The population of Indonesia can be divided into two major groups: in the western region most of the people are from the Malay ethnicity, while in the eastern region there are the Papuans originating from the Melanesian Islands. Indonesia also recognizes specific ethnic groups that come from a certain province/area and have specific language, for example the Javanese from Central or East Java, the Sundanese from West Java or theBatak ethnicity from North Sumatra.
In addition, there are also minority ethnicities derived from Chinese, Indian and Arabic descendants. These people travelled as merchants through trade exchange since the 8th century BC and migrated to Indonesia. Approximately 3% of the population is from Chinese ethnicity, although the exact percentage is not known as the last ethnicity census was held in the 1930s.
The Indonesian people themselves are as varied as the landscapes they inhabit. Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic country with 90% of the country’s 235 millions population practicing Muslims, but there are also many other religious influences present in the country including Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity.
Culture is correspondingly varied and over 350 languages are spoken throughout the archipelago. Many Indonesians speak their ethnic language as their mother tongue. However, the Indonesian language is the official language and it is taught at all schools and most Indonesians are proficient in using the language for communication.
Despite the varied culture, the one thing the people do have in common is their friendliness. Indonesians are amongst the friendliest in South East Asia, which is in itself one of the most sociable areas in the world. Indonesians have no inhibitions when it comes to starting conversations with strangers and you will frequently find yourself in passing conversations with numerous locals.
Nevertheless, there are some social values for foreigners to be noticed. Below are some practical ones;
- ‘Unusual’ different gender relationship are unacceptable if it exposed in a public area or in an open community, such as kissing in public or living together without marriage.
- Wearing sexy clothes or any inappropriate clothes are considered to violate community values.
- Although alcoholic drinks (liquors) are relatively easy to find, drinking in public areas are unacceptable. However, in some communities, this practice is tolerable. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended to all foreigners to adapt with the situation in the community they live in to avoid problems with the authorities.
In every social communities, it is a MUST for every local visitors and even foreigners who domicile or stay for more than 24 hours to report themselves to the chief of the area. He or she is usually called as Ketua RT (Rukun Tetangga). For more assistance upon this matter, please contact your academic institution, local region administration office, owner of the rented house, landlady of the dormitory, friends or colleagues for further details. This issue excludes those who stay in hotels or such.