Indonesia, the culture, nature and people


First of all, let’s have a look at the culture which Indonesia has and why people around the world named Indonesia as a beautiful country. As we know, Indonesia is the biggest archipelago country in this planet (consist of more than 13.400 islands). You can imagine the cultural diversity!

Further, in Indonesia there are 6 religions: Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhism, Hindu and Kong Hu Chu (aka Konfusius). However, the majority of Indonesians are Muslim. Therefore, there are a lot of mosques where “adzan” (prayer) takes place five times a day (subuh around 4.30 A.M., Dhuhur around 11.30 P.M., Ashar around 3 P.M., Magrib around 6.00 P.M. and Isya’ around 7.00 P.M). Wherever you are, you can hear the prayer from the mosques nearby, if you are not used to this custom, it may come to you as a surprise.

Moreover, Indonesia consists of various ethnics (more than 300 ethnics, such as: Javanese, Madurese, Sundanese, etc.) and traditional languages/dialects (has around 746 traditional languages, such as: Bahasa Sunda, Jawa, Betawi, Madura, etc.) but still only has one national language that is Bahasa Indonesia.

So learning Bahasa Indonesia is the main way to communicate with people from all over the country! It’s better to know the national language, when you travel, it is more difficult to try to speak in English.

Besides, this country has a lot of gorgeous natural scenery  (Bromo Mountain, Semeru Mountain, Bale Kambang beach, etc.), traditional dances (Shaman, Topeng, Reog, Piring dance, etc.) and traditional music instruments (Suling, Gendang, Gambang, etc.). From Malang in particular, you can easily go to the mountains and to the beach, and many cultural events take place here!

Further, Indonesia has some common customs related with attitude in their daily life which maybe different with the culture back in your homeland, Indonesians …

  • use formal language when communicate with foreigners and older people
  • are very curious, we like to ask personal matters especially to foreigner such as where are you from, when do you born, where you want to go (when we see you walk on the street), etc. Indonesians do not mean to be impolite or disrespect your privacy asking these questions, this is the way we try to get closer and friendly, especially to strangers.
  • sleep and wake up early (at around 4 or 5 A.M ), mostly because of the Muslim morning pray.
  • never wear tank top, slippers, shorts, sandals and t-shirt in the formal place (e.g. school, office room, campus, etc.). We consider wearing tank top, slippers, shorts, sandals and t-shirts as impolite and disrespectful.
  • rarely go outside at night (after 9 P.M.).
  • usually start the activities (work, study at school, etc) at 7 A.M.
  • see couple to live in the same house before marriage as taboo and immoral.
  • go to shaman instead of doctor when we get sick (especially in village area).
  • do “kerokan” if we catch a cold.
  •  use spoon and fork to eat; but sometimes we use hand (“muluk”).
  • kiss parents’ hand (“salim”) before do activities outside house.
  • address someone by addressee (to show respect).
  • not easily accept a compliment (even actually we like it).
  • drink sweetened coffee or tea in the morning.
  • eat rice three times a day (including breakfast), we consider eat noodle, bread, etc only as snacks.
  • prefer to use vehicles rather than walk on foot.
  • are right-handed (mostly), and we think that to use left hand is impolite because left hand is usually used for dirty works. 
  • are bilingual (our national language and local language).
  • prefer to watch rather than read.
  • avoid kissing, hugging, and excessive touching between sexes in public.

Indonesians also have gestures that used to communicate with their interlocutors, such as:

  • Always use our right hand only to pass or receive an object (see point 17)
  • When pointing at something, people (especially Javanese) tend to use the thumb rather than an index finger. Many times this is accompanied with a slight bow that indicates we respect you.  
  • Smiling is very prevalent and is often used even when people don’t like something or they don’t agree.
  •  Many people will nod even though they don’t understand. This relates back to saving face as they don’t want to embarrass the other person by making them repeat the question. 
  • Avoid standing with hands on hips as it can be construed as anger or a threat.
  • Avoid touching or passing object over the top of anyone’s head as it is viewed as the most sacred body part
  • The thumb-up gesture means something good/well-done.
  • Introducing him/herself by handshaking and smile.
  • Showing that someone is crazy by crossing the index finger in front of the forehead. 

Then, in the characteristics, Indonesian people are different than western people. The common appearance of Indonesian people are have tan skin, not too tall (male around 165 cm while female around 155 cm), brown eyes and black hair. Then, most of us are shy and we consume rice as main food.

There is one conclusion!

You will never get bored in Indonesia, so many places to see, so many things to discover and explore! It is a whole new world, an experience you will cherish forever!

Darmasiswa VEDC