Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia – Is it possible to…?

Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia – We are sure that most of the people who are traveling to exotic destinations famous for their unique cultures and specific ways of living at some point ask themselves whether it is okay for them to do things that they would normally do in their homelands.

Family – Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia

Knowing that nobody would feel comfortable while doing some “inappropriate” actions in a foreign country without realizing it, and having in mind that Indonesia is one of these intriguing countries that may have different “rules of everyday life”, we will share with you some of the basic things which you should or should not avoid once you visit this country.

Most of these rules can be easily noticed if you observe how local people act and simply try to imitate them, but if you are willing to take some notes in advance, here are the instructions!


Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia: Greeting people

Introduction of people in Indonesia can be pretty similar to the introduction on the West. For example, handshakes are usually an adequate way of introduction. You should have in mind that both hands should be used when shaking, with no grasping.

However, since there is a large number of Muslims in the country, you may want to know that Muslim women find it more acceptable to keep a distance from the person they are introduced to. That does not mean that they will ignore your attempt to greet them, but in most cases they will just nod, smile and clasp their hands. Some other greeting must-do rules in Indonesia are listed below:

Smile – Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia

Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia

  • Just smile! People from Indonesia, especially on the island of Java, appreciate the polite smile of foreign people they are introducing, and they will certainly give you a smile back. Friendliness is in their nature, so you should just be relaxed.
  • When you are approaching older people, it is considered as a really polite gesture to bend down a bit. Not all of the people actually do that, but it shows your respect and older people will appreciate it, especially if they notice that you come from another country.
  • When you are talking to someone, you should use following titles which will make you sound more respectful and polite:
  • Bapak for men
  • Ibu for women
  • Mas for boys
  • Mbak for girls

But – be careful!

  • Never start a conversation with local people with your hands placed on your hips. It is considered as an insulting act and people will think you disrespect them.
  • In addition, you should never touch other people’s heads, because Indonesian people find it rude.
  • Writing letters in Indonesia using the red ink is a gesture that symbolizes anger and the ending of a friendly relationship, so, if you are not angry, you should avoid the red color.


Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia: Visiting people

If some of the native people you meet during your vacation in Indonesia ask you to visit them at their home, you should definitely make a phone call before you decide to visit them. Once you arrive at their home, it is good to know that:

  • You have to take your shoes off before entering someone’s home, as a sign of appreciation and respect.
  • You should not be angry or offended if they start asking personal questions. They don’t do it to make you feel uncomfortable, but to show that they are interested in having a friendly relationship with you. You are not obligated to answer any of them.
  • You should always use your right hand when eating, gifting or receiving a gift.
  • You should not reject a meal or drink if it is offered to you. It is polite to accept it. In addition, have in mind that Indonesian Muslims don’t drink alcohol nor eat pork meat.
  • You should not be placing your feet up on the chairs or tables.

    Lunch time – Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia

If you are in need of pointing something with your fingers, don’t do it with your right index finger, especially not if you are pointing at people. You should use the thumb of your right hand, while folding other fingers into a relaxed fist, so that it looks more polite.

Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia: Public places

There are some basic rules that should be respected while you’re moving through the public places of Indonesia.

In a market – Do’s and Don’ts in Indonesia

For example, don’t get surprised or angry if a person of the same sex tries to hold your hand in public places, since it is just a way of showing a friendly relationship. On the other hand, it is not usual or encouraged for people to demonstrate affection in public, since it is also considered as insulting behavior, especially in sacred places.