28 Tips for your trip to Indonesia: Do’s and Dont’s
1. Other countries other manners.
Indonesia is a big country with many islands and people just know about Bali so this some tips For your next vacation in Indonesia, you can take a look at these rules of conduct so that you do not step into the typical cultural pitfalls.
2. Always smile back!
Indonesians smile a lot and often – and that’s contagious!
Of course, a smile in Indonesia sometimes has other motives (e.g. embarrassment, ignorance, etc.).
Nevertheless, always smile back with a smile. You will notice that you immediately feel a little better – no matter what the motivation behind the laugh.
3. Intensify all your senses!
You have to absorb Indonesia with all your senses.
Notice the smell of incense sticks, burnt garbage and clove cigarettes.
Listen to the sounds of the mosques, the chicken cackling in the morning, the guitar sounds in the evening and all the other typical ” Sounds of Indo “.
Have an eye for detail, for the traditional clothing of the Indonesians at ceremonies, for the fish in the water and the fascinating wildlife of the national parks.
4. Greet your counterpart correctly!
When you greet the other person or introduce yourself, unpack your best smile.
Many Indonesians greet each other with a gentle handshake (salam), after which the hand is brought to the heart . Shaking hands too hard (as we are used to from Germany) is considered rude.
Use your right hand as a greeting. The left hand is considered unclean. More on that later.
Tip : As a man you should never shake hands with a Muslim woman; unless she stretches out her greeting first – and then only use your right hand!
5. Learn About Indonesian!
Indonesian language skills give you incredible benefits in Indonesia. They open more doors for you than any travel guide! They bring you more smiles than any gifts.
Indonesians who work in the tourism industry mostly speak useful English. However, the further you go from Bali, the worse the English of the locals gets.
It cannot be said often enough: it is worth learning a few words of Indonesian before going on a journey through the largest island kingdom in the world – this will make your travel experience completely different.
|Thank you!||Terima Kasih!|
Indonesian is a relatively simple language to begin with . A few basic skills can be learned quickly with little effort – especially since the grammar is not too complex.
The basic knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia can be learned relatively quickly and easily with interactive Indonesian language programs via the app or directly on the laptop.
At Babbel, for example, you get varied vocabulary trainers for listening and repeating, as well as grammar exercises based on yourself.
Believe me, it will be worth it if you sit down for a few weeks and learn a lesson or two.
6. Ask permission when taking pictures!
If you want to take a picture of a local, hold your camera up, point to it and ask Boleh? what can I translate ? called.
In most cases, you are invited to take a photo. In some regions, people are often asked to take a picture of the locals – whatever they get out of them?
For young people, you can ask for their Facebook profile or WhatsApp number to send them the photo afterwards.
7. Parts, parts, parts!
Community thinking prevails in Indonesia and it is shared from the heart.
If someone eats something next to you in public transportation, you will definitely be offered something. Do the same to your neighbors.
And don’t try to reject too often. You are always happy when the “gift” tastes good too!
Sharing is caring!
8. Leave your thinking structures at home!
If you want to explain certain situations in Indonesia with your logic , you will surely fail.
And don’t compare Indonesia to Germany or one Indonesian island to another. Simply let yourself in for the current situation.
When it comes to love for animals , it sometimes seems that Indonesia is not that far yet. Here, too, one should not “judge” directly, because one should first see and understand the big picture (education, state of development etc.). In addition, you should always keep an eye on factory farming in Germany. In Europe, cruelty to animals happens rather in front of closed doors.
9. Live in the day!
Many Indonesians can live better in the “here and now” than we Germans. Often people don’t think big about the future or make big plans. We could cut ourselves off from this for some situations.
That Indonesians can live so well in the here and now is probably due to the fact that one never had to plan really long in advance in Indonesia. In Europe, for example, a long winter had to be prepared extensively. Our brains were therefore always policed for planning the future. In Indonesia, the country is fertile all year round and temperatures do not vary as much. You can harvest vegetables, rice and fruit all year round. A long planning phase was not necessary.
When it comes to environmental protection, of course, “living into the day” is not so beneficial.
10. Have patience!
Buses, trains or flights are not always on time in Indonesia. And Indonesians are incredibly patient. Rarely do you hear locals swearing or looking annoyed at the clock.
Why don’t we just have a little more patience? And when traveling you should have one thing anyway: time!
Especially the rainy season in Indonesia teaches you to be patient. Because it can sometimes happen that you are on the way from A to B with the scooter and then come into such heavy rain that you have to stop in a small shop for a few hours and drink one coffee after another while one waits for the rain to subside.
11. Learn to sit on the floor!
In Indonesia, people like to sit and often just sit cross-legged on the floor – or in the small Perugas (covered, but open premises, where approx. 4 to 5 people find space).
“Sitting on the floor” can be exhausting and get used to for some Europeans.
Tip: It is officially considered rude to stand next to a seated group or to sit higher. When walking past a seated person, you should bend slightly and extend your right arm slightly. This shows respect for the seated person. Watch this gesture once, you will encounter it everywhere.
12. Learn to eat with your hands!
Many Indonesians eat with their hands. You eat with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean.
There is a certain technique. Let them teach you before embarrassing yourself in front of the locals.
You can roughly explain this as follows: Hold the tips of the index finger, middle finger and ring finger so close together that there is no more space between the fingers. Then you can use your thumb as a “slider” and put the food in your mouth.
13. Dress respectfully!
In Muslim areas, women should wear trousers or skirts that reach over their knees and T-shirts that cover their shoulders (this also applies to visits to temples in Bali).
In very touristy regions, you can dress a little more freely, but don’t overdo it! Even in Bali you don’t necessarily have to run through the city in a bikini or choose an ultra tight thong as swimwear.
I always find the following rule quite good: orient yourself on the clothes of the locals. What are they wearing? Make them roughly the same and you’re on the safe side!
In very conservative regions (such as Banda Aceh) you should really pay attention to your clothing.
And better bathe in t-shirts and shorts in local areas. The locals do the same. Bathing in a bikini is not a problem in tourist areas.
14. Adapt the Indonesian table manners!
In Indonesia, you won’t find a knife in a Warung or restaurant. Usually there is only a spoon (right hand) and a fork (left hand). This is mainly due to the fact that you eat the food through the spoon (i.e., bring it to your mouth with your right hand) and only push the food onto the spoon in good proportion with your left hand.
A bowl of tap water and a slice of lime is provided for some dishes. This indicates that this dish is eaten by hand. In the bowl you can “clean” your hand after eating. Below are tips on how to be most elegant with your hands.
In Indonesia, people don’t talk so much when eating, rather afterwards or of course before. We are used to meeting “to eat and chat together”. In Indonesia, mothers often prepare a kind of buffet in the morning, and the family then simply gets something to eat throughout the day – whenever everyone is individually hungry.
By the way, smacking is not a problem.
15. Avoid caresses in public!
In Indonesia, you will rarely see a couple kissing in public. On the one hand, this is because most Indonesians are Muslims. But even in Hindu regions like Bali, intimate caresses are rarely seen in public.
Friendly physical contact between the same sex and children is not a problem! Here, too, hands are held among men.
Unfortunately, homosexuality is not really tolerated in Indonesia. As a gay couple, you should stay incognito.
Fun fact: Two Australians had sex in a temple in Bali. The temple then had to be dismantled and rebuilt – at the expense of the Australians, of course.
16. Avoid exaggerated emotions!
Roaring or arguing in public is unusual in Indonesia and is not welcome. In Indonesian culture, discrepancies are resolved with a calm tone.
Don’t adjust anyone. This causes an Indonesian to lose face. Indonesians are not good at dealing with direct criticism. This is unusual.
Indonesians often respond to criticism with a laugh. For us Europeans that can come across as disrespectful. Whereas the reprimanding is perceived as disrespectful for the Indonesian and he laughs out of irritation and shame.
A typical case of cultural differences.
Also don’t necessarily point your finger at people. This code of conduct also exists in Germany, even if we don’t always stick to it.
17. Be open to Indonesian small talk!
Don’t be surprised if you are asked about your religion , your marriage status and your children at the first meeting . This is normal and the favorite topic of many Indonesians.
Bring family photos and show them to the locals – a perfect icebreaker.
Having no religion is unusual in Indonesia. Even if you should be incredulous, think of a creed.
Even in business talks, people like to talk about personal things.
18. Do not believe everything that is told to you!
In some Asian cultures, people often lie to avoid hurting a person, not to lose face, or to hide ignorance.
This starts with asking someone for the way (who doesn’t know the way at all) and getting wrong directions.
Saying “no” is rude in Indonesian culture. Body language can help you interpret answers.
19. Use your right hand in everyday life
Never use your left hand to eat, hand over money or greet.
The left hand is felt to be impure because it is used for going to the toilet.
- Left hand: No!
- Right hand: Go!
20. Be aware of what meat is considered frowned upon!
If you go out to eat with Muslim Indonesians, it is best not to order pork dishes (Indonesian: daging babi ).
Hindu Indonesians (Balinese) do not eat beef (Indonesian: daging sapi ).
With chicken you are mostly on the safe side!
- Muslims don’t eat pork
- Hindus do not eat beef
21. Master toilets without toilet paper!
Toilet paper is uncommon in local areas.
You use a small shower jet or the left hand. This may take some getting used to.
If necessary, you can of course always have handkerchiefs with you.
If there is toilet paper, it should not end up in the toilet, but should always be thrown in the wastebasket next to the toilet, if there is one.
22. Be careful as a woman!
Basically, Indonesia is a very safe country for women traveling alone.
However, as a woman, be aware that western openness can sometimes be misinterpreted.
For example, you should not unnecessarily travel alone in (remote) areas outside Bali in the evening and also not use ojeks (motorcycle taxis) in the dark.
But these rules can be applied worldwide for women traveling alone.
23. Leave the soles of your feet on the floor!
Avoid stretching the soles of your feet towards other people.
This is considered rude because feet are impure body parts in Indonesia.
Basically, you are usually cross-legged on the safer side when it comes to politeness and respect.
24. Be a respectful guest!
Take off your shoes when you are visiting somewhere.
If you are served food or coffee to someone at home, only take action when asked to do so.
Men are mostly served before women.
25. Don’t blow your nose!
In Indonesia you will rarely hear anyone blowing a handkerchief loudly – at least not in public and especially not while eating.
Rather, you spit it on the floor, which is more “disgusting” for us.
26. Learn to haggle!
In Indonesia, people like to trade often, especially in the local markets.
Work on your bargaining skills, but don’t overdo it.
27. Avoid plastic!
In addition to all the beauty in Indonesia, more and more unsightly things are coming to light. This includes thousands of beaches in Indonesia that are completely littered with plastic and everyday waste.
6 tons of plastic is dumped into oceans every minute in Indonesia and it’s 85 million children are growing up without environmental education in schools that could change something. [ green-books.org ]
To date, Indonesia has no functioning waste disposal system. This is how plastic ends up on the side of the road, in the gardens and in the rivers. The garbage stays here, is burned or ends up in the ocean. Especially in the rainy season, the garbage finds its way into the ocean through heavy rains across the rivers.
A small part is washed back to the stands from there – from flip-flops and straws, to glass bottles and toothbrushes, to drinking cups and plastic forks. It’s pretty clear to see that the waste we produce stays in our cycle – for a damn long, unrealistically long time.
28. Keep the Ramadan Holidays in mind!
During Ramadan, you shouldn’t necessarily eat in front of Indonesians during the day or even invite them to eat when they are fasting. The same applies to smoke and drink.
Ramadan is the most important month in the Muslim faith.
Fasting takes exactly 30 days , divided into three blocks:
- the first 10 days are prayed for blessings
- the next 10 days you pray for forgiveness
- the last 10 days you pray to stay away from hellfire
So it’s best to have Ramadan Holidays in mind when you travel through Indonesia.
Did I forgot something? Then bring it in the comments!
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