Useful phrases and tips for communication in Indonesian language

Peter van Rooij (left), ILO Country Director in Indonesia, is shaking hands with President of Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the signing ceremony of the Jobs Pact at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on April 13, 2011.

Many Indonesians only have one name that can be very long, so it is not uncommon for them to use a nickname. One more important thing that’s left to remember is that it’s rude to point your finger towards people or objects. You should use the thumb with other fingers folded under.

It is considered polite to verbally refuse a gift which is given to you before accepting it. You should do this to prove to people who are giving you the gift that you are not greedy. You should never give a sharp object such as scissors or knife to anyone because it means that you want to end the relationship between you. You should never give alcohol or non-halal food to Muslim people. Never give leather to Hindu people, since they consider cows as sacred animals.

A gift should be offered and received with the right hand only and it should never be opened in front of the person who gave it to you. When you are packing the gifts for Indonesian people, make sure that you don’t use gift wrap in dark colors, especially not black one. Bright colors are considered to bring people good luck, so better pack your gifts in red, yellow or green color.

Once you adopt some of these phrases and routines, you’ll be ready to completely enjoy your Indonesian experience. Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to stay there longer and improve your Indonesian skills to a pro-level.