Indonesian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s
  • Make an effort to keep discussion harmonious and balanced. Take an indirect approach towards any corrective remarks.
  • It is important to ask questions in several ways in order to be certain of what was meant by a vague response.
  • Be obvious in showing an Indonesian that you enjoy their company and are fond of them. While they are indirect communicators, they generally look for explicit signs of approval and friendship.
  • Express flattery when it is due as this will give face. However, always do so with sincerity - giving a blatantly ‘fake’ compliment can cause an Indonesian to lose face instead.
  • Treat older Indonesians with respect. Always give substantial recognition of their opinion.
  • Try and take an unassuming attitude and be discrete about your private life with those you do not know well.
  • Respect an Indonesian’s modesty and keep a distance from those of the opposite gender unless you know them well.

Don'ts
  • Avoid directly criticising someone or pointing out their mistakes as these actions can cause an Indonesian to lose face. They are generally not very open with their emotions in the public sphere, so it can be hard to distinguish when they are offended. However, if an Indonesian is cold towards you or avoids you, you can take that as an indication that you have seriously upset them.
  • Avoid raising your voice, shouting or losing your temper in public. To see someone crying or losing emotional control in public can make Indonesians feel awkward. Doing so will likely cause you to lose face and respect in their eyes.
  • Try not to interrupt or fill in the silence during conversations.
  • Avoid talking about government/military corruption in Indonesia as broaching sensitive topics such as these can make an Indonesian feel uncomfortable. They may not know how to respond without losing face.
  • Do not laugh at the mistake of another or tell jokes that poke fun at the disadvantage of others.
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