I’ve been more than 9 months in this blog and I am sure many blogs have introduced Indonesia a lot from many perspectives, either general or personal. I think there are so many opinions about Indonesians you have gotten, encounter with Indonesians or maybe you never meet any Indonesians at all. Indonesian for me as Indonesian has its unique characters, besides akin to other Asian or even Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans. I was surprised when I meet many similarities between Indonesians and Brazilians –as example- or with Hindustanis and even Filipinos. All right, for this moment I’d like to share what I know about my own nation. Yeah, this is not absolute one, as time has changed and Indonesians have been getting global as other parts of the globe, but here are the generals.
- Smiley nation. Yes, Indonesians are famous of their friendly and smiley society. Even though individualism has become common sense here recently, but for me it is not original characteristics of Indonesian. Even a survey (I forget where it is) mentions that Indonesians have the best smile in the world. Trust me, when you see me, I’ll give you the best and truly smile (kick me if I lied, then..hehehe).
- Rice is everything. Even though some Indonesian ethnic groups have their such own staple as corn, cassava or papeda (a glue gummy like food made of sago and typical in Eastern Indonesia), but most Indonesians place rice (nasi) as their main staple. Though we have eaten some bread, we still look for rice as in our culture, if we don’t eat rice it means we haven’t eaten yet. Therefore rice is available even in McDonalds, KFC, A&W etc.
- Talkative nation. We love to have a chat even sometimes forgetting time. With neighbours, family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even it is continued into virtual life. As you can see how talkative we are in facebook, twitter and many more social networks. You must be able to find easily Indonesians there. Even in twitter, some hot or trending topics are dominated by Indonesian tweeps. But sorry, I don’t really like tweet so that’s why I almost never open my twitter account, except my WordPress postings which I have linked into it.
- In general, Indonesians are hierarchical society where people are respected because of age and position (much alike other Asians). Indonesians have got various terminology when addressing people. Call ‘Bapak/Pak’ (Sir) or ‘Ibu/Bu’ (Madam) for older or respected people. While for example unknown people but younger, you can call ‘Mas’ (Javanese), ‘Abang/Bang’ (Sumatran/Jakarta), ‘Kakak/Kak’ (in other areas especially Eastern Indonesia) or ‘Bli’ (Balinese) for male, while for female, you can call ‘Mbak’ (Javanese), ‘Kakak/Kak’ (particularly in Sumatra) or ‘Nona’ (particularly in Eastern Indonesia). But ‘Mas’ and ‘Mbak’ have been widely known in all parts of Indonesia. Title is also common things for addressing an Indonesian (if he or she have got it).
- Jam Karet (literally Rubber watch). There may be a general time to start a social event in Indonesia, but mostly there’s no specific ending time. Coming fashionably late is common thing among Indonesians. Even when you have got an appointment, for example if you set time at 7 pm, maybe your friend will come a quarter or half an hour (even an hour) later than the time you set in. Maybe it is hard for person who has been accustomed to be on time in everything.
- Indonesians tend to give nick names to their closest circles. Usually funny nicknames related to their physical features, characters, habits, hometown or lesser common race and ethnicity. For example, your name is Betty Surayanti Suniti, and you’re fat, then your friends will call you ‘Betty Ndut’ or Betty Gendut (literally fatty Betty) or if you have got long nose, maybe your friend can call you Petruk or Pinokio. If you’re anger maybe you can be called ‘Nenek Sihir’ (Witch) by your siblings as well. Don’t be surprised if one day you’ll get your funny nickname from your Indonesian friends. And surprisingly much similar to Brazilian way!
- Don’t be offended if you’re asked about your marital status here. Indonesians as other Asians tend to ask about private things such as status, health, family or if you’re single maybe you’ll be asked “When will you get married?”. Sometimes I get offended especially about marriage, but yeach this is culture.
- Mudik or going back home is integrated culture for every Indonesians, especially on Eid holiday. Indonesians who live outside their homeland will spend their Eid holiday for coming home whatever the conditions. Even they do anything to get ticket though sometimes it has been out of stock. Mudik is also become time to meet and share with family, siblings and friends in their hometown. Even for showing up their successful achievements. But in general, Mudik tradition is good thing for being more sociable.
- Like other Asians, Indonesians also love bargaining when going shopping, especially in marketplace. Usually started by half of real price or a quarter, but if there’s no deal, we can leave the seller. After negotiating, we can get discount at least 25% of the offered price or even a half. If I have a mood, I do bargaining until a quarter of price, but if not I negotiate until a half or three quarter. This is art of negotiation.
- Arisan. It is also part of Indonesian culture. Some people or community meet and invest some amount of money (the amount is decided together). Monthly they meet to decide who will get the collected money for this month and if the member is 12, it will last for 12 months or times. Sometimes in particular communities, it is not always in cash, but certain valuable items such as jewelry, motorcycles, cars or even pilgrimage. It is not gambling, but rather than investment and social gathering which is important part of Indonesians.
These are ten things I think about Indonesians and based on what I always see and experience in my daily life. If I’ve got additional things, maybe I’ll add in the next posting. I hope you can learn slightly about Indonesians, but if you’ve known, at least it will sharpen your knowledge. I just wanna share and expect you’ll enjoy it.
(Maybe) to be continued.
Part 2 has been available here
16 April 2013