With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. It is therefore normal that customs should change from one island to another. However, there are a few basic common rules for the traveller to observe to get the most out of your trip, to integrate into the country and to respect the locals and their customs. Nevertheless, the Indonesians remain very tolerant.
One of the basic rules during a trip to Indonesia is to never get angry, always keep smiling and keep your self-control in any situation. You must always remain serene and know how to solve difficult situations without humiliating your interlocutor. This is valid during disputes and negotiations. Nor should you be offended if you are asked very direct questions by strangers in the street, it is simply curiosity and politeness. You do not have to answer, but you can ask the same questions in return. Avoid speaking with your hands on your hips: this can be regarded as an expression of contempt, anger or aggressiveness.
Don't be too effusive: maintain a certain modesty in the street and avoid kissing others on the cheek, especially women.
To enter a Hindu temple, remember to wear a sarong and a belt. And ladies, you are not allowed to enter during your menstrual periods. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim and it is therefore preferable to wear long clothing to avoid upsetting the local population, especially in the most religious areas. During Ramadan, do not eat or drink in public.
Duringyour stay in Indonesia, remember to respect the following customs:
- Do not use your left hand in your relations with others or to eat – it is regarded as unclean.
- Do not touch people's heads - it is the seat of the soul.
- Take your shoes off in houses or mosques, sometimes even in some shops or restaurants.
- Always accept the food that is offered to you.
- Politely refuse any solicitations in the street.
- Use both hands to present something to an older person as a sign of respect.