Language is more than just a system and method of communication, it’s a cultural artefact that portrays a tribe or nation, sometimes by simply understanding a few words that only they have and use. Delve into the fascinating culture of Indonesia with these beautiful words you can’t translate into English.
Asri is a certain kind of beautiful, one that pleases the eye and calms the senses. It usually describes a place or environment, typically one with a soothing view and atmosphere, with lots of greeneries and natural elements.
Mudik means coming back to visit your hometown, typically during the Eid holidays, although you can do it anytime. Mudik is also a tradition widely held across the nation’s different localities and cultures, partly because so many Indonesians come to urban areas to work and live. Also, mudik is an important tradition to maintain relationships with relatives back home.
Officially, the word means ‘living socially and well-mingled with others’. But over time, youths began to use the word to describe something that is cool, like popular trends, items, or places. It can also be used to describe people, and these are the young people who are cool and therefore have a lot of friends—which fits the initial definition of the word.
The Indonesian dictionary describes bengong as ‘staring emptily in silence as if you’ve lost your mind, either because of awe, sadness, etc’. But besides that, bengong can actually be something you do leisurely when you’ve got nothing on your mind, staying still, not worrying about a thing.
Nongkrong basically means hanging out and chilling, getting together with no specific plan or even topics to talk about. The whole point is to be around your friends—whether later you talk about random things or do nothing together is of no importance. You can nongkrong anywhere, from a hip bar to random spots by a random street.
Faedah can mean benefit, utility, or profit. But this word also refers to benefits beyond the material. When something has faedah, it has a real value or utility that can be measured up to its own purpose of being, rather than just the commercial or material profits it brings.
Abbreviated from curahan hati, this word can roughly be translated as vent or rant. But curhat implies trust and intimacy between the parties taking part in it. It’s like pouring your heart out and confiding in someone you trust about something specific you’re going through.
Originally an Arabic word, silaturahmi comes from shihah that means relating and ar-rahm that means relatives. Together, the word means a brotherly/sisterly/friendly bond between basically anyone—friends, relatives, colleagues. In Muslim philosophy, silaturahmi is something you’re advised to always maintain and develop throughout life.
When someone’s trying hard to tell a joke that comes out as awkward or simply not funny, that person is being jayus. Keep doing that for a while and at some point that person may even be labelled as a ‘jayus’ person, which means someone who tries hard to be funny but actually isn’t.
This works for both physical atmosphere or mental state, adem means chill, serene, tranquil. Ngadem (informal), then, means getting yourself in a tranquil, cool environment (especially to escape the heat) and letting both your mind and body calm down.
Often simplified as ‘friendliness’ and ‘getting along’, guyub actually carries a deeper meaning that roots in the ancient Javanese philosophy of living socially. It is a way of life, in which everyone in a community willingly joins one another ‘in togetherness’, and valuing the goods of others or the community as highly as their own (if not higher). Living in guyub means you’re connected with everyone in the community and willing to share a brotherly bond with each other.
Gemas is a certain mixed feeling of irritation and fondness. This can be said of a cute toddler who won’t stop whining, or anything that invokes a similar feeling. But lately this word has mostly been used to describe something utterly adorable and unique—that could be a certain object, person, or behaviour.
Jodoh can mean many things, from soulmate to an appropriate match or partner. When two people look good together and have good chemistry, they may be jodoh. When any two people end up together in marriage, that’s also jodoh. But the word is not limited to describing a relationship between two people, it can also be said of an event or encounter that is just meant to be. For example, if you want to go to a concert but the tickets are sold out, and suddenly someone offers to sell you one for some reason, it means you and the concert is jodoh.
This word can also mean humming, but that’s not all it is. When someone lets out a senandung, it means they’re singing with actual words instead of closed mouth, but they’re doing it with a soft and low voice, often to cradle a baby to sleep or just to amuse one’s self.
Asyik is when you’re preoccupied with something that captures your interest. It also describes the feeling when you’re having so much fun doing something or being somewhere. Moreover, asyik is also an adjective to describe someone or something that has the potential to light up the atmosphere, or just chill and easy to be around.