Sunday, April 7, 2013

Language and Understanding of the Culture


It’s easy to assume English words or sayings can be translated into Indonesian, however, Indonesian culture is much different from Western culture, so the meanings behind certain expressions are lost and often sound strange to an Indonesian.

US students with local kids
Here are some examples:

  • Indonesians don’t usually say, “nice to meet you,” a smile is enough.
  • “How are you?” is mostly used when you haven’t seen someone is a while.
  • Indonesians don’t like overuse the words “thank you.”

There are also sayings in Indonesia that might sound strange to a foreigner if directly translated into English:

  • “Saya pulang dulu”/”Saya permisi dulu.” It’s considered impolite if one leaves without receiving “permission” first. A simple Western style goodbye is acceptable, but it’s not the norm.
  • In Indonesia, it’s impolite and disrespectful to use the term “kamu” (you) when talking with older people or even calling them by name. Thus, Indonesians often have a hard time calling foreigners by their name and instead use words like “mister” or “miss” (often without even using one’s name) but will sometimes mix up the gender as age is more important than gender in Indonesia.
  • “Makan dulu”/”Yuk makan!” In Indonesia it’s rude to eat in front of others without inviting them to join or at least acknowledging the fact that you are eating.
  • “Please” isn’t used much in Indonesian (at least in Sumatra) and isn’t always necessary.

Our hope is that as you study Bahasa Indonesia you will not simply learn a new language, but that you will also gain an understanding of the culture.

3 Days with bule

Writer: Lindsay Little & Adriansyah Putera
Photos by Adriansyah Putera & Global Education Centers (GEC)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hello Boguards Anatomy. I'm so pleased that you had an opportunity to visit my page. Thank you so much for visiting, reading and dropping a nice comment. I really value your time and feedback. I hope you can visit my blog again. Warm greetings from Sumatra - Indonesia.

    2. Your welcome. You know we will.

  2. Bravo!!! This is the best and most useful information on G+ right now. A lot of Americans need to branch out and over stand different cultures. We can learn a lot and probably would change the way we live, think and one day eat. Respect is something that is lacking in America. We need to get on board and stop being ignorant to truth.