When you are a visitor in another country it is vital to behave in an appropriate manner. This is especially so in Indonesia, where restraint and moderation are key. Don’t bang on the restaurant table while screeching for service. And if you are the “outgoing type” try and hold back. Loudly exclaiming: “Long time no see, mate!” and slapping the unfortunate Indonesian on his back will not be appreciated at all. Even so, manners differ from person to person, and this makes it difficult to come up with a definitive list of etiquette or faux pas. Even so, I’ve given it a go.
Here’s my list:
- NEVER talk about corruption. This is particularly important if you are speaking to a ##### official who, for example, is telling you about his recent skiing holiday in the Alps.
- Religion is NOT taboo here, so expect to be asked what faith you are. Never say you are an atheist. They are Godless philistines and were wiped out in the 60s. Also avoid the other “A” word: Ahmadiah.
- Annoying habits such as using two coins to remove facial hair ARE acceptable in certain settings - but try not to yawn (more on this later).
- Punctuality. To be avoided. At ALL costs.
- Pay heed to your body language:
Don't sit like this at business meetings, for example.
- Also avoid negative postures – such as putting your hands on your hips. Far better to show Indonesians that you are of a caring and considerate demeanor – just don’t overdo it, okay?Be friendly; but not too friendly...
- In terms of gestures, the w###er gesture and F You forearm jerk are virtually unknown. However, the straightforward F You gesture is very common – albeit usually with the middle finder rather than the index finger being used.
- Be discrete when coughing or yawning. These are necessary physical functions. However, when done with a wide-open mouth, besides being unattractive and distracting, they are also unhealthy. Germs can be easily transmitted from one person to another. Feel free, however, to light up a fag and blow the smoke into someone’s face.
- Be tactful with rude people. You may have a bad day but you MUSTN’T show your feelings. Remain patient and courteous. Take a deep breath and count slowly to 10 – that should help. And don’t worry – you can always get the blighter back later.
- Telephone etiquette:
A) Never answer the phone promptly, and especially not before the eighth ring.
B) Upon answering the phone with “hello”, they will respond “hello”, and it will proceed in that fashion for some time.
C) If you are going to have a meeting, make sure to arrange for people to telephone you while it is in progress. Just remember: the person calling you is FAR more important than the person sitting in front of you.
- Don’t dress like a peasant or Indonesians will hold you in very low regard indeed. They don’t want to know that Western tosh about showing solidarity to the poor.
- Dress conservatively? Nah – time has moved on. Feel free to display your bodily charms and you’ll get a lot of attention!
- Don’t use sarcasm – oo-er…