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Indonesia, a sweeping tropical archipelago with countless natural wonders, would be nothing without its beautiful people who create the fascinating culture and extend their arms to welcome visitors. From the friendly smile to rare spirituality, discover the best things that make loving Indonesia’s people as easy as falling in love with the islands and beaches.
Friendliness is a defining characteristic that is easy to notice in Indonesians. Many tourists mention locals’ friendliness as one of their favorite things about the country. From a simple smile or greetings toward strangers to asking foreign tourists to take a selfie together, their warmth and sociable nature will make you feel like home.
Whether you need more time to unload your stuff out of the rented car or take hundreds of pictures in a magnificent temple, there is absolutely no rush when hanging out with Indonesian people. Most Indonesians do not operate in the fast-paced city life and wouldn’t mind waiting or spending a little more time than expected. That doesn’t mean you can disrespect their time though, that means they won’t rudely check their watch constantly or dismiss you when it takes longer for you to understand when they’re explaining which way to the beach.
Indonesians rarely meet other people without a friendly but polite handshake, even when they already know each other. They refer to other people with titles like ‘Mister’ and ‘Miss’ all the time. And it’s not mere lip service; Indonesian people show politeness and respect towards other people they encounter.
Indonesian people are used to taking care of each other in their community. They are thoughtful of other people’s needs and go all-out in giving a hand. Don’t be surprised if one day you’re asking for directions and they ended up taking you to the destination.
When Indonesians invite you to their home, they may say, “Come to my humble shack,” but surprise, you may find yourself in a spacious residence with a garden and perhaps a pool. Indonesians are not as obsessed with vanity as most people, and their pride lies in things greater than mere possessions.
It’s hard to be judgemental when you’re that exposed to differences and diversity, be it in culture, religion, customs, even opinions. Indonesia is home to hundreds of different localities and ethnicities, and Indonesians are used to hanging out and making friends with people of different colors, religions, and views —and that includes foreign tourists. You don’t even have to fit in to be accepted. As long as you respect each other, don’t worry, you’re in.
Many Indonesians, even those who now live in urban areas, still identify themselves by tribes and hometowns. They have this interesting balance of being both modern and traditional, upholding tradition and local wisdom whenever appropriate. Those who live in villages are certainly more in touch with their own traditional heritage, and they would be happy to show tourists around and tell stories about their culture.
Indonesians take their spiritual beliefs very seriously, especially those who still live traditionally. They live fascinating lives guided by solid beliefs and principles that are often manifested in lively ceremonies and customs that tourists can take part in or observe. Tourists can also enjoy their ornate and majestic houses of worships—mosques, temples and churches—which are often the grandest buildings in any given city or neighborhood.
Indonesians are used to living in communities and doing things communally. Even so, their groups extend quickly and easily to a friend-of-a-friend, even a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, and so forth. Don’t hesitate to join your Indonesian friends at a dining table or a soccer game at the beach—they know how to welcome even foreigners as one of their own.
Be it traditional boat-makers or surfing instructors, Indonesians have a heartfelt passion for everything they do. They do their labor with joy and dedication, with a profound appreciation of their livelihood as more than just a way to get money and stay alive.
From a platter of fritters to personal life stories, Indonesians bond with others by sharing. Sometimes they may come out as inquisitive, asking strangers about marital status or hometowns, but they are genuinely interested in your stories and won’t mind sharing their own with you. In the right circumstances, that may add up to a profound exchange and maybe a long-term friendship.