Indonesia Culture: What you need to Know as an Expat

Indonesia Culture

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Although ‘Indonesia’ refers to a specific country, it consists of over 300 different ethnic groups, each with its unique traditions and cultural practices. This makes Indonesia a very diverse nation. Additionally, Bali is often considered distinct from the rest of Indonesia due to its unique cultural characteristics.

If you only go to tourist towns and beaches, you don’t need to worry too much about etiquette. But if you’re moving to Indonesia, here are some helpful tips for you to follow in Indonesia culture.

There’s no such thing as an ‘Indonesian Culture.’

To clarify, it’s important to note that while Indonesia refers to a specific nation, its culture is not uniform. There are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, each with its own unique customs and cultural objects. Before proceeding, this disclaimer is essential to understand.

Although there may be similarities or tendencies among cultures, it’s crucial to remember their diversity. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s culture is often portrayed as dominant or a blend of similar cultures rather than a singular representation.

The Indonesian Society & Culture

Indonesia has a history of hundreds of years, with most of its population adhering to Islam. Despite this, there is still a wide range of cultural values and beliefs throughout the country, from the traditional Hinduism practiced in Bali to the animistic beliefs of some rural communities.

The traditional culture and customs are also critical in Indonesia, especially in rural areas where people still follow many ancient practices. These include conventional agriculture methods, festivals and ceremonies, music and Indonesian dance, art forms such as batik and wayang shadow puppetry, and traditional traditions and healing techniques.

The Indonesian Language

The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, which has evolved from a dialect of the Malay language. Although English is also widely spoken in urban areas, most rural people need help speaking or understanding it.

Bahasa Indonesian people (or simply Indonesian societies) are the official language of Indonesia Southeast Asia, although many other local languages are still spoken in different regions. Therefore, as an ex-pat living in Indonesia, it’s essential to learn some basic Bahasa Indonesia to communicate with locals and understand the cultural context around you.

The Indonesian Cuisine Food and Economy

The message may be more precise if written as: “A variety of cultures such as Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian civilization began, and Western influences Indonesian cuisine. It reflects regional and ethnic group diversity and the quality and quantity of daily food.” During a temple festival in Bali, women transport large fruit baskets on their heads. Women carry towering fruit baskets on their heads for a temple festival in Bali.

Socioeconomic class, season, and ecological conditions significantly affect Indonesia’s cultural practices and diversity, including its cuisine, which typically revolves around rice as a staple ingredient. Government employees receive a monthly supply of rice in addition to their salaries. The rice is generally served with side dishes such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, condiments, and sauces, including chili peppers and spices.

The Java and Bali cuisine offers more variety than the Batak cuisine, even in affluent households. In the Batak cuisine, there is more rice and fewer side dishes. However, it is essential to note that rice is only a staple in some regions of Indonesia.

Religion in Indonesia

Indonesia has the world’s highest Balinese population of Islamic followers, with 88% of its people practicing it. Moreover, Indonesia is home to the widespread practice of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity.

Most religions promote the sayings “Don’t judge others if you don’t want to be judged” and “Treat others as you want to be treated.” Additionally, various ethnic groups still follow their cultural traditions, clothing, and worship of animism. These believers think that gods dwell in the mountains, particularly at Bali’s highest point, Mount Agung, a stratovolcano.

Indonesian culture is reflected in its religious festivals, which showcase unique blends of different faiths and are heavily influenced.

Art in Indonesia

The history of arts in Indonesia dates back to the stone age. It is evident in the various temples across its islands and architecture, featuring traditional timber structures on stilts.

Most of the nation’s crafts exhibit animist traditions and tribal art, along with styles that have strong influences from Hindu and Buddhist roots.

In Java, several art forms exist, including canvas art, woodcarving, silverwork, clay, and stone sculpting. The island is also famous for producing batik, ikat, and songket cloth, which all have their roots in Indonesia.

You can observe remarkable instances of Islamic art and architecture in Sumatra. For example, in Bali and Java, you can view shadow puppets called wayang kulit crafted using buffalo hide and painted.

The landscape tells a story of Indonesia.

Indonesians hold systems beyond religious beliefs, including local community legends about natural landscapes. As an ex-pat in Indonesia, you can learn about the spiritual significance of mountains, hills, rivers, and trees by asking about local and wider cultures in your neighborhood. Discover the secrets of the land through these conversations.

Teenage Life in Indonesian

In Indonesian families, obedience holds significant value, and it is rare for young individuals to challenge their parent’s regulations and choices. Instead, like teenagers worldwide, they enjoy spending time at coffee shops, watching movies, and shopping.

In Indonesia, teenagers like to socialize in large groups and enjoy various sports, including soccer, badminton, and Pencak silat (traditional martial arts). Additionally, building and flying kites are also popular activities.

Dogs are not for pets in Indonesia.

If you are a British ex-pat living in Indonesia, it’s essential to know that in the Muslim Balinese culture, dogs are considered unclean and are not typically kept as pets. So although some Indonesians will be tolerant of dogs, they may only be welcome in some locations, and finding pet-friendly places like dog parks may be difficult.

Dance in Indonesia

Dance is a significant aspect of Indonesian literature culture, with most performers starting training at a young age under the guidance of an expert. The dance style is characterized by its precision, expressiveness, and often unexpected moves.

Indonesia boasts more than 3,000 unique traditional ceremonies and dances, some of which have tribal origins. When visiting Indonesia, Bali is the perfect destination to observe these cultural dances in person. In addition, Bali’s dance performances incorporate Buddhist and Hindu mythology from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The Balinese Hindu dances have different themes and styles. For example, the Barong & Rang dance shows the triumph of the good of demon queens and child eaters. Meanwhile, the Legong dance is known for its gracefulness. Another type of dance, Topeng, is performed with masks and tells the story of Bali’s history or humorously addresses social issues using the Balinese and Malay languages.

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