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Indonesia: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Melissa Chang |

Indonesia, Regions, Travel, Travel Health & Safety

INDONESIA: FACTS & STATS

 Indonesian Ocean

Location: Southeast Asia, archipelago between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Capital: Jakarta.Map of Indonesia

Climate: Tropical, generally hot and humid, more moderate in the highlands.

Population: 237,512,352 as per July 2008 estimates. About 17.8% of the population live below poverty line and the country has an unemployment rate of 9.1% as of 2007. Agriculture and industry prop up the Indonesian economy aided by reforms in the financial sector and improved investments. Petroleum and natural gas, textiles, mining, cement, chemical fertilizers, wood products, rubber products and tourism are the main industries.

Ethnic Make-up: Javanese 40.6%, Sudanese 15%, Madurese 3.3%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Betawi 2.4%, Bugis 2.4%, Banten 2%, Banjar 1.7%, Others 30%.

Religions: Muslim 86%, Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, Others including Jews, Buddhists 3.4%. The Constitution grants all citizens the right to worship according to their faith, but restrictions have been applied to some religious activities. The government only recognises 5 major religions and others coming under the unrecognised category and are therefore not protected by law.

Mopeds in IndonesiaLanguage: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, Javanese and other local dialects.

Government: Republic.

Travel Issues: Nationals of about 62 countries have the facility to obtain a tourist visa on arrival for a period of 30 days at one of the 14 airports and 23 seaports of Indonesia. However these visas may not be converted to another category or extended. All others need to apply for a valid visa at their nearest embassy. All travellers need to possess a passport with at least 6 months validity and documents proving onward or return journey. No vaccinations are mandatory. Travellers from about 11 neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines etc do not require a visa to enter Indonesia but have to enter through stipulated ports. Enquire at your nearest embassy to ascertain your requirements.

Health & Safety: Indonesia is said to pose high risk of infection if precautions are not taken against Hepatitis A and E, typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, avian flu, and diarrhea.

SOCIETY & CULTURE

Children in Indonesia

The People

Indonesia has about 300 ethnic groups each with their own specific cultural patterns and beliefs. A mix of European, Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultural heritages go together to form the Indonesian ethnicity. People of Indonesia are known for their extremely friendly demeanour and welcoming attitudes. However, they have conservative attitudes governing their social behaviour.

The Religion

Indonesia is an Islamic country but is secular in nature. Various faiths are practiced by the citizens without fear. Missionary works have been conducted by North American churches but such activities are restricted in certain areas. The Aceh region is supposed to be an Islamic state and follows religious tenets very strictly.

Role of Family

Indonesians value the extended family structure and draw great support from the interdependent style of living. Families often share the same accommodation or live nearby within minutes of each other. The oldest male is the patriarch and he has the final say in all matters. Women have the traditional role of housekeeping and are the primary caregivers for children. In the cities there is a break away from tradition and nuclear families live in high rises. Women work outside homes but not in any large numbers.

Ancestors

Ancestors are revered and remembered via special prayers and religious rituals during their anniversaries and on special days of the departed. Balinese Hindus believe ancestors to have powers that can protect and help the living members of the family if they are shown ample respect. On the other hand, if ignored, they can turn spiteful and cause destruction and sorrow. Funeral rituals are extremely elaborate and as extravagant as a family can afford.

Recreational Activities

Badminton and tennis are national favourites. Traditional forms of recreation include cockfighting, kite flying, bull racing, and boat racing. Another old favourite is sepak takraw played with a rattan ball. Some forms of martial arts like Pencak silat have avid followers.

Anything else important for this culture

Indonesians have a laid back and relaxed attitude to life and are often taken aback with the hurried lifestyle of westerners. They are a very conservative society and hold fast to religious beliefs. There is a social hierarchy that might not be visible to outsiders, but which nevertheless pays to be followed.

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

Meetings & Greetings

Greetings take the form of a low bow that is done at a slow pace to show respect. the more the respect the lower the bow when greeting elders. A limp handshake followed by “Selamat” is also acceptable. Others merit a slight bow or even just placing your right palm over the heart.

Courtesy

Often first meetings revolve around getting to know each other rather than discussing anything serious. The purpose is to avoid loss of face to any one concerned. Loss of face or malu is an Indonesian concept that focuses on avoiding humiliation or embarrassment to any one. The use of passive voice, avoiding direct confrontation, denial, or arguing, and generally beating about the bush rather than coming to the point is all a means of avoiding loss of face. Introductions have to be made starting with the eldest person first.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an accepted mode of showing appreciation or goodwill. If invited to a home it is good to arrive with a token gift. Avoid buying locally available items that may be everywhere. Souvenirs from your land or a box of fancy chocolates may be ideal.

Dress Code

Indonesia is a very conservative society and it is important to cover up, especially for women. Keep shoulders and knees well covered. It is important to don formal suits for business meeting even in hot humid temperatures.

Dining Etiquette

Dress formally as casual attire may be considered insulting. While at the dining table again wait to be seated. Do not begin to serve or eat till the elders have done so. Avoid alcohol and pork products if dining in mixed company.

Visiting a home

If invited for dinner at a home, it is alright to arrive a few minutes late but do not delay further. Bring a token gift for the hostess. Leave your footwear outside and once inside wait to be invited to be seated.

Communication Style

Though not many people speak English it is surprisingly easy to communicate as far as basic needs are concerned. Indonesians are extremely warm and eager to help foreigners who appear at a loss. Do not attempt direct conversation with the opposite gender unless they initiate it.

Dos and Don’ts

The head is considered sacred, so do not touch anyone on the head. If you do so accidently, apologize profusely. Do not use your left hand to hand over things such as business cards, money, or food. Do not photograph people without permission. Foreigners are not expected to know the nuances of Indonesian behaviour, but if you do your attempts are well appreciated and you earn their respect. Avoid causing embarrassment or loss of face to your counterparts by not raising your voice, loud laughter, and poor jokes.

Kid with hat and rice fields by John Yavuz Can

Birds photo by flydive

Traditional Dance by giuseppeportale_cartorange

2 kids by Victor Velez

Ocean by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

carving by marc_smith

Food stand by Apple Jia

Moped by simminch

Dance: A Language of Worship and Love in Bali

by Heather Carr |

Asia, Bali, Contextualization in Missions, Indonesia, Oceania

bali dancers

Trace the roots of dance in worship and you will find some of the most beloved characters of the bible. David danced in the streets at the recovery of the ark of the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14-16). Miriam, after narrowly escaping Pharaoh’s wrath, rejoiced at the freedom of her people with song and dance (Exodus 15:20). Today God’s people still rejoice through dance at his mighty power and love.

The people of Bali have found new ways to interpret the traditional dance that permeates their culture. Balinese dance is not just an art of graceful movement, but also a means of communicating a rich message. Gestures of the body convey ideas and emotions. The Christian community of Bali has transformed these age-old methods into an expression of devotion to God. Each part of the body is symbolic of a different thought or idea. The thumb, which traditionally stood for wisdom, is now a symbol of God’s wisdom and providence. The ring finger, once understood as beauty, is now interpreted as God’s grace. The pinkie, historically symbolic of trust, now represents God’s faithfulness and eternal life.

Body parts are not the only means of interpreting Balinese dance. The movements themselves also hold meaning. Symmetrical movements once stood for the balance between good and evil. Now when the Christian Balinese move in graceful symmetry, it is understood as God’s justice and mercy, judgment and grace. Psalm 150 bids us to praise him with tambourine and dancing.

Click the video below to see one of the many traditional Balinese dances.

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