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Last updated : Nov 2009
Indonesia Social Profile
Indonesia Culture and Social Profile - TravelPuppy.com
Food and Drink

The staple diet for many Indonesians is rice (nasi), which is replaced on some islands with corn, cassava, sago and sweet potatoes. Rice dishes include nasi uduk, nais campur and rasirames. Indonesia’s varied spices make its local cuisine unique. Specialities includerijstafel (a Dutch concoction consisting of a variety of fish, meats, vegetables and curries), sate or satay (chunks of beef, pork, fish, chicken or lamb cooked on hot coals and dipped in peanut sauce).

Almost every kind of international cuisine is available in Jakarta, the most well-liked being Chinese, Italian, French, Japanese and Korean sate ajam (broiled, skewered marinated chicken), ikan acar kuning (Jakarta; lightly marinated fried fish served in a pickled sauce with spices and palm sugar), ajam ungkap (Central Java; deep-fried, marinated chicken), sate lileh (Bali; broiled, skewered fish sticks),soto (a soup dish with dumplings, chicken and vegetables), gado-gado (Java; a salad of raw and cooked vegetables with peanut and coconut milk sauce), babi guling (Bali; roast suckling pig) and opor ajam (boiled chicken in coconut milk and light spices).

Indonesians love their food highly spiced and the visitor should always remember this. In particular watch for the tiny, fiery hot, red and green peppers often included in vegetable dishes and salads. Seafood is brilliant and is on menus everywhere (with salt and fresh-water fish, lobsters, prawns, shrimp, oysters, squid, shark and crab all available).

Coconuts are found everywhere in Indonesia, and are often used for cooking. Vegetables and fresh fruit, such as bananas, pineapple, papaya, and oranges, are available throughout the year Some tropical fruit such as mango, watermelon and papaya are seasonal.

A feature of Jakarta are the many street stalls known as wa rungs. Each specialises in its own dish or drink, but visitors are probably best recommended not to try them without the advice of an local resident. There are restaurants in the hotels which serve Chinese, European and Indian food.

Indonesia is a main producer and exporter of tea and coffee, and is available on almost every street corner. Bali produces a good rice wine named brem while in Tana Toraja (southern Sulawesi), tourists may wish to sample a Tuak, a famously potent local brew. Locally produced pilsner beer is also available.


Jakarta nightclubs host international bands and singers, and are open until 4.00 am during the weekends. Jakarta has more than 40 cinemas and some subtitled and / or English-language films are shown. There are also theatres providing local cultural performances, and casinos.

Dancing is regarded as an art, encouraged and practised from early childhood. The repertoire derives from ancient legends and stories from religious epics. Performances are generally given in village halls and squares, and also in several of the leading hotels by professional touring groups.

The dances vary, both in technique and number of performers. The more famous dances include the Baris, a fast moving, loud demonstration of male, warlike behaviour, the Legong, a slow, graceful dance of divine nymphs and the Jauk, a solo offering by a masked and richly costumed demon. Some consider the most dramatic of all to be the famous Cecak (Monkey Dance) which includes 100 or more very lively participants. Several of the larger hotels, particularly in Bali, put on these dance shows accompanied by the uniquely Indonesian Gamelan Orchestras.

Throughout the year, numerous local moonlight festivals take place, tourists should check for times and events locally. Indonesian puppets are world famous and shows for visitors take place in various locations.


Favourite items are batik cloth, paintings, bamboo articles, woodcarvings and sculpture, silver work, woven baskets and hats, krises (small daggers), and woven cloth. At some of the smaller shops, bartering might be necessary.

Shopping hours: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Many local markets open either very early in the morning or at dusk.

Special Events

There are many festivals which take place during the year, the dates vary according to the Hindu or Buddhist calendars. Bali stages some grand festivals all year round. Festival calendars can be found on arrival. The Sultan’s birthday in mid-December is celebrated with a fair and festival in Yogyakarta, Java.

For a full list of special events and festivals, contact the Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board or a representative ITPO office (see Contact section).
Jan 14 Lomban Festival (fishermen’s festival), Jepara.
Apr Nyepi (Day of Silence), Bali and Tenggara
Jun-Jul Bali Arts Festival, Denpasar
Aug-Sep Kerapan Sapi (bull races), Madura Island
Sep 24 Dugderran (festival for the start of Ramadan), various towns/venues
Oct 24 Idul Fitri (Eid al-Fitr), marking the end of Ramadan, Kebumen
Dec Pukul Sapu
Social Customs

Indonesia counts at least 583 separate languages and dialects, several of them as different from each other as Welsh is from English. Since independence, many people have developed and maintained a strong sense of national pride and traditions of dance, painting, woodcarving and stone carvingremain alive today.

 Social courtesies are often formal. When food or drink is served, it should not be touched until the host invites the guest to do so.

 Never accept or pass anything with the left hand.

 Displays of affection in public between men and women are frowned upon and kissing in public will attract a great deal of unnecessary attention.

 Touching a stranger of the same sex while in conversation is usual.

 Pointing is impolite and patting children on the head is discouraged.

 Indonesians are polite and present endless courtesies to visitors whom they trust and like.

 Smiling is a cultural tradition and Indonesians smile frequently, even when in an uncomfortable or complex situation.

 Visitors should prevent losing their temper.

 When invited to someone's home, a gift is appreciated (as long as it is given with the right hand).

 Informality is normal, but a some smart establishments encourage guests to dress for dinner.

 Safari suits are acceptable for business wear and on formal occasions.

 Muslim customs, particularly concerning female clothes, should be observed.


Tipping is a normal practise and 10 % is customary, except where a service charge is included in the bill. Taxi fees are rounded up to the nearest number.
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Indonesia-Shopping information on shopping in Indonesia