What You Need to Know About Indonesian Culture

Indonesia is a country with the most cultures in the world. Not surprisingly, the population has different cultures from east to the west and from north to the south. The tribes that live in each region have different habits, beliefs and languages as well.


Getting to know some of Indonesian culture will not only make your traveling experience to Indonesia more enjoyable but will also enrich the way you see the world. Here are some information on what you need to know about Indonesian culture.



Bhinneka Tunggal Ika


bhinneka tunggal ika


Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) is a motto that has been held by the Indonesian to embrace all the people amid diversity. This is a principle run by the Indonesian people where ethnic, tribe, cultural and religious diversity is not a barrier for Indonesians to unite and respect one another.


The tolerance that people have is the color of the unity of the Indonesian people. In fact, Indonesia often gets credit from other countries because it can remain united amid many cultural differences among its people.



Indonesians are Friendly


indonesian are friendly

Credit: GoodNewsFromIndonesia

Foreign tourists are very happy to visit Indonesia because they feel that Indonesians are friendly and kind, even to people they really don’t know. Indonesians are often friendly, especially to people who are new in their area and sometimes Indonesians can invite and give a lot of treats to strangers they consider guests.


For this reason, there are so many foreign tourists who love to live in Indonesia because the people are always smile and also generous.





indonesia's traffic jam due mudik activity

Credit: WartaPilihan

Mudik refers to the annual mass homebound exodus around the time of Idul Fitri. An overwhelming majority of Indonesians are Muslims and thus celebrate Idul Fitri. The most popular way to celebrate Idul Fitri is by gathering with extended family and performing religious rituals together, typically in the family’s hometown.


This “mudik” term is often used by nomads when they will return to their hometown. The term of “mudik” become popular in 1970. The term might come from the Javanese phrase “mulih disik”, meaning to go home for a while after migrating somewhere. Traffic congestion will occur in various regions in Indonesia, especially in Java.



Family is Number One


family come first in indonesia culture

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Indonesians tend to maintain close relationships with their family members, regardless of their age and level of economy. Most of Indonesians choose to live with their parents unless they really must  go because of jobs or business things. They are also many of Indonesian leave their hometown to get job in the city.


This “family come first” tradition is not necessarily a sign of dependency but it just shows the values and principles the nation has when it comes to family.



Eating with Right Hand


indonesian culture eating with hand

Credit: Phinemo

Some Indonesian cultures are also often considered unique by many people, especially foreign tourists who are living in Indonesia. A unique culture that is often carried out by Indonesian people everyday is eating with hand.


You can easily find people who enjoy eating with their hand instead of using spoon and fork. Perhaps according to other countries culture this kind of habit is disgusting but for Indonesians eating with hand are just their way to enjoy the food. Some of you might think that hands are dirty and unthinkable to eat straight with just hand, but the truth is they really wash their hands before eating.



Eating is Not Complete without Rice


eating white rice


Westerners love to eat bread. Their stomach can be full just by eating bread but that is not the case in Indonesia. Indonesia is just like most Asian countries who love rice. Cooked rice is called “nasi” by Indonesians and they will not feel full if they have not eaten rice.


Rice is indeed the most important meal of Indonesian, while in other countries carbohydrates from nasi may not be the main menu to be served. They do not use rice as their staple food but use another carbohydrates source from corn, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Although most Indonesian eat rice, but there are some islands and provinces that do not eat rice. They eat “sagu” or “singkong” (sago or cassava), mostly people in the east part of Indonesia.



Indonesian Love “Sambal”


various indonesian sambal


Sambal is a sauce made from various kinds of spices such as cayenne pepper, red chili, onion as well as other ingredients. Indonesians really like spicy food and they even consider “sambal” as their main menu. Any dishes will not be complete to eat without the chili sauce.


Indonesia people are obsessed with sambal. For the locals, sambal is not merely a condiment but also an integral part of Indonesian food. Therefore, in every house of a family in Indonesia there will always be this simple appetizing dish because they love it very much, even though they often feel spiciness.



Religious Commitments Come First


balinese offering activity


When traveling to Indonesia, you will see that the Balinese present their offerings are first things to do in the morning or some employees temporarily stop their work because of prayer time. No matter what religion they are uphold, Indonesians are generally very spiritual. They take religious practices very seriously and that are reflected in daily rituals, ceremonies, even the grandness of their places of worship (temple, mosque, church, vihara, etc).



Indonesian Love to Have White Skin


face skin treatment


Another uniqueness about Indonesian culture is that most of Indonesians want to have pure white skin like westerners. In fact, they are even willing to buy various cosmetic products to realize their dreams of having white skin. For them, especially the women, having white skin are identical with beautiful and clean. Even though the original skin of Indonesian people is brown.



Indonesians Like Something Westernized


westernized lifestyle


When many western tourists come to Indonesia for a vacation and to see themselves the uniqueness of Indonesian culture, Indonesians itself actually like something westernized. Nowadays it is so rare for the younger generation who wants to continue what their ancestors inherited. Even for dressed, they often use something that resembles westerners.


Lifestyle is part of human secondary needs that can change easily depending on the age or desire of a person to change his lifestyle. It includes the way of people dressing, the ways of speaking, social manners and habits.