Every different country has their own customs and traditions, which must be observed and respected particularly by tourists who would not wish to be thought of as “rude.”
A few guidelines to follow when visiting Indonesia
- The Indonesian culture is based on honor and respect for the individual. Letters begin with Dengan Hormat “with respect“. Respect should always be remembered when greeting others.
- Men and women usually shake hands and bow the head slightly when introduced for the first time.
- Indonesians shake hands when congratulating someone or saying goodbye before a long trip.
- When one is introduced to older people, a slight bow is appropriate.
- Unless his own wife or fiancé, a man does not touch a woman in public, except to shake hands, even if he knows her well.
- If a person has a prestigious title such as doctor or professor, it should be used in conversation.
Conversational subjects which should be avoided in polite company
- Talking about sex in public is very inappropriate.
- Disparaging religions and ethnic origins are not acceptable.
- Asking someone’s income and wealth is inappropriate.
- Criticism should be avoided. If it must be given, it should be well disguised and very subtle. Criticism is never directed at the individual personally. It is never delivered in public or with an audience.
- Discretion is a virtue.
- Speak softly. Loud voices are impolite.
- Kissing in public is inappropriate.
- When traveling, a person is expected to give his or her seat to the elderly, and men are expected to give their seats to women.
- Shoes should be removed before entering carpeted rooms, feasting places, places of funeral viewing, or holy places, especially mosques.
- Gestures are not used for calling someone, except to a child. Waving one’s hand with the palm facing down signals another person to come.
- The left hand should not be used to shake hands, touch others, point, eat food, or give or receive objects.
- Standing with hands in pocket or on hips is interpreted as defiance or arrogance and should be avoided.
- Sunglasses should be removed when speaking to someone or when entering a home.
- Feet should never be used as pointers, and should stay off desks and tables.
- Yawning in public should be avoided, but if one must yawn or cough a hand should be placed over the mouth. Eating while standing or walking is inappropriate.
Dress and Clothing
- Public dress is left up to the individual, provided it is modest. Some Indonesians are conservative dressers and slow to accept new styles.
- Shorts, tank tops, and the like are not considered appropriate, except for picnic and similar occasions.
- In the cities, people wear casual dress, and most of the people accept a new style of dress.
- A shirt and tie are appropriate for males in most business occasions.
- When invited to a dinner in private homes, people can wear informal or casual dress, most Indonesians wear traditional batik dress.
- Formal wear should be worn if it is specified by the invitation.
- In theatres, restaurants and operas, informal and casual wear are appropriate.
- Many westernized Indonesians eat with a spoon and fork, but more traditional families eat with their hands. If one is not offered eating utensils, it is appropriate to ask for a spoon and a fork (usually dinner knives are not used). Generally the fork used in the left hand and the spoon in the right.
- It is impolite to eat or drink before invited to do so by one’s host.
- Both hands are kept on the table while eating.
- Hostesses appreciate compliments on the food, but humorous remarks about the food are a serious breach of etiquette.
- Paying for a meal is done by the one who issued the invitation to eat. Going “Dutch” is not common and considered poor form.
- After the meal you should thank the host and the hostess, and the guests are not expected to help clear the dirty dishes from the table.
- Gift are generally not expected by traditional Indonesians. Gifts should be accepted graciously, it is impolite to refuse anything.
- Indonesians do not generally open gifts in the presence of the giver.
- When invited to a dinner, flowers are considered appropriate gifts.
- When staying as a guest in a private home, you can bring a small gift that is typical of your country. Cookies, candies, fruits, flowers, etc are also okay.
- Business gifts are not necessary, but sometimes are appreciated. The appropriate gifts for business are small items such as pens, watches, shirts, ties, ladies’ purses, etc.
- Traditional visiting times are Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
- In Indonesia, guests are welcomed very warmly and it is an honor for them if you can stay with them. Hosts mostly will serve drinks and foods, but one should not drink or eat until invited, and it is also impolite to refuse the drink and food that has been served for you.
- It is polite but not necessary to remove one’s shoes if the hostess is not wearing footwear.
- It is polite but not necessary to offer your help to do household chores, because most of the middle class people in Indonesia have paid househelp.
- Wear something decent if you are not in your bedroom. It is necessary to make a conversation to the hostess, do not lock yourself in the bedroom.
- If it is time to go to bed, it is necessary to say good night to the host.
- Do not over sleep, most of Indonesians prepare breakfast for the guests and expect to have breakfast together.
- It is necessary to tell the host, whenever you go out