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A Couple of Things You Need to Know When Moving to Indonesia

 In Living Abroad

If you are tired of your current lifestyle and thinking of relocating to another state, there are dozens of options you can choose from, depending on what you like and/ or except from your future home country. There are a lot of variables to consider before moving to another state or even on the other side of the world, and it is not just about the beauties of the country or the sights that may interest you. With a different culture come different rules of conduct as well and if you choose a country with a culture much unlike yours, you may find yourself feeling lost, ignorant and even isolated. But do not worry, because we are here to help you understand whichever country you are moving to, help you adjust to their culture and fit in as fast as possible. In this article you will read about Indonesia, the world poles apart from the Western culture and you will learn about some dos and don’ts and norms of behavior during your stay. Finding your way around transcontinental customs and traditions can be complicated, and when you are moving to a place like Indonesia, where the welcoming locals are always eager to start up a conversation, you have to know what will cause offence. Good luck in your future endeavors, and enjoy!

  1.       Never show up without a gift. The giving of presents is not an uncommon practice in Indonesia. When somebody invites you and welcomes you into their home, the only polite thing to do is return the hospitality with a present, otherwise you would be thought of as rude. However, a lot of local have already wrapped gifts because of this reason, so you will not have to bother or prepare too long, just stop by a store and pick up a simple gift as a token of your respect for your host. If you want to choose the gift yourself and make it more personal, that is okay too, however, be aware of the fact that there is a large number of people in Indonesia that are Hindus and do not eat beef, therefore they would probably not appreciate leather hide things. Apart from that, there are also a lot of Muslims in Indonesia and they do not consume pork or alcohol, so be careful.
  2.       Do not take oral agreements as seriously. Also, never take every yes as a certain yes. People in Indonesia like to please other people and always be polite, and since saying no is rude they avoid doing so, therefore do not assume that a positive answer means you have an agreement. In fact, in their mother tongue, in Bahasa Indonesia, there are as much as 12 words that sound like yes and say yes but actually mean no. For example when you hear “Yes, but– ” you should definitely interpret it as a clear “No.” You also need to pay attention to their body language and gestures (read between the lines a little).
  3.       If at any point you get stopped by a police officer in Indonesia but you know that you haven’t done anything wrong do not lose your temper. Also avoid aggressive postures such as puffing out your chest or putting your hands on your hips. Even though openly showing your annoyance and displeasure might be a normal thing to you that is thought of as a very disrespectful thing to do and bad etiquette. People here really do not like confrontation and as you have probably read, they like pleasing people and being polite so they may mask their feelings or tell you what you want to hear just out of civility, however if you notice that a certain person has grown cold towards you or started avoiding you, think about what you could have done to offend them.
  4.       Be careful about how you dress (especially women), because in Indonesia it is thought of as shameful and impolite for women to wear skirts, shorts or any skimpy clothing whatsoever. Indonesian people are very religious and conservative and have certain rules that you might want to stick to. This rule applies especially for towns such as Aceh which is the home of the Grand Mosque and maybe the most devout city there.  For instance, it’s considered shameful and impolite for women to walk around in skimpy clothing, especially in cities like Aceh, home to the Grand Mosque and perhaps the most devout, traditional Muslim city in Indonesia. Even in bigger areas that are filled with tourists all the time such as Jakarta or Bali, women that wear shorts or short mini-skirts and tops that are revealing will oftentimes be confused for prostitutes, and will be bothered, more than ever at night. Some of the other rules are that when entering a mosque, a man should always wear long pants, and a shirt with sleeves long enough to cover their arms. As far as women go, they should not only cover up as well as men, but should also invest in buying a kerchief, or a shawl, to cover up their hair. Also, if you are a man, be careful not to shake hands with a Muslim woman, you may only do so if she extends her hand first.
  5.    Make sure not to use your left hand for delicate things like touching other people, eating, shaking hands, picking up things and so on, in fact, avoid using it outside of the bathroom at all. This may sound strange to you (especially if you are left-handed), however in Indonesia, left hand is usually used only to wipe yourself in the bathroom and not outside of it. If you use it to touch someone you may offend them or they may look at you with disgust and now you know why that is and what is going through their heads at that moment.
  6. Also always remove your footwear whether those are simple shoes, sandals or flip-flops before you enter someone else’s home, leave them at the door to a house instead. Another thing that is a big no is showing the soles of your feet to any of the people in Indonesia.
  7. Never point with your index finger, as that is also considered rude. Instead, use your right thumb (note the right hand importance again).
  8. When meeting a person that is older than you or above you in any way as a respected person of authority, or talking to them, make sure to bend slightly every time as a sign of respect.