If you’re thinking about teaching English in Indonesia, you’re going to find these things we’ve learnt along the way quite helpful. Your friends here at i-to-i TEFL are always looking out for you!
• When meeting people for the first time offer your hand to the other person for a hand-shake; however it is seen as polite for it to be more like a touching of the palms than squeezing of the hands. It is common to shake everybody’s hand when you meet them unless they are Muslim women, and then you may only shake her hand if she leads and places her hand out for you to shake.
• In general, the Indonesian people are friendly and polite and they appreciate when foreigners have a go at local customs including their language!
• Despite much modernisation Indonesia remains one of the most traditional countries in South East Asia. Traditional values of family and religion are maintained and the concerns of the individual are less important than those of the village. Indonesians make allowances for western visitors but it’s best to be mindful of your behaviour!
• It is an important custom in Indonesia to always ‘save face’, even if in a dispute, it is not acceptable behaviour for you to raise your voice, blame or accuse others. Rather stay calm, smile and ask politely how you can come to an agreement on how the dispute can be resolved
• Always use your right hand to do everything, it is seen rude to use your left hand unless you are using both hands
• Remember to remove your shoes when entering people’s houses or places of religious significance as it is seen as offensive
• In some areas of Indonesia e.g. Bali, the locals are used to seeing foreigners in bikinis and skin-revealing clothes however Indonesia as a whole is a very conservative country so covering your legs and chest is appreciated. If you are not sure what to wear, take notice of the locals and simply try to match their dress
• Bargaining is a regular part of Indonesian life however; you must be wary where you do it. As a general rule, shopping centres are of a fixed price and markets or road side stalls can be bargained with. In tourist areas bargaining is more common than in village areas. In tourist areas bargaining can be up to 60-70% of the asking price, whereas in the village markets it is more likely about 10-20%
• Anyone can enter a Balinese temple but you do need to be politely dressed and to wear a temple scarf - a sash tied loosely round your waist
You can find even more useful information in our free guide to teaching English in Indonesia – download your free copy here!