Indonesian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette
  • Remove your shoes before you enter a carpeted room, place of worship or if you see that the host/hostess has removed theirs.
  • Tipping is appreciated—though a person of service is unlikely to ask for it.
  • Wait to be seated by a host.
  • Chinese Indonesians often ‘fight’ to pay when eating at a restaurant. Offering to pay for everyone is an exhibition of wealth.
  • The Indonesian concept of time is much looser than that of an Australian’s, so it is not unusual for them to be one or two hours late to appointments. 

Eating
  • Do not begin to eat until indicated to do so.
  • Food is usually served from larger dishes in the middle of the table. The host may serve the guests at the first serving, but generally guests serve themselves from there on out.
  • Some Indonesians may eat with their hands.
  • Keep both hands above the table while eating.
  • Only pass food with your right hand.
  • Emptying your glass or finishing everything on your plate indicates that you want another refill or serving and will prompt the host to keep offering you more food.
  • Do not leave your seat or the table until everyone has finished their meal.

Gifts
  • Indonesians usually try to bring gifts when visiting friends. These are small usually don’t have a significant monetary value.
  • Flowers are given on special occasions (i.e. marriages, funerals).
  • Gifts should be given and accepted with both hands together or the right hand alone.
  • Gifts are not opened immediately upon receiving them.
  • The appropriate gift may vary depending on an Indonesian’s ethnicity and religion.
  • For Malays and Muslim Indonesians, gifts that have alcohol or pork in them should not be given.
  • For strict Muslims, gifts of food must meet halal standards. Many Muslims accept foods without halal certification as long as it does not contain any pork products (including pork oil/fat).
  • Chinese Indonesians may decline receiving a gift two or three times out of politeness before accepting. Elaborate wrapping (especially in red and gold) is admired and appreciated. Taboo items are sharp objects (e.g. knives, scissors), clocks, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, green hats, mirrors and yellow or white flowers.
  • For Indian or Hindu Indonesians, wrapping should be in bright colours, and leather products and alcohol should not be given.
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