Indonesian Cultural Dos and Don'ts

Q: What is considered bad manners for local people? What should I avoid doing?

Indonesian people are very friendly and generally tolerant of people’s religious and cultural backgrounds.

The following are some general guidelines to help with living here. It is important to observe these in order to avoid offending anyone:

1) Never write a note or letter to anyone in red ink, as this is considered a sign that you are very angry with someone.

2) Do not use your left hand to pass things to another person. Use your right hand or even both hands.

3) Romantic kissing in public is definitely not acceptable, along with other shows of public affection to your romantic partner.

4) Feet belong on the floor, not on tables or chairs, and tables are also not for sitting on.

5) People should dress modestly. It is generally not appropriate for males to be bare-chested in public or for females to have bare shoulders.

6) When entering someone’s house please remove your shoes at the door.

7) Touching another person’s head is not permitted. It is a sign of disrespect of that person.

8) Dogs are considered to be unclean, especially their nose and mouth. Most Muslims are very afraid of dogs and if you have a dog for a pet it can be a problem for your maid if you hire one.

9) Pork is also seen as unclean and not to be eaten especially for Muslim people. A local maid will cook it for you but definitely won’t want to eat it.

10) Usually drinks and foods are offered to guests. It is polite to accept and have at least a bit of it.