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Indonesia Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

Traditions and label rules vary in geographically dispersed Indonesia with its many peoples. Some of the dominant features are mainly in Java, where the majority of Indonesians live. Being polite and showing respect for other people is fundamental. Indonesians often talk in terms of halus (polite, refined, soft and listening personality) as opposed to barracks (rough, naughty, noisy). Being a halus is an ideal.

In some parts of the country, the population is more Orthodox Muslim (for example, in the provinces of Aceh and East Java). There, the codes of conduct are more stringent than in the rest of Indonesia, in terms of, among other things, alcohol, dress, dance and women's behavior. It is more common for women to wear a veil in these areas.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Indonesia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

On Bali's beaches where mass tourism predominates, the same codes of conduct apply as in Western holiday resorts. However, old customs can still not apply far from the seaside resorts, for example up in the mountains in the interior of the island.

Times and greetings

Jam tub (rubber-time) is a common term in Indonesia. Another is pelan-pelan (slow) and sabar-sabar (patience). The concept of time is elastic like rubber compared to a European way of looking at punctuality. Fixed times for, for example, meetings exist, but not arriving on time is not as serious as in Sweden, for example. Lack of punctuality could not jeopardize a personal relationship and it is not perceived as something to be upset about. To hurry a person is rude. Things can take their time. Patience and indulgence are valued qualities.

Culture and Traditions of IndonesiaMost Indonesians greet both women and men through a handshake and a small, light bow to the head when they meet for the first time. When they return, it is not usual to shake hands again, but a slight bow is always in place. Men should not touch older women in public (except for a handshake), not even if they know each other well. Do not greet with the left hand - it is considered unclean.

It is important not to show too much emotion, as it can put people in embarrassing situations. A soft, low-pitched voice is appreciated. Being discreet and not taking up too much space is perceived as good manners. Westerners are not often perceived as highly voiced, self-absorbed and stressed.

"Not yet"

An Indonesian rarely says to a person when others are listening. To disagree is something you do not show outwards. You would rather choose to agree with the person you are talking to, even if the views really do fall apart. Contradictions are handled in an indirect way. An Indonesian rarely says "no" (which is perceived as burdust) but instead "not yet" (belum). To embarrass someone is a gross offense.

It is common not to say that you do not understand. On the contrary, one can nod in agreement. It is also common to give a positive answer to a question, even if you do not know the answer. To not know is to lose face. Instead, you give an answer that you think is the right one. Pointing out the wrong direction when someone asks about the road is not uncommon. Therefore, as a visitor you should ask several people about the road.

If titles exist, they should be used, also in informal contexts. People appeal to Pak (married or older man), Ibu (married or older woman), Mas (younger, unmarried man), Mbak (unmarried, younger woman), Adik (younger boy, teenager) or Anak (child). Most Indonesians have only one name. Nowadays, however, some Indonesians acquire a surname that is used when meeting with Westerners.

Standing with your hands in your pockets or on your hip is perceived as arrogant and nonchalant. Never interrupt anyone talking. Feel free to ask about family, children and marriage. It is considered friendly - not intrusive. Feel free to say a few words of sympathy about the tsunami disaster of Christmas 2004.

Business meetings

At business meetings, it is important to be aware that society is permeated by corruption at all levels. Business is hierarchical. Managers and other leaders should act decisively and show the pondus. It is important to bring up a discussion at the right level or turn to the right person with the right questions / problems.

Meetings and negotiations always start with general small talk. A lot of time can be spent on "getting to know each other" before the actual business deal begins. This should not be accelerated or interrupted. It is generally wrong to interrupt someone who speaks, even though speeches and statements can often be longer, more cumbersome and endure more repetitions than Westerners are accustomed to. Avoid political conversation topics. Buy bargaining is customary and respected.

Business meetings can tend to be long and delegations are often larger than in the West. Ambiguity is not a problem; on the contrary, too direct and sincere behavior can be perceived as rude - sometimes even aggressive.

Visits and gifts

Indonesians are hospitable, and spontaneous visits are both common and appreciated. To receive a guest is perceived as honoring. After being admitted to the home, wait until you are asked to sit down. Get up if the host / hostess enters the room after you (in the middle class it is common for a door to be opened by a servant). After that, you will almost always be served something to drink but only drink when asked. Remove the shoes if the host / hostess does not have shoes. In rooms where there are rugs you should always remove the shoes (in the mosque it is mandatory).

It is unusual to bring presents when you have been invited to a regular dinner, but in more western-influenced environments flowers have become more common. If you want to give something, it should be a small gift, for example something edible or a souvenir from your country. Gifts are not opened to the donor.

Do not give and do not receive a gift with your left hand. It is considered unclean. However, to show extra respect, you can receive or hand over with both hands. You should also not yawn openly, touch someone's head, point to someone, cross their legs or turn the soles of their feet against another person.


The white rice is a staple food for both poor and rich in almost all of Indonesia, although in some areas maize, cassava, taro or sago are grown instead. As a dinner guest, you are often offered rice, sate (chicken skewers of chicken, lamb or beef), krupuk (fried rice flour chips with shrimp or fish flavor) and sambal oelek (chili sauce). Ordinary biddy foods are also stews and stews - often very spicy - made on chicken, lamb or kid. Fish and vegetables and hot sauces belong. Common spices are chili, ginger, coconut, lime, lemongrass, basil, coriander and hibiscus leaves. Pork and alcohol are forbidden to consume for Muslims.

For the meal drink water, hot tea or hot lemon juice. Coffee is popular but not as a meal drink. A meal often ends with the typical Indonesian kretek -cigaretten (with nejlikesmak). Only men smoke, at least in the countryside.

The food is served as a buffet on the table and is not often eaten quickly and under silence. Food is nevertheless strongly associated with social contexts. As a guest in Indonesia, you are almost always offered something edible - if only a biscuit or an egg with rice and chili sauce. To refuse food can be perceived as unfair. On the other hand, it is not bad to leave food - on the contrary, you should. Eating all food is wrong. The same is true of drinking - emptying the glass is the same as asking for more.

The most common way to eat is with spoon and fork, but it appears that you eat with your fingers.

Don't start eating until the host says goodbye (the silk husband). Please praise the food! Avoid toothpicks (if you need to use it, hide the stick with your hand). And above all - do not receive or reach out food with your left hand.

Indonesians often eat out in the many and cheap street stalls. Despite the simplicity, one should not eat standing or walking as in the western world, but sit down on the street where carpets are often located or on chairs if available.

Don't give tips on restaurants; a service charge is included in the bill.


The dress code is usually more conservative than in the Nordic countries, especially for women. Costume and costume are common.

On solemn and formal occasions, Indonesian men often wear a batik shirt, without a tie. The shirt is worn hanging outside the pants. Typically, the men's black peci, a kind of felt hat, was initially a symbol of Muslims or Malays but is now associated with a secular, Indonesian identity. Sarongs (hip hips that reach below the knee or are foot-side, often of batik fabric) are worn by men in the home, and are considered informal attire.

Women, on the other hand, wear sarongs even in formal contexts. In addition, a kebaya (a tight-fitting, long-sleeved blouse, often of lace fabric) is worn. The shoulder strap is draped with a harness (an elongated piece of fabric which is used everyday to carry toddlers or things). At festivities and celebrations, women often wear sophisticated hair sets, not infrequently with loose hair inserted, and are artfully dressed.

Nowadays, it is quite common for women to wear a veil. These are usually light, lightweight headscarves that cover the back of the head. It is still uncommon for full-length veils. The majority of women wear no veil at all.


Around Indonesia, there are a large number of local festivities, celebrations and ceremony days. Only national holidays are reported here, of which only a few have fixed dates:

New Year's Day, January 1
Muharram (Muslim New Year), usually in late January
Imlek (Chinese New Year), sometime between late January and early February
Paskah (Easter), sometime between late March and early April
Nyepi (Balinese New Year)), usually in March (sometimes in April), all shops close in Bali for one day
Maulud Nabi Muhammed (Prophet Muhammad's birthday), one day between late March and early May
Waisak (marks Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death), a day in May
Ascension Day, one day in May
Hari proclamation chemistry dean (Independence Day; National Day), August 17
Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammed (marks Prophet Muhammad's descent from heaven), one day between late August and mid-September
Idul Fitri (or Lebaran ; marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan), two days between mid-October and mid-November
Idul Adha (Muslim festival), in December or January
Hari natal (Christmas Day), December 25


Difficult terrain and great distances have meant that Indonesia has been investing in improving and improving the infrastructure ever since the 1960s. The road network is best developed in Java, Bali and Sumatra.

Freeways have been built, partly financed by car duties. Buses and motorcycles are important for passenger traffic. In Jakarta, heavy traffic has led to air pollution and traffic congestion becoming common problems. There is a commuter train system in the capital. Commuter trains also connect Jakarta with nearby cities such as Bogor, Tanggerang and Bekasi. In many places on the outer islands, residents can still only travel by riverboats and jungle trails.

The railway is state and in great need of upgrading. A law on permitting private train traffic was passed in 2007. There are about 500 km of rail, mainly on Java and Sumatra. Only a small part is electrified. In 2015, China and Indonesia entered into an agreement to build a high-speed rail link between Jakarta and Bandung with Chinese financial support.

Boat transport plays an important role and most of all domestic freight transport takes place by boat. More than 100 of the country's ports are adapted for ocean-going vessels. The major ports are Tanjung Priok off Jakarta, Tanjung Perak off Surabaya, Belawan at Medan and the port of Makassar on Sulawesi.

The country has around 200 airports, of which about 10 receive international traffic. The state-owned Garuda Indonesia is responsible for international flight connections. Since the air traffic was deregulated in 2000, a number of privately owned companies for domestic flights have emerged, not least low cost flights.

A number of serious accidents have occurred on Indonesia's roads, railways, ferries and flights in recent years. This has called into question the safety of the transport systems.



GAM leaders are elected governor

In the first direct provincial elections in Aceh, former leader of GAM guerrilla Irwandi Yusuf is elected governor.


Abu Bakar Baasyir is released

The Islamist prayer leader Abu Bakar Baasyir is prematurely released from prison where he served a sentence for conspiring with militant Islamists.

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