Saying thank-you in Indonesia

I remember some time ago watching Indonesia’s version of Candid Camera. In the programme, they rigged up a hidden camera in one of Carrefour’s huge shopping stores in Jakarta. The reason for this? To find a customer who actually said thank-you to the poor girl at the checkout. This lucky customer would then be given one million rupiah by Candid Camera.

And surprise surprise: they had to wait ages before they found someone who said thank-you. I can’t remember the stats of the top of my head, but it must have been less than 1 out of 10 of the customers at Carrefour who bothered to say thank-you.

And most Indonesians don’t say thank-you or for that matter please to domestic servants either.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing of course.

Tolong ambil saya bir (please get me a beer) sounds pretty naf compared to ambil bir sekarang! (get me a beer now!)

And other people – including
this cross-cultural studies expert agrees with me:

The thing about Australia that surprised me, when I learned about it in CC study, is the way Australians ask for help. I thought before that Westerners were very informal in their manners and language, as I'd always seen in Hollywood movies. But I was wrong; I didn’t realize that although they are very informal in daily speaking they have to use special words when asking for help. For example: “Would you please”, “Could you please”, “Would you mind”, and so on. The word “please” is a very common word in asking for help, and if we don’t use it, Australians will think that we’re being very rude. And after we receive what we asked for, we must say “thank you” or “thanks”. This is quite different in Indonesia, people do not say “thank you” as often as Australians do. Moreover, Australians speak like this to all people, whether they are children or elderly people, a taxi driver or the prime minister.

So, as Eric Idle once said:

*uck you very much! (download the song
here: right click, and save as)


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