Top 20 Misunderstanding of Culture in Indonesia – Strategies to Prevent

Indonesia is the biggest in the world with 13,777 islands, then for 6,444 currently has no people. Hence, this chain of islands resulting in a wide variety of local culture and traditions used between its native people, upon which some foreigner are not known with.

There is some etiquette regarded as normal in the Western countries but is regarded as unusual in Indonesia. Hence, to achieve harmonious lives as a foreigner in Indonesia then you should learn the cultural variation and prevent doing misunderstanding of culture stuff regarded as rude or not normal in Indonesia.

See also: Most Beautiful Fabric in Indonesia

1. Accept Food or Drink Offer

Indonesian are popular for their nice treatment, so it lies in the host’s duty to provide any delicacies to the coming guests. Many people would take it as an insult of the guests’ sudden refusal, so it is advised that expats coming in Indonesia to never say no towards an offer of any delicacies.

However, they should not appear greedy also when they eat. It is obligatory not to empty the delicacies totally but to provide a residue of such delicacies on the plate.

2. Gestures and Greetings

Some gestures should be prevented to be used while you’re in Indonesia. Such as, to never tap the head of an older man as it is regarded to be very rude. Kissing and hugging in public spaces and displaying affection of love should be kept to a minimalist view due to it being regarded as perverted and outside the norm.

Generally, physical touching should be reduced, mainly for different sexes and age group. The normal greeting is a nodding of the head and a big wide smile, However, a light handshake is also normal.

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3. Eating First at the Dinner Table

Do you ever experience the times where you are starving and the only thing you can do of is sitting down on the bench and start gnawing down your meal? In Indonesia, except when eating with your best friends then you should not try to pick up your spoons until the oldest person at the table picked up their own utensils.

The oldest people at the tables must have priority eating and then you are able to start munching away. Honoring elders have always been a very fundamental and vital tradition in Indonesia. Henceforth, if you are really starving, then I think you’re going to have to be a little better at pretending that you’re not really that hungry.

4. Rubber Time

Indonesian prefer not to be pushed or forced, while time in the Western world could be wasted, spent, utilized, and saved. There exists is a phrase in Indonesia explaining this concept that means “rubber time,” meaning that time can be expanded or shortened and hence very compromising.

Attractively, just foreigners are considered to be on time, not the native people, and the higher ranking people are in a society then he is not expected to be on time at an event. Hence, making people temporarily wait can quite become an expression of social hierarchy.

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5. Eat with Your Hands

In Indonesia, it’s considered to be normal to eat with your hands and no spoon required. Although I mean, it’s normal to feast with your right hand and you should never use the left hand. In Indonesia, natives people have food that is eaten with the right hand and the left hand is used for typical hygienic stuff such as washing the right hands with water.

Matter of facts, just attempt to have your left out of sight as much as possible and also it’s to be considered impolite to hand or grab things with the left hand

6. Talking Loudly on the Bus or the Train

Any loud noise emanating from some unpredictable place can be a little disturbing. Then, what more annoying noise can you get than people talking loudly on public transport or even arguing loudly among themselves? You may think people will just try and ignore it, but Indonesian will not hesitate and tell you to actually be quiet, mainly because the tired ones who are trying to catch up on sleep on the way to work.

In some weird cases, it is likely to get yelled at even in a restaurant for speaking too loudly. It is not to say you should only whisper when talking to your friends. Just watch out for the volume you’re making when you are with your friends

7. Pouring Water for Yourself only Whilst Eating with Your Friends or Family

Pouring water only for your consumption will be seen as though you only think your egoistic self and think less of others people eating beside you. Prior to pouring yourself a drink, go check everyone’s glass and see if they do need an addition of water first. Always try to give water for the oldest person at the dining table first before others.

If you do this, then the Indonesian people will be very awestruck and you would make a better memory of yourself to them.

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8. Not Paying for Round Two

Usually, when you eat dinner with an older person he or she will generally buy you the whole meal. Why? It’s just an Indonesian custom. Your older friend might be working so they will have their own money to treat you.

In order to return that kind gesture, you can either pay for the next meal or pay for round 2! Round 2 can vary from getting some dessert or to just simply going to a café for some coffee. What looks really bad is when your friend pays for the dinner and you still try to calculate to split the bill for round 2

9. Getting Up and Leaving the Table Before Elders Do

If you already did with your meal then I think you need to wait for everybody to be done also prior to escaping the table. If you completed early and staring at other people you might give a hint to others the notion that you are waiting for them to finish their plate, hence they will eat hurriedly.

To prevent this misconception try to keep at a similar pace along with other people so that you don’t finish your meal before everyone else. However, if you have kept a steady pace and finished early, place your fork and spoon on the table and wait until the elder gives you permission to leave the table.

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10. Not Sharing

So one time you feel a little starving hence you went out and bought yourself some snack to chew on. You are then busy gnawing the foods all by yourself and before you know it all your friends is looking at you dis-pleasingly or watching at your food hoping to have a chance to eat it too.

This is because in Indonesia it is a ‘sharing is caring’ culture. It is a unique concept and it is a special kind of love between the people and society. If you don’t share you will be seen as a little greedy and have little social awareness.

11. Watch Out Your Hands

This one of important thing about misunderstanding of culture in Indonesia. The usage of the left hand for consuming or for giving stuff to another should be prevented due to it being regarded as the unclean hand. Directly pointing your finger is also regarded to be rude in Indonesian society and henceforth should be prevented. While having handshakes, take the right hand gently.

12.  Sole of Your Shoes

The bottom part of a shoe should only touch the ground, hence the bottom part of one’s shoe is the ugliest part of the body. This is why in Indonesia it is regarded as a mockery to point the sole of your shoes to someone else

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13. Blowing Your Nose Off at the Eating Table

Let’s set something straight here. Watching someone at the dinner table blowing their nose off is not a great phenomenon. Generally, when they had bad influenza and they produce a weird liquid sound, it’s sufficient to make sick off from your own meal.

14. No Confrontation

A usual attitude in Indonesia that ought to understand is not yelling one’s voice or giving out extremely hardened emotional. Full-on fighting is frown upon too many Indonesians people. Hence, they like to say it quietly and alluded about areas of conflict until the similar conclusion can be reached

See also: Daily Phrases in Indonesia

15. Turning Up to Someone’s Home Empty-Handed

Indonesian really like their neighbor so it is normal for some family to invite other people over to their homes as often as some people do in other parts of the world. So if an Indonesian family invites you over to come to their house, that’s a pretty big deal and it’s great for them to do so. And don’t you want to be great also? Giving a gift shows that you have manners in Indonesia and it also says “thanks for inviting me over”

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16. Leaving Tips

One of my great favorite stuff about Indonesia is that there is no obligation for you to give out tips for any services. However this does not apply at tourist hotels, 10% surcharge may be combined to your bill. You are not obliged to tip in taxis too, nonetheless, it is normal to say to the driver to take the change. But sometimes you can also tip but it’s regarded as not that mandatory.

17.  Getting Touchy Freely

In Indonesia, while it is not acceptable for two people of a different gender to have any physical touching whatsoever, it is exceptionally normal for people of the same gender to walk hand in hand down the street holding their hands together.

Then, it is regarded as a gesture of mutual friendship rather than sexual inclination.

18. Wearing Shoes at Someone’s Home

For clear logics having shoes inside someone’s house is very unwelcoming. Indonesian spend a lot of their free time mopping their house due to the Indonesian livelihood is normally revolved around the home.

See also: Indonesian Landmarks

19. Polite Form of Calling
Polite words of calling for the person that you don’t quite yet familiar with are Bapak (“father”) for men and Ibu (“mother”) for women. If you happen to know the name of the person you’re conversing to, you can say them respectfully as Pak [Name] (for men) or Bu [Name] (for women).

The Javanese words are mas (“older brother”) and mbak (“older sister”) are regularly used, but it is advised for someone in your age group, not older. When talking to others, it is advised to say by their name other than “dia” (“he/she”). Calling by their name represent embracing them fully and testament of your friendship with them.

20. Walking and Sitting
it is regarded as hostile if walk in front of people, instead walk behind them. When others are sitting, while walking in front of them, it is obligatory to bow slightly and lower a hand to ask for permission through the masses and to avoid standing upright. Do not stand or sit with your arms crossed or on your hips. This is a sign of emotionality or adversary.

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The unique culture that Indonesian people have come from their elders who inherited to their offspring and thus every habit are ingrained into every Indonesian.

The culture adaptation is needed for you to prevent culture misunderstanding. Even to be better assimilated with the local people so as to reduce any unnecessary friction that may come when you get into a relationship with them. I do hope you’d be a skilled person and able to mimicked Indonesian habit to feet better welcome when coming here.

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