I talk a lot about Indonesian girls here at Life Around Asia because I absolutely love them, but today we’re going to dive a little deeper into Indonesian culture.
I want to give you a great understanding of the people in this amazing country and how they interact on a daily basis.
While you won’t find this information too useful on a short trip, those looking to expat in Jakarta or Bali will find great benefit to the information below and it should help you blend in better and better understand the people living here.
Understanding Indonesian Culture
There are a few different things that we have to touch when talking about the culture in any country, so let’s get it started!
Population and Demographics
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. With around 250 million people, the country is also the fourth largest in the world behind China, India, and the United States.
What does this mean?
There’s a lot of women in Indonesia!
Not only that – the population of Indonesia is young. Really, really young. The average age in the country hovers around 28 years old.
For traveling men, this means around a 125 million individuals in the country are under 28. That’s a lot of girls in Indonesia who are of eligible dating age.
There are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, but around 95% of the people in the country are of native Indonesian ancestry.
Nearly 100 million people in the country are of Javanese ancestry, including the majority of individuals who live in Jakarta.
In other words, we can say that there’s also a bit of variety here, with even small cities having hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.
Religion & Indonesian Culture
Being the largest Muslim country in the world, you can imagine that religion plays a large role in Indonesia.
Nearly 87% of the country’s population consider themselves Muslim. While many would assume this can destroy the dating market for foreign men, that’s not exactly true.
Most Indonesian girls (if they are Muslim) practice a form of the religion that’s much less extreme than what’s common in the Middle East. As such, you’ll find many women unconcerned about saving themselves for marriage.
Of course, this doesn’t meant that all of them are like this. Even more, this also means that many of the ladies here are not as open as Westerners are to dating and hooking up, but for the most part, people here are extremely open minded – at least in the larger cities that I have visited.
While some long-term expats invest in learning Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of the country, most foreigners do just fine with English. If you want to pick up a few words of Bahasa, that’s a great idea.
Learning the language is not necessary for living in Jakarta or Bali, especially with regards to dating and living in the nicer areas. Most people here speak at least a bit of English, so you should be fine.
The official currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah. While currency valuations change daily, the current exchange rate is favorable for individuals earning in USD. You’ll get around 14,000 Indonesian Rupiah for $1 US Dollar.
While partying in Jakarta can be pricey, the exchange rate value allows most travelers to stretch their budget pretty far in the country. And this is why everything seems (and is) cheaper in Indonesia than in the US, for example.
One important piece of Indonesian culture is understanding the “Bule” factor throughout the country. You’ll hear this word occasionally, and you need to know what it means. So…
Definition of “Bule” – A word commonly used to describe any foreigner of European descent, aka any white person. The literal translation of the word means Albino. While some expats take offensive to the word, I don’t think you should in most contexts. It’s like Gringo in Latin America.
The word is commonly found when talking about dating. Many Indonesian women favor “Bule” and desire a white man in their lives. If you’re single and living in the country, you can use this to your advantage.
It is true that some people use it in a pejorative form, but I never felt offended personally. It’s just how things are there, so don’t take it personally either! In most cases, it’s not meant to be offensive anyway.
Collect, Conform, Cooperate!
When talking about Indonesian culture, you have to understand a number of things.
First, this is an Asian country. As such, the culture lends a hand to collectivism.
This means people strive to put the group first over their individual desires. Family plays a large role in Indonesian people’s lives, even placing a large commitment to helping extended family in a time of need.
Like most Southeast Asian countries, the desire to save face is paramount. “Saving face” refers to avoiding any embarrassing situations or anything that would lower one’s value in society. As such, Indonesian people will be quite indirect.
If you ask someone a question and they don’t know the exact answer, they’ll still give you a vague answer. If you extend an invitation to someone and they don’t want to go, they’ll usually tell you “maybe” in one way or another.
This means he or she won’t be attending.
Javanese & Balinese
It’s important to note there are distinct cultural differences between the Javanese and the Balinese people.
While Jakarta is the epicenter of such a phenomenon in Indonesian, you’ll find liberal Javanese people all over the island.
In Bali, the tourism infrastructure has influenced the Balinese people, but they still managed to keep their culture intact. The Balinese are not Muslims.
They follow a Hindu-Buddhist religion that’s been mixed with Balinese customs. Famous customs of the Balinese include their temples, dances, and drama.
If you’re looking to delve into a unique culture, the people of Bali will surely fit the bill.
Indonesian Culture: An Overview
The information above is not extensive and obviously not complete. It’s just a primer on what you can expect from Indonesian culture when you visit the country.
Use the tips and understanding above to greater your enjoyment in the country and get more out of your visit than the typical tourist.