometimes in villages near mountains). It can be a bracing and refreshing experience to bathe from a traditional “bak mandi”, as only room temperature water is used. Warm water is only for babies, the elderly or the sick.
Animals at home: roaches, geckos, small lizards, ants, mice and etc. are usual animals at home that you can see on your walls, hear sounds on the roof.
Language: Indonesia are bilingual – use national language “bahasa Indonesian” and local language for example “bahasa Java”.
Refilling: you hardly will find services for which you need the contract. You need drinking water or gas – you buy water or gas gallons and refill it; you need electricity – you buy “pulsa” put the code in your counter and have it; you need to use internet or mobile-you pay for “pulsa” and seller will put needed information to his mobile and you have it. For Indonesians everything should be easy – agreements for services makes everything too complicated.
Trashes: don’t surprise to see everywhere the trashes. Like Indonesian people throw it anywhere – to the river, just straight on the street or even in front of their houses.
In many places instead of tools for eating you will get a bowl of water to clean the hands before and after eating. In my case they brought tools when I asked.
I have them usually in “big tent” as well.
It’s quite usual view.
So common in Indonesia
You write your mobile number, amount that you want to buy and seller makes it.
And it’s not the worst case.
Usually Indonesians eat a rice with almost all dishes.
Information used from Javanese people sharing and internet sources, as well some pictures.
In Indonesia there are many opportunities to enjoy long weekends and holidays as there are 13 national holidays. The government also declares that collective leave should be taken on some days, usually a Monday or Friday, before or after a national holiday in order to create a long weekend.
In Indonesia there are 4 types of holidays: religious, national, international and commemorative. Ones that are designated “red date” (“tanggal merah” – a date that is designated in red on a calendar) signify national holidays when government offices, schools, banks and most businesses are closed.
It was quite confusing in the beginning, sometimes go to shop in week days and see that some of them are closed. Other time – all of them are closed. I didn’t understood how to understand their working hours till I got a desktop calendar from my university where was marked “red dates” and other important celebrations. So I prepared some information about Indonesian holidays and made a calendar which I hope will help you to plan your visits to official institutions or trips in Indonesia.
Muslim calendar – Hijri – a lunar calendar, 10-11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The calendar begins in the year that Mohammad took flight from Mecca to Medina. Each lunar month has 29 days.
Gregorian or Roman calendar – used throughout the world, this calendar marks its beginning with the birth of Christ. The year is divided into 12 months, consisting of 30 or 31 days, except for the month of February.
Balinese calendar – Saka-Wuku – the Balinese calendar is a combination of Saka, the Hindu solar-lunar year of 12 moons, and the Javanese-Balinese Wuku calendar of 210 days which is divided into weeks. The combination of these two calendars and the many names for the different weeks and days make the Balinese calendar a complicated puzzle to solve. Experts in the field consult special charts and tables to determine days for the various religious festivals and significant days.
The Balinese calendar is used to determine birthdays (“oton”), anniversaries of temples (“odalan”), and the many festivals and days for things that are so important in the everyday life of the Balinese. It is also used by rural Balinese to determine good days for the planting of crops. The calendar is determined by the phases of the moon, the most important days being each full moon (“purnama”) and new moon (“tilem”).
Religious holidays in Indonesia
The Indonesian government officially recognizes five religions: Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu. As images in other countries, each of these religious communities in Indonesia celebrates events that are important to their faith. Some of these are national holidays, others are not. The Ministry of Religion decides the dates on which religious holidays will be held each year. The following are faith-based holidays that are national holidays (“tanggal merah”) in Indonesia:
Muslim holidays in Indonesia
The dates for many Muslim holidays vary from year to year as they are based on the Islamic or Hijri calendar, which is 10 to 11 days shorter than the Roman calendar.
1st Day of Muharam – Satu Muharam or Tahun Baru Hijrah – Islamic New Year.
Marks the beginning of the New Year on the Hijri calendar.
12th Day of Rabi-ul-Awal – Maulid Nabi Muhammad – Birth of the Prophet Mohammad.
Milad-un Nabi or Maulid (Mawlid) is the birthday celebration of the Prophet Mohammad.
The month of Rabi’ al-Awal (the First Spring Season) of the Islamic calendar is well known in the entire Muslim world as Shahr al-Mawhid (the Month of Birth) of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad was born in the Arabian city of Mecca on the 12th Day of Rabi-ul-Awal or the third month of the Muslim lunar year.
In Indonesia, Muslims gather to recite special prayers of thanksgiving to Allah for sending the Prophet Muhammad as His messenger. Speeches and lectures are made in mosques and elsewhere about the life and instructions of the Holy Prophet. After prayers, sweets are distributed and perfume may be sprinkled on adherents. It is also a family occasion; people dress up in their best clothing and children receive money or gifts. In some cities in Indonesia, such as Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta), believers celebrate the Maulid by conducting parades or carnivals, reciting special prayers and singing holy songs which they called “Barzanzi”. The tradition is called the “Mauludan Festival”. During the festival there are competitions to win food, which the people believe has been blessed by the Prophet.
27th Day of the 7th month – Isra Mi’raj Nabi Muhammad – ascension of the Prophet Mohamma.
1 Syawal – Idul Fitri or Lebaran – end of the Ramadhan fasting month.
The end of the month of Ramadhan, the Muslim month of fasting. Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open areas around the country. Celebrated with the traditional dish “ketupat” and visiting with family and friends. Charity donations (“amal”) are traditionally given at this time. Just prior to Lebaran a mass exodus (“mudik”) from Jakarta of over 3 million people occurs as residents return to their villages to celebrate with family and friends. Begging of forgiveness for any transgressions or slights in the past year is expressed during visits, “Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin”. A Lebaran bonus, THR, is traditionally given to all Muslim staff or employees prior to the holidays. In urban areas “halal-bihalal” (mutual begging of pardon) gatherings are held. This is the time of year when Muslims traditionally buy new clothes.
10th Day of Dzulhijjah – Idul Adha or Lebaran Haji – Muslim Day of Sacrifice.
Commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son upon God’s command. Falls at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open areas around the country. Animals are sacrificed and the meat is given to the poor.
Christian holidays in Indonesia
Christian holidays fall on the same days as in other countries. The following are national holidays:
Dates varies – Wafat Isa Almasih – Good Friday – commemorates the death of Jesus.
Dates varies – Hari Paskah – Easter – celebrates the day Jesus arose from the dead.
Dates varies – Kenaikan Isa Almasih – ascension of Christ – commemorates the day Jesus ascended into Heaven.
25th of December – Hari Natal – Christmas – celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Hindu holidays in Indonesia
Dates varies – Hari Raya Galungan – Galungan.
Celebrates the coming of the Gods and the ancestral spirits to earth to dwell again in the homes of the descendants. The festivities are characterized by offerings, dances and new clothes.
Dates varies – Hari Raya Nyepi – Nyepi.
Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar. The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia. On New Year’s Eve the villages are cleaned, food is cooked for two days and in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils. On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes.
Nyepi is calculated according to the Çaka lunar calendar and falls at the time of the new moon in the months of March or April each year. The coming year will be 1932. The name Nyepi comes from the root word “sepi” meaning quiet or silent. Although it is a national holiday.
In Bali religion is a very important part of everyday life and the people perform daily offerings to the gods and actively participate in the numerous temple festivals and rituals. Balinese Hindus also make offerings and perform temple rituals to placate demons that they believe personify the destructive forces of nature. On the day before Nyepi major offerings are made to the demons at village crossroads, where evil spirits are believed to loiter. Before every ceremony a cleaning ceremony or “mecaru” must be held to drive out the devils and spiritually clean the place.
The broadcast facilities in Bali are also shut down for 24 hours from sunrise on Nyepi as a sign of respect for the beliefs of the Balinese people during the 24 hours of absolute silence. You can check other Bali events which can be interesting to attend in 2017.
Buddhist holidays in Indonesia
Dates varies – Hari Waisak – Waisak Day – date varies according to the Buddhist calendar.
Commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. This celebration is enlivened by religious and social activities in Buddhist temples around the country. In Indonesia, the largest Buddhist temples, Candi Mendut and Candi Borobudur are the focus of interest and attract those observing the holiday and tourists.
Three major historical events are celebrated on Waisak. The 1st is the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. The 2nd is the acceptance of the divine revelation under the Bodhi tree. And the 3rd is the journey of Siddhartha Gautama to heaven. These three big events occur exactly on the Full Moon Purnama Sidhi. Thus, Waisak is also very well known as Tri Suci Waisak or Three Holy Events. Buddhists celebrate Waisak by praying to their God Sang Tri Ratna as thanks giving for creating and maintaining the earth and its resources in harmony. It is very common for Buddhists to celebrate Waisak with the presentation of fruit, flowers and candles. For Buddhists, candles symbolize their philosophy of life, the sought-after enlightenment. Only about 1% of Indonesia’s population is Buddhist the whole country joins in honoring this special Day celebrated by Buddhists in Indonesia.
After main ceremonies monks and people puts sky lights – the symbol of hope.
17th of August – Hari Proklamasi Indonesia – Indonesian Independence Day.
Indonesians celebrate the proclamation of independence from 350 years of Dutch colonial rule. Festivities abound in cities and villages alike, organized by the government, neighborhood community associations and organizations.
1st of January – Tahun Baru – New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated with some revelry in urban areas. Hotels, discos and major restaurants offer special meals, entertainment and dancing.
January – February – Imlek – Chinese New Year.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated by Indonesians of Chinese ancestry. Visiting of family and friends, special dishes and gifts of money (“ampau”) mark the day’s activities. Dragon dances are held and limited outdoor decorations are seen on businesses and homes. Most Chinese merchants close their shops for at least one day and maybe up to a week. The date for Imlek is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. Some of government offices are open for business.
Indonesian official holiday schedule for 2017, 2018, 2019:
Other holidays – commemorative days:
In addition to the official holidays, many religious, historical, and other traditional holidays populate the calendar, as well as observances proclaimed by officials and lighter celebrations. These are rarely observed by businesses as holidays.
Information and most of the pictures used from internet sources.