Culture Shock in Indonesia



Indonesia has a myriad of ethnic groups with their own languages and dialects, ranging from the Javanese, who compose the majority, down through the Sudanese and all other tribes in its remotest islands.

Because its culture is generally rooted in its older societies, Indonesians may remain to be very conservative and sometimes unfamiliar to expats who are used to life in more modern societies.

For example, foreigners coming to the country for the first time may be surprised to know that men are openly given more deference in social situations than women. As a guest who is served drinks and snacks by an Indonesian host, an expat must wait to be invited before touching the food. And one should not be surprised to get an apology from a host who feels he has not enough to offer.

Living in Indonesia

Indonesian people can be warm and welcoming but will initially strike foreigners as conservative and sometimes aloof due to their conservative nature. Women remain dressed up and barely show any skin. Modesty and politeness, especially in public, are generally expected and public displays of anger or affection are avoided.

When giving gifts or serving food to an Indonesian guest, expats must avoid anything made of pig, considered the most unclean animal in Islam. Alcohol is also prohibited by the Qur'an and must not be given even as an offer to celebrate a special occasion.

As a business custom, Indonesians expect everybody to be on time for a meeting but don't appreciate being chided when they come late. Westerners may find this to be an issue, but complaining often only invites ill will and should, thus, be avoided.

Expats in Indonesia may find the local culture too conservative but it shouldn't take long for anyone to get used to it and start being comfortable among the citizens.



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Living Abroad