Indonesians don't like whites

Do’s and Dont’s: Tips on how to behave in Indonesia

Other countries other manners.

For your next Indonesia vacation, you can have a look at these rules of conduct so that you don't step into the typical cultural faux pas.

Table of Contents

Always smile back!

Indonesians smile often and a lot - and it's contagious!

Of course, a smile in Indonesia sometimes has other reasons (e.g. embarrassment, ignorance, etc.).

Nonetheless, always return a smile with a smile. You will notice that you immediately feel a little better - regardless of the motivation behind the laugh.

A bright smile is just contagious, isn't it?

Intensify all your senses!

You have to absorb Indonesia with all your senses.

Smell the smell of incense sticks, burnt garbage and clove cigarettes.

Listen to the noises 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 fauna of the national parks.

Raise your senses for a trip through Indonesia

Greet your counterpart correctly!

When you greet the other person or introduce yourself, bring out your best smile.

Many Indonesians greet each other with a gentle handshake (salam), whereupon the Hand to heart to be led. Shaking hands too hard (as we are used to from Germany) is considered impolite.

Use your right hand to say hello. 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 extends her greeting first - and then only uses her right hand!

Hand to the heart is a nice gesture in Indonesia.

Learn Indonesian!

Indonesian language skills give you insane plus points in Indonesia. They open more doors for you than any travel guide! They'll make you smile more than any gift.

Indonesians who work in the tourism industry mostly speak good English. However, the further you get away from Bali, the worse the locals' English becomes.

It cannot be said often enough: It is worth learning a few words of Indonesian before you embark on a journey through the largest island kingdom in the world - it will make your travel experience a completely different one.

Indonesian is relative at the beginning simple language. A few basic knowledge can be learned quickly with little effort - especially since the grammar is not too complex.

You can do that relatively quickly and easily Basic knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia Learn with interactive Indonesian language programs via app or directly on your laptop.

At Babbel, for example, you get varied vocabulary trainers to listen to and repeat as well as grammar exercises that build on each other.

Believe me, it will be worth it if you sit down for a few weeks and learn a lesson or two.

Screenshot from Babbel's Indonesian language program

Ask permission when taking pictures!

If you want to take a photo of a local, hold up your camera, point at them, and ask Boleh?what translates May I? called.

In the vast majority of cases, you will be invited to take a photo. In some regions you are often asked to take a picture of the locals - whatever they get out of it?

You can ask young people for their Facebook profile or Whatsapp number so that you can send them the photo afterwards.

At a fish market in Makassar we were constantly asked to take a picture of the fishermen with their catch - Photo: Petra Hess

Parts, parts, parts!

Community thinking prevails in Indonesia and it is shared from the heart.

If someone next to you eats something on public transport, you are sure to be offered something. Do the same to your neighbors.

And don't try to refuse too often. You are always happy when the “present” tastes good too!

Sharing is caring!

Sharing is caring!

Leave your thinking structures at home!

If you have certain situations in Indonesia with your logic want to explain, you are sure to fail.

Put prejudices and thought structures aside for your Indonesia trip and be open to a different perspective on things.

And don't compare Indonesia with Germany or one Indonesian island with another. Just let yourself be drawn to the current situation.

Also in terms of things Love of animals Sometimes it seems that Indonesia is not there 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, one should always keep the factory farming in Germany in mind. In Europe, cruelty to animals tends to happen in front of closed doors.

In Indonesia, cockfights are still actively practiced

Live into the day!

Many Indonesians can live better in the "here and now" than we Germans. Often people don't think big into the future and don't make big plans. We could learn a slice of this for some situations.

The reason that Indonesians can live so well in the here and now is probably due to the fact that you never really had to plan well in advance in Indonesia. In Europe, for example, a long winter had to be prepared extensively. Our brains have always been focused on planning the future. In Indonesia, the land is fertile all year round and temperatures do not vary that much. You can harvest vegetables, rice and fruits all year round. A long planning phase was not necessary.

When it comes to environmental protection, “living into the day” is of course not so beneficial.

Let's live a little more in the here and now for our Indonesia trip

Have patience!

Buses, trains or flights are not always on time in Indonesia. And Indonesians have an incredible amount of patience. You rarely hear locals swearing or looking annoyed at the clock.

Why don't we just practice a little more patience? And when traveling you should have one thing enough: time!

Especially the Rainy season in Indonesia teaches you to be patient. Because it can also 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 the other while one waits for the rain to subside.

The following post on our Instagram account describes such situations very well:

View this post on Instagram

Rainy season teaches you to be patient and accept situations you can't change. If you are driving on your scooter and suddenly a storm comes up, there's nothing you can do besides waiting. Maybe it will stop in one hour, maybe in two, maybe in three. You are somewhere, maybe you made it to a little shop, so you are happy that you can drink coffee and eat snacks. Maybe you are in front of a private house and the family invites you to come in. Maybe you are in the middle of nowhere in a little rice field hut. Whatever, wherever. You can only accept the situation, make the best out of it, and be patience. And why not transferring this to any other life situation? #indojunkie #rainyseasonbali

A post shared by Indojunkies (@indojunkie) on

Learn to sit on the floor!

In Indonesia people like to sit cross-legged on the floor - or in the small Perugas (covered, but open rooms that can accommodate around 4 to 5 people).

For some Europeans, “sitting on the ground” can be exhausting and takes some getting used to.

Tip: It is officially considered rude to stand next to a seated group or to sit higher up. When walking past a seated person, you should bend down slightly and stretch your right arm out a little. This shows respect for the sitter. Observe this gesture once, you will see it everywhere.

Before your trip to Indonesia, just sit cross-legged on the floor from time to time!

Learn to eat with your hands!

Many Indonesians eat with their hands, when they eat with the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean.

There is a certain technique involved. 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 “pusher” and guide the food into your mouth.

Eating with our hands is not always easy for us

Infographic: Eating with your hands? It's that easy! Feel free to use the infographic, but please link us!

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 temple visits in Bali, by the way).

In very touristy regions you can dress a little more revealing, but don't overdo it! In Bali, too, 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 very good: Use the clothes of the locals as a guide. What are they wearing? Do it in about the same way and you are on the safe side!

In very conservative regions (such as Banda Aceh) you should really pay attention to your clothes.

And better bathe in t-shirts and shorts in local areas. That's how the locals do it too. Bathing in a bikini is not a problem in tourist areas.

With a t-shirt and loose pants, you can be seen anywhere!

Adapt the Indonesian table manners!

In Indonesia you will look in vain for a knife in a warung or restaurant. Usually there is only one spoon (right hand) and one fork (left hand) in front. This is mainly due to the fact that you take the food over the spoon (i.e. bring your right hand to your mouth) and only push the food well proportioned onto the spoon with your left hand.

A bowl of tap water and a lime wedge is provided for some dishes. That suggests this dish eaten with the hands becomes. In the bowl you can "clean" your hand after eating. Above are tips on how to be most elegant with your hands.

In Indonesia, people don't talk so much when they eat, rather afterwards or, of course, before. With us you are used to meeting "to eat and chat together". In Indonesia, the 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.

Smacking is not a problem, by the way.

Tip: Try a new Indonesian dish every day. But it's best not to always look into the kitchen.

Eat first, talk later!

Avoid being caressed in public!

In Indonesia, you will rarely see a couple kissing in public. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that most of the Indonesians are Muslims. But even in Hindu regions like Bali, you rarely see intimate caresses in public.

Friendly physical contact between the same sex and children is not a problem! Here, too, people hold hands between men.

Unfortunately it will homosexuality not really tolerated in Indonesia yet. As a homosexual couple, you should therefore stay incognito.

Wacky fact: Two Australians had sex in a temple in Bali. As a result, the temple had to be dismantled and rebuilt - at the expense of the Australians, of course.

Friendly closeness among girls is not a problem!

Avoid exaggerated emotions!

Shouting at each other or arguing in public is uncommon in Indonesia and not welcomed. In Indonesian culture, disagreements are resolved with a calm tone.

Do not correct anyone. This causes an Indonesian to lose face. Indonesians are not that good at handling direct criticism. This is unusual.

Indonesians often respond to criticism with a laugh. That can come across as disrespectful to us Europeans. On the other hand, 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 rule of conduct also exists in Germany, even if we don't always adhere to it.

Be open to Indonesian small talk!

Don't be surprised if you meet up right after your first meetingreligion, your Marriage status and yours Children asks. This is completely normal and the favorite topic of many Indonesians.

Bring family photos and show them to the locals - a perfect icebreaker.

Not having a religion is unusual in Indonesia. Even if you should disbelieve, think of a belief.

People also like to talk about personal matters in business discussions.

You can find some useful vocabulary for Indonesian small talk here.

Time for small talk is a must in Indonesia

Don't believe everything you are told!

In some Asian cultures people often lie in order not to hurt a person, in order not to lose face or to hide ignorance.

It starts with asking someone for directions (who doesn't know the way at all) and receives wrong directions.

Even saying “no” is impolite in Indonesian culture. Body language can help you interpret answers.

On a scooter tour across Flores we had to stop several times to ask for directions.

Use your right hand in everyday life

Never use your left hand to eat, to give money or to say hello.

The left hand is perceived as unclean because it is used to go to the toilet.

To note:

  • Left hand: No!
  • Right hand: Go!

Always use the right hand in everyday situations

Know which meat is frowned upon!

If you are going to eat with Muslim Indonesians, it is best not to order a dish pork meat (Indonesian: daging babi).

Hindu Indonesians (Balinese) do not eat beef (Indonesian: dagingsapi).

With chicken you are usually on the safe side!

To note:

  • Muslims don't eat pork
  • Hindus do not eat beef

You're on the safe side with chicken

Master toilet trips without toilet paper!

Toilet paper is uncommon in local areas.

You use a small shower jet or your left hand. This can 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 rather be thrown into the wastepaper basket next to the toilet, if there is one. Because many Indonesian toilets are not made for a large amount of toilet paper, so the paper clogs the toilets.

Typical Indonesian toilet called mandi

Be careful as a woman!

Basically, Indonesia is a very safe country for women traveling alone.

But still be aware as a woman that the western openness can sometimes be misinterpreted.

For example, you shouldn't be unnecessarily alone in the evening in (remote) areas outside Bali, and neither should you Ojeks Use (motorcycle taxis) in the dark.

But those rules can be applied worldwide for women traveling alone.

You can find out more about security in Indonesia here.

For women traveling alone, the same rules probably apply worldwide as in Indonesia - such an outfit may not be the best choice 😉

Keep the soles of your feet on the ground!

Avoid sticking the soles of your feet towards other people.

This is considered rude because feet are unclean parts of the body in Indonesia.

Basically, when you're sitting cross-legged, you're usually on the safer side when it comes to politeness and respect.

When sitting cross-legged, you are usually on the safe side when it comes to politeness and respect.

Be a respectful guest!

Take off your shoes when visiting somewhere.

If you have food or coffee served at someone's home, do not reach it until you are asked to.

Men are mostly served in front of women.

Visiting Flores

Don't blow your nose loudly!

In Indonesia you will seldom hear someone blowing your nose loudly into a handkerchief - at least not in public and especially not while eating.

You tend to spit it on the floor, which we consider to be "disgusting".

Blowing your nose is considered rude in Indonesia!

Learn to haggle!

In Indonesia, people trade with pleasure and often, especially in the local markets.

Work on your negotiation skills, but don't overdo it.

You can find some useful vocabulary for markets & Co. here.

A few basics in Indonesian will also help with your visit to the market

Avoid plastic!

In addition to all the beauty in Indonesia, unfortunately, 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. So plastic ends up on the roadside, in the gardens and in the rivers. This is where the garbage stays, is burned or ends up in the ocean. Especially in the rainy season, the rubbish finds its way into the ocean through heavy rain via 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 made pretty clear that the waste we produce stays in our cycle for a damn long, unrealistically long time.

Therefore, avoid plastic as much as possible during your trip to Indonesia. More about it here.

Bali beach during the rainy season

Keep the Ramadan Holidays in mind!

During Ramadan one should not necessarily eat in front of Indonesians during the day or even invite them to dinner when they are fasting. The same applies to smoking and drinking.

Ramadan is the most important month in the Muslim faith.

Exactly Fasts for 30 days, divided into three blocks:

  • the first 10 days will be forblessing prayed
  • the next 10 days are prayed forforgiveness
  • the last 10 days one prays for theHellfire to stay away

So keep the Ramadan holidays in mind when you're traveling through Indonesia.

More about it here.

Typical mosque in Indonesia

Did I forgot something? Then put it on in the comments!

If you liked the article and you want to learn more about Indonesia, follow us onFacebook or subscribe to ourNewsletter. You can find all the important information for your trip in Indonesia in the article "All tips for your trip to Indonesia„.