Knowing more about the culture of this exotic archipelago will not just make your trip a more pleasant travel experience, but also enriches the way the you perceive the world. From religious aspects to social habits, here are 7 facts you should know about the Indonesian culture.
“Indonesia” is a singular term that names a particular nation, but its culture is not uniform. There are at least 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, each with its own set of customs and distinctive cultural objects. That does not mean there are no similarities or tendencies between one culture and another, but just keep in mind that the diversity is huge. Often, what is considered to be the culture of Indonesia is actually an amalgam of certain similar cultures.
It does not matter when, nor independently, nor the members of your family. For many young Indonesians, there is no option, even when they already have stable income of their own. Many choose to live under the roof of their parents, unless they have to move forcibly. It is not necessarily a sign of dependence, it only shows the values and principles that people have when it comes to the family.
Some families are extended families: you will see grandparents, aunts and nephews who live together or are in the same neighborhood.
When you are in Indonesia, you will see that the Balinese offer their offerings first thing in the morning, or that employees pause all of their work for praying time. No matter what religion they follow, Indonesians are generally very spiritual. They take their religious practices very seriously, and that is profoundly reflected in the daily rituals, ceremonies, even the greatness of their places of worship.
Indonesia is notorious for its huge Muslim population; the largest in the world despite being a secular country by law. But Islam is only one of the six official religions recognized in the country: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. In Bali, for example, the dominant religion is Hinduism, and there are localities where there are more Christians than Muslims.
The diversity of Indonesia also extends to the variety of belief systems. Many communities nowadays still live traditionally, defending their religions and practices of their ancestors, often exclusive of the locality. But to categorize, many belief systems are based on animism, dynamism and totemism. In some communities, those beliefs interact with the traditions or are influenced by another dominant religion, resulting in a lot of unique practices.
Since its earliest history, Indonesians have always been communal. Farmers work together to cultivate their lands and manage resources, villages hold communities together and take care of each other, and cultural values drive the principles of collectivism. Even in modern environments such as the workplace and modern communities, you will see the inclusion and kindness of the Indonesians.
The archipelago is rich in herbs and spices, which shape traditional recipes to use the abundance of these ingredients. In fact, many Indonesian dishes can be very strong to the palates of tourists. The recipes vary from one locality to another, according to the main crops of the area. Javanese people, for example, like sweeter foods because of the abundance of cane and palm sugar. But in many other places, like Padang, Manado and Bali, they focus on chili and spices.