Etiquette in Indonesia
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (March 2013)|
|Part of a series on the|
The code of etiquette in Indonesia governs the expectations of social behavior in the country and is considered very important. Etiquette demonstrate respect (Indonesian: hormat ), and considered as one of the key factor in social interactions. Like many social cultures, etiquette varies greatly depending on one's status relative to the person in question. Some conventions may be very regional practices, and thus may not exist in all regions of Indonesia. The following are generally accepted contemporary customs in Indonesia.
Indonesia is a vast tropical country of sprawling archipelago with extremely diverse culture and demographic make-up with over 300 ethnic groups, and speaking more than 700 living languages. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Indonesia also has considerably significant numbers[clarification needed] of Christian Protestant and Catholics population, also Hindu that mostly inhabit the island of Bali, and Buddhist that mostly Chinese Indonesians. In some remote areas, tribal animism still survives.
Each of these Indonesian ethnic groups has its own culture and tradition and may speak their own mother language. Each of them may adhere different religions that have their own rules. These combinations made Indonesia a complex mixture of traditions that may differ from one place to another.
Some ethnic groups such as Javanese have a complex set of etiquette and rather constrained to express their true feeling, while other such as Batak and Betawi people are more open and straightforward. Nevertheless, there is some similarity and common traits that can be used to identify and used as guide to interact with Indonesians.
Most Indonesians uphold harmony, so direct confrontation is best avoided. Yet today in the relatively new atmosphere of democracy, expressing disagreement, performing demonstration, and openly arguing in debate are getting more acceptable in public. However if it done too harsh and excessive in rudeness, it might draw public condemnation.
When interacting with other people, one should avoid expressing negative air of resentment, arrogance or hostility. Smiling, even toward strangers that you are interacting with, or someone that accidentally met your eyes, is considered polite and could be a social ice-breaker and to sign that you are approachable. Probably that is why Indonesians are rated highly as the most smiling people in the world.
Hierarchy and honoring the elder
Indonesians are family and group (community) oriented. Several ethnic group has knit-tight relations that its member are expected to involved actively in many of their community events. Individualism, especially among traditional community is considered arrogancy and shunned upon. Politeness as well as respect, modesty and loyalty, is prevalent in the culture. As with most group orientated cultures, hierarchy plays a great role in Indonesian culture. Hierarchical relationships are respected, emphasised and maintained. Respect is usually shown to those with status, power, position, and age. Elders are must be respected through performing salim, for example when shaking the hand of older persons, such as parents, grandparents and teachers, the youngsters are expected to touch the top of the elder's palm with the tip of their nose or forehead to express respect to elders. This salim gesture is similar to how a gentleman kissing the hand of a lady, with exception it is only tip of nose or forehead that touch the hand, not the lips. This can be seen in both the village and families.
The ritualized gesture of paying respect and honoring the elders is the sungkem gesture. It is the utmost gesture of respect in Javanese and Sundanese tradition, mostly performed between parents and children. The parents place their hands on their laps and the children hold their parents hands and bow deep to put their nose in their parents hands, almost placing one's head upon the elder's lap. Ritualized sungkem often performed in wedding or during Hari Raya Eid al Fitr. Senior is expected to make group decisions, although Indonesians are advocates of group discussion and consensus. This ties back to the idea of maintaining strong group cohesiveness and harmonious relationships.
Saving one's face means one should carefully consider others' dignity and avoid them to experience shame or humiliation. Openly airing your displeasure at certain circumstances would be considered extremely disrespectful and bad etiquette. In the event that you are disgruntled or angry with a person, it is best to discuss the matter privately. This way you are allowing them to ‘save face’ and retain their dignity and honour amongst their peers. Openly correcting or pointing one's mistake in front of other people would caused someone to felt ashamed, and humiliating someone is considered extremely rude.
Body language and communication
When greeting or introducing oneself, smiling, handshake (salam) and slightly nod is a good gesture. A medium handshake grip is sufficient, since gripping too hard could be considered as rude or an act of aggression, while on the other hand passive 'dead fish' handshake is considered as not interested or unenthusiasthic. Salam is also a standard greeting between Muslims, and it would perhaps be considered polite to follow this form of salutation. Generally in Salam, the equivalent of the handshake is to proffer both hands and gently touch your counterpart’s extended hands, before finally bringing one’s hands back to the chest to demonstrate that you welcome from the heart. The greeted party will then reciprocate this gesture. Remember that it is good manners to always make sure that you acknowledge and greet the most senior person present first.
If it is not possible to handshake your counterparts, for example addressing larger crowds with a distance between you, making a greeting gesture by putting your hand together in front of your chest while slightly bowing is considered polite. It is similar to Indian namaste, or Thailand and Cambodian gesture, and preferred especially among Javanese and Balinese, and could be traced to Añjali Mudrā, since Javanese and Balinese are influenced with dharmic culture. The Sundanese version is reciprocally twist your hand forward and slightly touch the counterpart's fingertips while performing anjali. It is important to note that some conservative Indonesian Muslims might avoid direct touch with opposite sex including handshake, so performing anjali is recommended when greeting opposite sex that are conservative Muslims.
Both the Muslim and Hindu faiths somewhat abhor the use of the left hand. It is considered as ‘unclean’, left hand is traditionally perceived as the hand used to clean yourself in the toilet. So when shaking hands, offering a gift, handing or receiving something, eating, pointing or generally touching another person, it is considered proper etiquette to always use your right hand. When giving something, for example paying money, handling the object with your right hand while your left hand touch your right arms near elbow, as if to support the right arms, demonstrate a more polite and refined gesture. Handing, giving or receiving something with both hands, such as name card, are demonstrating your respect and it is a more polite gesture.
Pointing toward someone with index fingers is considered rude, especially if the one you pointed at is near and can see what you are doing. Pointing with open palm is more polite than using index finger, however, pointing with thumb with other fingers folded is considered the most polite form. The head of another adult should never be touch, as it is commonly believed that the soul inhabits the head, and the head is therefore sacred.
Modesty and humbleness are considered virtues, so body language that expresses superiority or pride is considered rude, arrogant and intimidating. In some Indonesian cultures, the attitude of expressing pride and superiority are even reserved only for kings or nobles. One should avoid putting his chin upward, putting hands on hips or pointing when talking to other people.
When passing quite close in front of somebody, for example in the theatre or cinema passing in front of seat row, or passing between two people that are having a conversation, it is polite if you slightly bow your body with one of your hands reaching downward. It is a polite gesture to apologise for obstructing someone's view or interrupting others’ conversation.
In formal settings, one should not raise his foot upon the seat when seating. The base of the foot should step upon the ground. Even folding your leg and put it upon another is best avoided, since foot are considered as the lowest body part and should not be pointed toward others. However in relaxed settings and if seated on the mat on the floor, a more relaxed body pose is allowed.
Speaking softly but clear with somewhat subdued tone is recommended, while on the other hand speaking too loud are considered rude. However it is worthy to note that the tone standard is not the same across Indonesia. Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese are speaking softly, Minang and Malay are medium toned, while people of Batak, Betawi, Bugis and Makassar, Ambonese, and people of Eastern Indonesia speak slightly louder.
Overall, conservative and modest dress sense are adopted in Indonesia, however it might differ from one place to another. For example, Aceh that adopt Sharia law are more strict and conservative compared to Bali.
Business dress code are pretty much the same as international standard. Most of Indonesian offices are air conditioned, so the heat is not a problem on wearing suits indoor. When in Indonesia, by and large a conservative and modest dress sense should be adopted — especially by women. Skirt hemlines should fall below the knee and the shoulders should always be covered. Business attire is generally conservative. Women should dress conservatively ensuring that they are well covered from ankle to neck. Tight fitting clothes are best avoided. Indonesia is hot tropical country, so cotton or at least light clothing is best.
Attending parties, dinner, wedding reception or official event with international standard dresscode are acceptable, such as to wear suit, shirt and trousers for men and dress for women. However wearing batik shirt for men and batik dress for women, or any Indonesian traditional textile are recommended, since it demonstrate your appreciation to Indonesian culture and your commendable effort to blend in.
Attending religious events or visiting religious sites require utmost care. When visiting a place of worship, such as candi and pura (temples), mosques, and churches, the proper dress etiquette for such places is of utmost importance. Some non religious sites such as keratons (sultan's palace) and museums may require modest dress almost similar to religious sites. It is best to dress modestly and well covered. Wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts or tanktops should be avoided. When entering a mosque, always remove your shoes. Women should cover their heads with a scarf – some mosques may provide these beforehand, but it is best to always come prepared. Likewise, removing shoes is also expected when visiting Hindu temples, with the toe of the shoe pointing to the outside from inside the entrance or lobby area. If wishing to visit a place of worship it should be confirmed prior to entry whether the particular shrine, temple, mosque or church is open to touristic visits or the curious.
Be a guest
To announce your presence, ring a bell or knock at the door and stand back a little while saying assalamu 'alaikum' if the host is Muslim, or more commonly permisi. A more local expression might be used, such as punten for Sundanese, kulo nuwun for Javanese, spada for Molluccan or Minahasan. Wait to be allowed to enter the house, and wait to be allowed to sit down in guest room. The living room and dining room are usually reserved for more close family friend or relatives, guest should normally not wander further inside past the guest room, unless invited. Sometimes the host may offer a choice; "coffee or tea?" (or sometime syrup). It is up to your preference, however if you wish not to be a burden to the host, then only request plain water. Wait to be motioned to drink, do not finish the drink. Leave a little drops in the cup, since finishing the whole cup is indicating the guest is truly thirsty and wishes the drink to be refilled. If the tea or coffee is too hot to drink, try not to blow the steam away. Patiently wait several minutes whilst involving yourself in conversation, meanwhile the temperature will become more approachable, this patience is likely to be viewed as more appropriate to the situation. If the host has their attention drawn to the tea or coffee being too hot to be consumed, and the guest demonstrates this, then the host might feel embarrassed.
The host is likely to offer snacks such as cookies, crackers, peanuts, or traditional treats such as pisang goreng, fried tofu or tempeh. Again you should await a prompting or invitation from the host to the guest to help themselves. Do not overstay your welcome, the host will not normally express any sign of overt negativity toward the presence of the guest since it is considered extremely rude and disrespectful. It is up to the guest to estimate the appropriate length of their visit. The guest should decide upon an appropriate time to announce their intention to leave and initiate the farewell and departure.
- Kuoni - Far East, A world of difference. Page 88. Published 1999 by Kuoni Travel & JPM Publications
- Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition.". SIL International. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- David (8 May 2009). "Smiling People, Smiley Faces". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- "Indonesia - Language, Culture, Customs and Business Etiquette". Kwintessential. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- Lucy Debenham BA (27 July 2010). "Etiquette in Indonesia". Travel Etiquette. Retrieved 2 April 2012.