Indonesian Greetings and Phrases You Must Know

If you are a tourist that wants to go to Indonesia (or planning to), knowing Indonesian greeting is essentials. It is important to make sure that you are used to what other people in Indonesia used to say hi to each other. Of course, it will be very pleasing to the people here to find out that you know Indonesian greetings and actually applying it in real life. This gives us (native inhabitants of Indonesia) feels like you are respecting our traditions. Then granted, this will make your experience here even better!

Read also :

When you are coming to Indonesia, certain things are okay to do and another one – not so much. This is due to the fact that more than 90% people in Indonesia is religious, and this leads to certain rules when it comes to interacting. Hugging someone you just met here is not okay, they will probably feel awkward and offended. Even with someone you know for longer time, greetings each other with hugs are uncommon in this country.

If you want to learn more about Indonesian greetings, first thing to learn is this : You need to be able to differentiate between what’s okay and what’s not. We divided the greetings in Indonesia by 3 types and after reading this article, you will understand what and how greetings are used in the country.

Read also :

1. General Greetings

When you hop off the plane and get to meet the taxy driver that’s gonna brought you to your hotel, you generally need to greet him first. The greeting is casual and not overdone, but you can make it genuine.
Another example of this greetings is when you meet another people during your travel, people that will have to interract with you in certain ways. It could be your hotel receptionist, your massager, the lady at the restaurant, or that little kid in the corner of the street that starring at you.

Generally, you can greet them casually by smiling and nodding your head. This will create an atmosphere of friendliness towards you, even if you don’t know their language (and vice versa). You can always shake their hands and makes them feel respected, which will also create plus one point in your overall appearance.
If you want to step up your game though, you can say these general greeting that will do you no harm.

a. “Apa kabar?” Greetings 

Apa kabar means how are you in Indonesian language, and when you are saying this to the locals, they usually appreciate it. They probably will reply “Baik!”, which means “I’m okay!”. They could also add the terms “Pak/Bu/Mbak/Mas” which each words means “Mr/Ma’am/Big Sister/Big brother”. Just smile back to them and lift up your thumb, usually you’re golden. (read: Indonesian Art Gallery)

b. “Selamat Pagi” Greetings

This means “good morning”. And yes, this usually means that you can say this in early morning until about 12:00 PM. (Read: Wildfire in Indonesia)

c. “Selamat Siang” Greetings 

Selamat siang means “Good afternoon”, and you could say it in between 12.30 PM until 15.00 PM.(This will be that time of day which is so hot in Indonesia and it’s better for you to wear your shorts around this time).

d. “Selamat Sore” Greetings

15.00 PM until 18.00 PM is the time of “Selamat sore”. People say it often when the sun is not so high anymore, until after the sun is completely dissapear at 18:00 PM. (Read: Scouting in Indonesia)

e. “Selamat Malam” Greetings

Selamat malam means good evening. People in Indonesia usually says this greeting from 19:00 PM until about 12:00 AM. (Read also : Traditional Dances in Indonesia)

2. Ethnic Based Greetings

Examples above are the greetings when you have to say hi to someone in general situation. But, if you want to step up your game even better, you can always mix and match your condition and situation. For example, if you are spending your holiday in Java island, you can try using Java greetings. If you prefer Bali, you can always change your greetings to Balinese language. (Read: Indonesian Cultural Festival)

Indonesia have up to 33 province in it and one of the country with largest diversities. We get different accents and language in different places. Even so, you could just use some of the most famous region for tourism, the places that you most likely will visit. These are the list of the regional you can visit – and how to say hi in their ethnic.

Read Also:

a. Greetings in Java island

Java island is the most populated island in Indonesia.Currently, there are 141 million people inhabiting this island. If you want to say hi to the locals in java island, you can try using their traditional/regional language. This is also gonna be different in each city, but the major greetings are :

  • Central Java : if your holiday is in central Java (you can ask the locals where exactly your Java is), you can generate greetings by saying “Kulo nuwun”. This means “excuse me” in English. A really polite way to say hi in this country. Another thing you can add is “Sugeng enjang”, which means “good morning”.
  • West Java : West Java is famous with its “Bandung city”, which Indonesian people call it “The Paris of Java”. Yes, there are many shops and entertainment center here in Bandung city, which will make you entertain for sure. Saying greetings in west Java dialec is simple, you can simply say “Sampurasun”, which means “Hello”.
  • East Java : The language in East Java is almost the same with Central java. While the people in central Javas are usually polite and very traditional, people in East Java are a little bit more free in their greetings. You can just say “Hello” to the people in this area but if you want to spice things up with their language, try saying : “Yo opo kabare rek?” Which means “How are you”.

Also read :

b. Greetings in Bali Island

You might be familiar with this island better than any other island. Yes, Bali is one of the best island when it comes to tourism and beautiful, exotic beaches. This place is often loaded up with entertainment packs, making it an ideal island to spend your time relaxing.

If you are new to Bali and want to greet its people, you can grab your hand together, make it in a form of pray. After that, say the famous greetings, “Om Swasti Astu”, which could means “Peace and greetings from God”. What a nice greetings!

c. Greetings in Other Islands

There are many areas of Indonesia that you could explore and they are all have their own traditional greetings. If you really want to learn locals greetings, you could definitely ask the local and try to learn it directly from them. They will surely and gladly help you, teach you how to say hello in their language!

Read also:

3. Religious Based Greetings

Indonesia is one of the country with diverse culture and religion. While 90% of the locals are Muslims, the rest of the inhabitants are good followers of religions. Another religions that are famous here in this country are : Christianity, Hindu, Budha and Konghucu. If you don’t want to greet them with religious greetings, you probably should know that these greetings are generally means well. (Read: Religion in Indonesia)

When the locals are Muslim, They could greet you with the terms “Assalamualaikum”, which means peace be upon you. You can choose to answer the greetings with “Wa’alaikum salam”, which pretty much means the same. For the Christian people in Indonesia, they usually greet with “Shalom”. Hindus using “Om Swasti Astu” (just like Balinese greetings because Bali island consist of 80% Hindus) and Budha are usually greet with “Namo Budhaya” or “Namaste”. (Read: Largest Mosque in Indonesia)

Regardless of the greetings, if you are saying the greetings politely and genuinely, I’m sure that the poeple in Indonesia will reply it nicely. Just make sure that you are not offending their beliefs , whether it is traditional or religious ones.