Cross Cultural Understanding/Makalah


Indonesia is well known as a large country in the world and has many islands that spread from Sabang to Merauke. In every island live people from different ethnics with different languages, religions, lifestyles, cultures and different customs. Those different cultures unite and become Indonesian culture.
In this writing will be describe generally about Indonesian culture that is covered daily general habits of Indonesian. This description is not to give bad appraisal to our national culture, but only to share the result of our daily tracking and experiences and combined with references of several sources.

Meeting and Greetings

Indonesian people are well known with their friendliness whether to well known people or unknown people. Every time when meeting someone, Indonesian pople will greet: Assalamu alaikum for Moslem, good morning, good afternoon, or good night for non Moslem or as general greetings. To friends or closed friends they say hi! or hello! and it is not complete for Indonesian people if they don’t make chit-chat after greetings. Indonesians usually address someone the way by saying “Where will you go, sir?” or “Where have you been, Madam?” In Western, it’s unusual, because it will be determined that “those people want to know everything other pople want to do”. Wherever I go or where I have been, it’s not their business, why they must ask about that?” for Indonesian people, those addresses don’t mean seriously. It is just like an idiom to show the existence of attention. They don’t care at all whether the answer is true or not. It may be anything, example: “O, I want to go to shop” or “Ahh, I’ve been at the market”. Generally, greeting is a polite behavior.
On the other hand, if he or she does not greet when meeting someone who he or she knows in a place, it is probably that people will say, “ arrogant you are! We meet on the way but you don’t greet me, such as you’ve never known me yet.”
Indonesia consists of various ethnics and languages. It must have various greetings in each area. There are a lot of unique greetings that often listened if we are in an ethnic environment with its strong culture. People in Surabaya sometimes say, “Diamput!” or “Diancuk” that are forbidden to say in usual conversation. Sunda People will say, “Siah!” to closed friends who never meet for long time. In Jakarta area, people usually call “Bang” to men, such as old brother, neighbour and even the vegetables seller who passes in front of house. In Makassar, vegetables seller, pedicab driver and small scale seller are called “Sambalu”. Of course, there are many greeting used in many ethnics in Indonesia.
Gesture or body language that is enclosed in greetings uttered different. In the last several years, huging and kissing on the two sides of cheeck have been culture of Indonesian people in the certain level of society. Formerly, Indonesian people greet someone by shaking one hand or two hands, and while nodd the head. It is probability that the custom of huging and kissing on the two cheecks are the influence of Arabian culture delivered by Moslems. But that influence is only done between men. Nowadays in Indonesia, culture of kissing in the two cheeks is done bertween man and woman as well, although they are Moslems. Perhaps it is the influence from France (Europe).
Like American, Indonesian people have a custom to greet someone first though to a foreigner. Because of their hospitality, almost many people open conversation with other people without introduced by someone first. They like to hear other people’s conversation and then they butt into discussion, so they can be close a few minutes later.

Visit to Friend’s Home

Visit to relatives’ home or friends’ home is one of the customs that always done by Indonesian people. Visit to new neighbour’s house is rare to do except the neighbour invites his or her other neighbours to attend the celebration for new house. Besides, there is not a custom to give gift or food to the new neighbour, it is only attending invitation.
Indonesian people has a high mutual cooperation characteristic. When relatives or friends make party or “hajatan”, they will come to give some helps without asked. It is meant as a visit and make good friendship. Visit activities is usually done when the celebration of Idul Fitri, Idul Adha, Cristmast and New Year time. There is not certain time for visiting. In general Indonesian people might not like to make an appointment. Visit can be done in the morning, in the afternoon ar in the evening. It is one bad habit of Indonesian that must be changed. However, some people who live in big cities with busy routine activities will like to make meeting or visit appointment in the beginning. In the fact that, Indonesian people have very high tolerance to guest. Although the guest visits at the suitable time for visiting without making appointment, the host will tolerate to welcome the guest and serve well. It is impossible to ask the guest to go home and say “Sorry, I am busy and you disturb my personal time.”
Visit to the friend’s home is often done by young people (teenager) or school age children. After finishing class, they don’t go home in direct. They like visiting to a friend’s home for doing homework or just playing. They like to make surprise to their friends and suddenly come without giving information. Sometimes, they come in to the bedroom (and of course after permit to the host ar the room owner). They often ask for some drink or meal, and even they can serve themselves in the kitchen. But it is occured when they have been closed and known well. Politeness value is still be a characteristic of Indonesian.

Getting Invitation

Almost all Indonesian people are difficult to say “No” or “I cannot” when getting invitation for a party or celebration. Eventhough they know that they have another business or appointment in the same time with the invitation, they will say “I will see later” or “If I have a chance I’ll come”. Besides, Indonesian people who are majority Moslem usually say “Insya Allah”, and for Western people it means “uncertainty”. But for Moslems, it is an exception that it must be said when making appointment. We have to give information as we will come late or cannot come at all. The fact that, we are rare to do it. Some people will be angry when they don’t get invitation from a friend or family who makes party. Perhaps they might forgot to write our name in guest list. Another Indonesian habit is invite other friend who are uninvite to come to a formal party.


In Western country, eating etiquette is an essential thing in daily habits. This eating etiquette is called table manner. In Indonesia, table manner has been applied by certain people such as rich people or upper circle of society. It can be done in the luxurius restaurants or hotels. For general circle of society, using spoon, fork, knife and other various of eating pitfalls is uncommon thing. Plate, spoon and glass are commonly used. In the village area, people usually eat by using hand, namely right hand and wash hand in the water bowl. Eating together is considered to build togetherness and harmony. But, there are several ethnics that have certain custom about eating etiquette. For instance, Bugis ethnic in South Sulawesi has a certain eating etiquette in the family. When eating, it is first priority for old people, men or guest to have their meal. Women and children will have their meal after that. It is forbidden to make converstion in the dining table. It is related to the politeness. However, for some Bugisess family who have been released from the original custom environment will consider eating together.
There are some bad habits often found in the dining table such as cleaning leftovers from a meal in the teeth or gargle in front of other people who still having their meal. For some people it is okay, but we don’t know that it will disturb them.

In the Public Places

There are a lot of Indonesian habits in public places look strange for western people. They are try to get in front of the line, throw the rubbish everywhere, pass wind and spitting in public area, teke pee not in toilet, etc. Indonesian people are often inpatient when take in line for paying bill in cashier or buying ticket then try to cut in the line. And the most terrible is entrust to someone because it is lazy to wait for long time.
Rubbish is unfinished problem in Indonesia. Though there is a warning board “Don’t throw your rubbish here” put in public area, but there are still anyone not responsible.
Pass wind in public area is a customary for Indonesian people. When passing wind, they even not feel mistake and laugh each other.
In the certain condition, it is normally for Indonesian spitting in public area. When in Fasting month, majority of Indonesian Moslem will be fasting. In this condition, people will always spit in order to keep the validity of fasting.
Commonly take pee activity in public area is done by men. For instance, there is no any toilette found in the trip, they will take pee behind the tree or between bush or another closed places. Whereas, it is better to input the urine in the bottle and clean up when meeting a toilette. Because it will damage another live creations
And one another bad habit is teenagers’ habit to dominate almost all part of street with their friends. It happens in public places like mall and public path. When someone who wants to pass says “Excuse me!” they just look with I don’t care expressions. As if one tries to get through, they will protest by saying inpolite words. Perhaps walking etiquette in public must be taught in school etiquette material.

The Use of Time

Rubber Hour is a term that familiar in Indonesian ear. Rubber hour refers to the elasticity time concept which a certain time is not a certainty at all. It will be something can be delayed ( analogized to stretchable rubber), in order that it characterizes as a marker of a period between that time. Rubber hour has been culture in Indonesia. In a formal party or meeting that needs punctuality time, there are still somme people come late. Indonesian people cannot be discipline in time yet. But, it does not mean there is no one in Indonesia who are able to commit to the time.

In the Bedroom

What Indonesians do in the bedroom is similar with the thing people do in the world, namely preparing to go bed. There are several habits that had been done since child till adult such as washing feet, hands and face, brushing teeth and so on. Praying before sleeping is a suggestion in every religon. Using piyama or blanket may be done apart people such as young people, but almost people in Indonesia use “sarung” for sleeping. It cause of “sarung” is a special characteristic and culture of Indonesia.
Teenagers usually listen to music, phone / calling, chat or read books before going to bed. In the village environment, there is a custom to sleep together in an extended family. Father, mother and children sleep in the same room.

Educational Environment

There are several habits must be changed in Indonesian educational environment. Many students from lower level up to higher level or university less in using their spare time to do positive things such as reading book, repeat the school materials and do assignment or homework. Time in waiting lecturer, public transportation or when stand in line just used for playing chat with friends. So, in the classroom, those will make other bad habits like doing homework in the classroom or cheating in the examination. Even discipline of time is less priority for the students. When the class begins, one or two students still come late. The teachers and Lecturers muust give good example to their students first to commit in time.

In the Toilet and in Bathroom

Take pee, take bath and do another personal activities are not separated with the important rooms called toilet and bathroom. In Indonesia, public toilet is rare found, moreover separated toilet between man and woman. If there is public toilet, it may be common toilet for man and woman. It is exception for certain places such in mall, hospital, bank, office and hotel. A bad habits always found in public toilet is the user of that place does not clean the closed. Because of it is a wet toilet so it will be so dirty. It is uncomfortable for other users.
Indonesian people usually take bath twice in a day, in the morning and in the afternoon depends on the someone’s habit. Maybe it is because of the weather and climate in Indonesia caused Indonesian people often take bath to keep clean and healthy. They take bath in the morning because they determine that activities begin in the morning till afternoon to socialize with many people. Other opinion is taking bath is better to do in the afternoon after finishing activities. It is done by people who keep etiquette in worship and praying to God, and need comfort atmosphere to take rest.
Generally Indonesian people use wet bathroom, with water dipper and vessel. In the city, people use shower and bathtub, and contrary in the small village where people use natural shower and well.

Lock arms (hand in hand) and embracing / huging

These habits are usually found at teenagers or couple. When walking together their friends, teenagers usually lock their hand each other between girls. It means that they are closed friends. And for couples, lock arms or hand in hand and ambrace their couple’s shoulder or waist are to show their care and romantics. It is a customary in this modern era.



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