The diverse and rich cultural dynamics dominate Indonesian business culture. By having a clear understanding of it, you can increase your chances of extending the market in Indonesia. From religious aspects to social habits, explore the things you should know about Indonesian culture.
No matter how old or independent they are, the Indonesian always keep the relationships with members of their family close. For many Indonesian youths, moving out of their parents’ house is simply not a thing, even when they already have a stable financial condition of their own. Many choose to live under their parents’ roof unless they have no choice. For instance, many Indonesians leave their hometown to get a job in the city. And it’s not necessarily a sign of dependency, it just comes as the values of the nation when it comes to family.
Some households even consist of extended family — you’ll see grandparents, aunties, uncles, and nieces living together or staying in the same neighborhood just to be close-knit and take care of each other.
When in Indonesia, presenting offerings is the first thing Balinese do in the morning, or employees drop everything for prayer time. No matter what religion they uphold, Indonesians are generally very spiritual. They take their religious practices very thoroughly, and that is reflected in daily rituals, ceremonies, even the grandness of their places of worship.
Indonesia is notorious for its huge Muslim population; the largest in the world despite being a non-religious country by law. But Islam is just one of six official religions acknowledged 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.
Indonesia’s diversity extends to the variety of belief systems as well. Many communities still live traditionally and still uphold the religions and practices of their ancestors, often unique to the locality. But to categorize, many belief systems draw from animism, dynamism, and totemism. In some communities, those beliefs interact with traditions or are influenced by another mainstream religion, resulting in a myriad of unique practices.
The archipelago is rich with herbs and spices, which shape traditional recipes to use the abundance of those ingredients. In fact, many Indonesian dishes may come out strong to tourists’ tongues. Recipes do vary from one locality to another, according to the main crops in the area. Javanese, for instance, tend to like sweeter meals due to the abundance of cane and palm sugar. But many other locales like Padang, Manado, and Bali, do not hold back on their chili and spices.
It’s fascinating to learn the geological processes that make mountains, hills, and rivers. But Indonesians go beyond tectonic plates and erosion to explain how natural landmarks came to be. In most places, you can talk to the locals and dig stories of gods, spirits, royals, or hermits that contribute to the forming of a particular spot like natural features, temples, or other cultural landmarks.
Many cultures in Indonesia have special ceremonies for even the tiniest milestones. For example, from a child’s first step on the ground to certain months of pregnancy, they also make a huge deal out of life events like weddings and funerals, mixing them with mesmerizing traditional customs and celebrations. There are also communal celebrations like a myriad of different ceremonies of harvest or thanksgiving, and special dates associated with legends or history.
And no, we’re not talking about those living in traditional remote villages. Many Indonesians who find themselves in modern settings still find ways to integrate their traditions into the contemporary lifestyle. Some companies still consult traditional almanacs or spiritual elders to determine a good day to do business. Besides, many young professionals still throw traditional ceremonies for their weddings, whether out of the family’s demands or out of their own volition, but the traditions live on.
Indonesia’s rich culture generates so many inspired works of art — paintings, sculpture, music, dance, theatre, and more. From ancient times to the contemporary era, Indonesian artists keep drawing inspiration from the archipelago’s culture, values, and nature, ensuring the art scene stays alive and progressing.