Exploring Indonesian Culture

A vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is a land of contrasts—fiery volcanoes and peaceful seas, crowded cities and distant plantations, modern high-rises and crumbling temples, Komodo dragons and countless tropical birds, young people on scooters wearing brightly-colored sarongs and batik shirts. More than 300 ethnic groups and cultures, with dozens of languages, different social and cultural backgrounds with European, Middle Eastern, and Asian influences make up the unique society of Indonesia and Indonesian culture.

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People and Community

Indonesian people are very family-oriented. Family holds the most important meaning for Indonesian culture. The relationship between each member of the family is close, although it’s rare to see family members showing their feelings and affection openly. Without words, everybody knows and assumes that the other members of the family love each other and will always take care of each other.

Parents, especially fathers, have a very dominant role in the family. The decision-making process in the family tends to be authoritarian. No matter how old a person is, they will always be their parent’s “child”. This means that a university student who is twenty-two years old or even a young married couple who still lives with their parents must involve and consider the parents’ opinion in making a decision. To ask for the parents’ opinion and permission is not viewed as a form of dependency, but more as a form of respects toward them, as they are considered to have more experiences in life. It is very common in Indonesia that children live with their parents even after they are married.

In Indonesian culture, gatherings with extended family are quite common. Being a member of the greater community is also important and Indonesians tend to feel indebted to their village, their mosque, or their professional organization.

Language and Communication Styles

Although there are over 583 ethnic-languages and dialects used daily in the country, the official language of Indonesia is “Bahasa Indonesia” – the Indonesian language. This language was ratified as the unifying language at the Indonesian Youth Congress, held on October 28, 1928, when Indonesia was still under Dutch colonial rule.

Food in Indonesia

Indonesian cuisine combines indigenous techniques and ingredients with influences from India (curries), the Middle East (kebabs), China (stir-frying) and Europe, including products brought by Spanish and Portuguese traders before the Dutch colonized the islands. Cooking varies widely by region, so food can be very spicy or sweet. Fish, coconut, and chilies served with rice is a staple. The main meal of the day in Indonesian culture is usually lunch or dinner, and communal cooking with designated roles and hierarchies at the table are common.

Explore the Programs Available in Indonesia