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Entering the house / Indonesia

Indonesian Etiquette

How To Behave When Entering The Family Home

Imagine yourself being plunged into a very local Indonesian scenario, such as the family home of
your Indonesian friend or partner. You will undoubtedly be thinking ‘what should I do & not do?’

No Shoes Please

Let’s start with entering the house, firstly and foremost, take off your shoes or sandals, you don’t
want to be dragging dirt into the home of your host. Don’t worry it’s very common to be barefoot
in an Indonesian home, so no need to worry about the shape of your toenails or your odd socks!

Not a Handshake in Sight

When you come to greeting someone older than you then they will put out their right hand, don’t
presume to shake it, instead of a firm handshake you should kiss their hand and place it on your
forehead for a brief second. This is a very intimate way of greeting someone older, showing them
your instant respect and gratitude. If an individual is younger just hold out your right hand.

Titles for Individuals Older Than You

When the conversation gets underway, even if you can’t speak Indonesian Bahasa, there are
correct titles to use for whomever you are talking with. If you are talking with an older male call
him Bapak, whereas if you are talking with an older female you should call her Ibu. Calling
someone significantly older than you by their first name is a big no no, play safe and stick to
Bapak (Mr) or Ibu (Mrs).

Welcome Greetings

To earn you those ever desired extra brownie points learn the correct greeting when entering the
home of either a Muslim family or a Hindu family. A standard greeting for Muslims is Assalamu
Alaikum, this translates from Arabic to mean ‘peace be upon you’. A staggering 87% of
Indonesia’s population is Muslim so learning these two words will leave you in good stead. When
entering the house of a Hindu family it is courteous to say Om Suastiastu, this is most
appropriate for Bali and means ‘Hello’. Namaste is also a well know Hindu welcoming message.

Look the Part

Bearing in mind that Indonesia is a predominantly religious country make sure, for both males
and females, to cover your shoulders, chest and knees. Wearing a hat inside doesn’t prove to be
a big deal in Indonesia, however, it would be better to remove it just in case.

A Wonderful Homely Experience

I’m sure these etiquette tips for being a guest in the local Indonesian household will be useful
and benefit your trip. If you are yet to be welcomed into a local home of an Indonesian then
prepare yourself for a wonderful experience. As a guest, you will be presented snacks and
goodies to nibble on with coffee all round, much like the British tradition of a pot of tea with
biscuits. Don’t worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, as long as you are well intentioned
then your efforts will go down with smiles and an invitation back for dinner!

Image credit: David Christover

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Active traveller with a love for Asian food and Japanese anime.