Cultural taboos in Indonesia – part one




Until today, the word “taboo” itself is still considered an ambiguous topic in the Indonesian society. Some may have accepted it, but some may just be unable to accept it.

We might already know some cultural taboos in some parts of the world. However, how about in Indonesia? Let’s find out about it!

1. Touching other people’s head
It is highly impolite to touch other people’s head, even if it is only between family members, for instance. It is considered as an unacceptable behavior, especially for the older generations. The culture generally has a belief that head is the most sacred part of a human body.

2. Using your left hand
For any purposes — eating, cooking, giving or receiving an object from other people with your left hand is considered impolite. However, if it is under certain circumstances, you might be able to do so, but you should apologize while doing so—for example “sorry, I had to use my left hand”.

3. Calling someone older by their names
This might be a bit weird to digest for the readers, but it is considered impolite for Indonesians to call someone else that is older by age by their first name. In general, Indonesians will attach another word as a form of salutation before the name itself, for example; Bapak, Ibu, Mbak, Mas, Kakak and many more.

4. Inappropriate gestures and body language
A few examples for this particular matter would be: a) standing with your hands on the hips; frequently interpreted as anger and impoliteness. b) pointing at an object or a person with your index finger; frequently interpreted as a bad form of expression.

5. Public display of affection
Given by the fact that Indonesia adopted mostly the eastern culture rather than western, it is also affected how its people perceived certain behaviors—take public display of affection as an example. Excessive physical contact between opposite sexes (e.g. hugging, touching, kissing) in public is considered unacceptable by the society. Therefore, do not be offended if there is an older gentleman or lady who approached you in an unpleasant way if you somehow do commit this ‘crime’ 😀

Due to a high number of cultural taboos that would like to be shared with you, unfortunately the topic has to be split into two parts. Be sure to stay tuned for the second part in the next few weeks 🙂

[bahasa Indonesia]

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