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1.Do not shout or act aggressively
Indonesians – and particularly the Javanese – are respectful, well- mannered people, with a complex set of rules dictating public behaviour. Adversity and animosity are generally absorbed with a gentle smile and a stoic self-restraint that can border on the miraculous. A sure fire way of standing out in the crowd for all the wrong reasons is to lose your temper. In the heat and confusion of the tropics, this can be easier send than done.
2. Do not be overtly sexual
Although certain areas of Indonesia – like Bali – are known for their liberal attitudes, you will find that, for the most part, traditional, conservative values continue to hold sway. This is especially true for PDA – Public Displays of Affection. Even if you’ve been married for 50 years, kissing and canoodling in public will be frowned upon. If you’re un-married – and particularly if you’re LGBT – it’s generally best to keep a low profile. Attitudes are changing in Indonesia, but as a visitor, it’s wise not to impose one’s own standards and practices on a culture that’s not accustomed.
3.Never joke about race, religion, and ethnicity
The people of Indonesia come from a diverse range of ethnicities, cultures, and beliefs. A mutual respect, inward and outward, has been very crucial in keeping the nation at peace and harmony. It’s never okay to insult a particular race or religion, especially in a setting so diverse with a history so long and complicated. An inappropriate remark, however small, may do more harm than just an offended heart. There are surely other things much more interesting to talk about.
4.Don’t do drugs
This is not a general, corny message on posters. This is a real, practical, life-saving tip when travelling to Indonesia. Recreational drugs are not only illegal in Indonesia, they are considered a highly serious and nasty criminal offence. Possession and distribution of drugs are punishable up to the death penalty, and this goes for international tourists, as well.
5. Do not step over someone
In Indonesia, status and respect can be deciphered or implied through body language – particularly the level of one’s body (and voice). You’ll notice younger people bowing gently to their elders or lowering their gaze as they pass – this is a sign of respect. Take care when passing someone older than you, and definitely avoid stepping over someone. Pointing with the finger or gesturing with the feet is considered very rude, so look out for creative mannerisms using eyebrows, nose and even lips!
6.Use your left hand
For mostly practical hygiene reasons that don’t need explaining here, the left hand is considered dirty in Indonesia. If you look closely, you’ll notice that everyone eats, greets and handles money with their right. For the un-initiated, it can require a concerted mental effort not to offer the wrong hand for things like change and receipts. If you’re a lefty, a visit to Indonesia is a good opportunity to work on your ambidexterity!
7.Do not drink alcohol or play card games in public places
There is an exception in tourist places with a lot of international visitors like Bali. But in most other places in Indonesia, where the law and norm are highly influenced by the principles of Islam, drinking alcohol and playing card games (which is often associated with gambling) are things you should keep to yourself. It’s not forbidden or illegal to do both, but be discreet to choose an appropriate time and place. For example, drowning yourself in beer when at a bar is perfectly up to you, but don’t bring a bottle with you when strolling down the streets.
8.Don’t disrupt the wildlife
Indonesia is a sprawling archipelago, a mighty home for a wide variety of wildlife, from corals to birds. It would be very disgraceful for any tourist to do anything to disrupt the balance in any way. The conditions to respect the wildlife and nature may differ depending on the landscape, but as a general rule, always keep the cleanliness and order wherever you’re going, even in the wild. Also, try your best to restrain from animal tourism and keep waste to a minimal.